City eats: How city council spends money on food

The beef kabob at Zoe's

When the Greensboro City Council members are hungry, it’s usually for pizza.

Triad City Beat culled through the 63 most recent food receipts for city council meetings, work sessions and retreats to figure out where the city’s leaders spend public funds on food. Most of the time it came from restaurants (49), though 13 receipts are from grocery/retailers and one is from a catering company.

The spending ranges from Walmart — although minimal — to a significant amount of turkey barbecue, pizza, sandwiches and salads, much of it from locally owned businesses.

The city dropped markedly more with five companies than any others — Elizabeth’s Pizza, Jason’s Deli, Hickory Tree Turkey BBQ, Harper’s and Spectra by Comcast Spectacor. Here’s a breakdown of the disbursements and frequency.


  1. Elizabeth’s Pizza

The local Italian chain with independently operated locations easily topped the list, with 15 orders being placed all at the Lawndale location. In all, the city spent $2,296 at the restaurant — though not all on pizza — and averaged about $153 per order.


  1. Jason’s Deli

Only the chain sandwich shop Jason’s Deli came close to the number of orders placed with Elizabeth’s, racking up 11 out of the 50 analyzed. But the city spent almost as much at Jason’s as Elizabeth’s, totaling $2,006.


  1. Tie between Hickory Tree Turkey BBQ and Harper’s

The city called on these two joints six times each. The city did spend more with the local turkey barbecue outfit ($1,564 than at small chain restaurant Harper’s, but the receipt for catering at the council’s Jan. 29, 2016 retreat ran higher. Spectra by Comcast Spectacor charged Greensboro $1,678 for the one-day catering, which included $69 for bottled water, $54 for Keuring K-Cups and 65 portions worth of the Mama Mia Italian Buffet lunches ($1,072 for the meals themselves, sans snacks and drinks).


After Hickory Tree Turkey BBQ and Harper’s, there’s a steep drop-off to the other restaurants on the list, with just two orders being placed at locally owned Ghassan’s and chain Zoe’s Kitchen. The remaining restaurants — Jimmy John’s, Venice Italian, Chick-fil-A, Mid City Sandwich Co., Newk’s Eatery, Café Pasta and Barberitos — each only received one order.

While there are a considerable number of corporate providers on the list, including the majority of the catering, take-out or delivery orders at the top of the list, city council does rely on a decent dose of local businesses. Many of the chains are located in the Friendly Shopping Center, including Jason’s, Harper’s, Newk’s and others, while most of the remaining restaurants fall either downtown or out Battleground and Lawndale.

When it comes to snacks, supplies such as forks and tissues, soda and water, the city most frequently turns to Food Lion. The city spent anywhere from $32 to $98 on each of its nine trips to the grocer, while spending just $34 total in three trips to Harris Teeter. There’s a lone $7 receipt for Walmart as well.

Though on a larger scale, the city’s spending looks the way it might for many households where people pick favorites and return to them, occasionally venturing to try something new but frequently bouncing back to the standbys. Council hit up the same four restaurants for a total of 38 out of 49 times — that’s more than 77 percent of the orders, excluding the catered retreat and snack/supply runs.

But if city council members were willing to experiment just a little more, they could easily find a way to patronize local restaurants more often. While there’s certainly some representation on the list, including at the top, the city council still opts to spend a hefty amount of money at chains.

And it would be easy to argue that there’s no good reason for it — there are more than enough locally owned sandwich shops that could replace what Jason’s Deli provides, maybe even Jay’s that’s in the same shopping center, or somewhere else like First Carolina Delicatessen, Jam’s Deli or Mid City Sandwich (which appeared once in the receipts). The steak kabobs ordered at Zoe’s Kitchen aren’t exactly cheaper than their counterparts at Ghassan’s, a local restaurant that made the cut twice, and they don’t taste better at Zoe’s either.

  • Billy Jones

    So how much do they spend per person on average?

    • Katherine East

      That’s a good question, I was going to ask the same. We once locally owned and operated a Jason’s deli in another city. We were on average, per person the better value and Jason’s deli provides all utensils as well as plates forks and napkins and sides when designated. Please consider that there are local people who franchise a business and still pay the same local tax dollars and keep the money local in the community with jobs, buy local products and produce etc.

  • Dave Brooks

    This article is a waste of time to read and an even bigger waste of time to write. Newspaper reporters used to investigate important matters and discuss pressing matters to the people of N.C. Now they waste their time on this nonsense.