Catering company Aramark to leave UCD campus

Belfield’s restaurant building will be taken over by Gather & Gather, who won the contract worth €12 million

Aramark, a catering company that supplies food on the University College Dublin (UCD) campus, is to end its tenure on the campus in the coming weeks. 

Belfield’s restaurant building will be taken over by Gather & Gather, who won the contract worth €12 million.

In January of this year, Aramark also terminated their contract with Trinity. 

At the time of termination, Moira O’Brien, Head of Catering in Trinity, said that Aramark and Trinity had decided to end their contract in December 2019 “by mutual agreement”.

The contract between Aramark and Trinity was due to expire in 2019 but had the option of an extension to 2021.

Speaking to Trinity News about their departure from UCD, Aramark said: “Our decision to exit operations at the end of this contract period is a commercial one.”

“We are proud of the quality of services delivered to students and staff in UCD over the past 8 years, and thank UCD for their approach to partnership during this time,” the company stated.

Aramark’s presence on several college campuses around the country sparked a number of protests in recent years, over the company’s involvement in catering for three direct provision centers in Cork, Clare and Westmeath.

In UCD in 2018, a number of students attempted to boycott the restaurant building, forming an unofficial protest group called “Aramark Off UCD campus”.

Similarly in Trinity, a group of students held a series of demonstrations at the eateries in the Hamilton Building which were catered to by Aramark.

Speaking to Trinity News earlier this year, Aramark stated that the student campaign, Aramark Off Our Campus, “was not a factor” in the company’s decision to end their contract in December of last year.

However, speaking to Trinity News, Aramark Off Our Campus co-founders Trinity alumni Stacy Wrenn and Jessie Dolliver said: “Aramark left Trinity because they weren’t making enough money. To say that the campaign was ‘not a factor’ in this decision to leave is completely false.” 

“If the boycott didn’t bother them, they wouldn’t have launched an official counter-campaign on campus. If it didn’t impact their sales they wouldn’t have sent staff out to observe the picket and message our social media accounts afterwards asking us to stop.”

Aramark currently caters for three direct provision centers in Athlone, Cork and Clare.

The government has indicated its intention to end Direct Provision within the lifetime of the current government, following public outcry against the system.

In 2016, the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) released a report stating that Aramark was paid €5.2 million by the Irish government for its services in the direct provision system. 

Both the Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) and Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) have policies of boycotting the company, alongside several similar policies by students’ unions across the country. 

Direct Provision is Ireland’s system for housing asylum seekers while their international protection applications are processed.

Earlier this year, the Irish Medical Journal released a report on children growing up in Direct Provision which detailed concerns around the mental health, nutrition, and social lives of children living in the system.

A study by Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, of three Direct Provision centres in Cork city in 2014 reported that the food provided in the centres studied was described by residents as “not satisfactory”.

This article was updated at 18:50 on September 7. A mention in an earlier version of this article which said that health issues had been reported in centres operated by Aramark has been removed. The article has been updated to clarify that reports concerning Direct Provision centres have been made on a general basis.

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.