The approximately 35 cafeteria workers laid off last month at 600 Washington Blvd. in Stamford, CT will not be getting their old jobs back because the downtown office tower’s new owner is picking an operator that is outsourcing the food serving.
Chicago-based Fooda has replaced Manhattan-based Restaurant Associates, which had employed the former employees until their May 31 termination. Now, a rotation of local restaurants — including establishments offering Italian, Indian and Peruvian fare — are using their own personnel to serve office workers at 600 Washington, whose tenants include Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, Bank of America and Citizens Bank.
“Fooda was chosen as the food-service operator at 600 Washington as their format brings local restaurants to the property and increases the range of offerings to tenants,” Robert Andrews, a regional director for Rubenstein Partners, 600 Washington’s new owner and co-owner of the Shippan Landing office complex, said “Fooda is involved at other Rubenstein Partners properties, and while we don’t disclose locations, we are looking to implement this style of dining to other buildings in our portfolio.”
At 600 Washington, the food workers are hired, employed and managed directly by the participating restaurants, according to a Fooda spokesman. Fooda will not employ any of its own food-serving personnel there. The spokesman said the firm is “very new” in Stamford; he declined to name other locations where it operates.
“Office workers love the variety, quality, and authenticity of the concept, which provides them with an opportunity to discover small businesses that they otherwise may not have known existed,” the spokesman said.
Food trucks that operate outside 600 Washington are not overseen by Fooda, the company said. A message left with the Stamford Health Department to confirm that it had permitted the new food-serving setup at 600 Washington was not returned.
Restaurant Associates’ contract ended in the run-up to the June 3 sale of the building by Royal Bank of Scotland, which is staying on as a tenant. Officials in the Unite Here union’s Local 217 chapter largely blamed the cafeteria job losses on Rubenstein and Restaurant Associates.
“It’s unfortunate when companies like Rubenstein Partners buy and sell buildings and the working people inside lose their jobs and their ability to support their families,” Donald Jean Marie, a member of the Unite Here Local 217 executive board and a bellman at the Greenwich Hyatt hotel, said last month. “Add to that Restaurant Associates refusing to pay any severance pay, including to many people who have worked in that building for a decade or longer, and I just want to get sick.”
In addition to its representation of the contingent at 600 Washington, Unite Here has organized workers at the Stamford Hilton and Sheraton hotels.
Last January, the Hilton union members unanimously approved a contract. They are the first group of Stamford hotel employees to unionize. Two months earlier, Stamford Sheraton workers voted to join Unite Here. Throughout Connecticut, Unite Here represents about 3,000 hotel and food-service workers.
The sale of 600 Washington did not come as a surprise. In June 2018, long-embattled RBS announced that it planned to sell the 450,000-square-foot building. The deal comprised part of a cost-cutting plan for a firm that laid off about 750 Stamford-based workers between 2015 and 2018.