Cloud Picker, the company that has for the past nine years run the Science Gallery Café – once described as “the best café of any science centre in the world” – is moving out of Trinity into a new location on Pearse St.
The move follows the cafe’s controversial 2018 decision to defy Trinity’s demand that it stock only Coca-Cola Company bottled products, something that involved a months-long battle between the cafe and an “aggressive” Coca-Cola.
The new cafe, set to be based in the projector room of the old Academy Cinema, will open before Easter, the company said in a press release.
The College opened up the tender process for the operation of the cafe in February.
Speaking to The University Times, Peter Sztal, one of the owners of Cloud Picker, said that the conditions outlined in the tender process, which closed just three weeks later, meant that his company was “not in a position” to reapply to continue running the cafe.
The new provider will be required to pay a fixed annual licensing fee of no less than €70,000 per year, in addition to paying College two per cent of the cafe’s monthly turnover.
The cafe, which opened in May 2010 and is run by Sztal and his partner, Frank Kavanagh, was described by Times Higher Education as “the best café of any science centre in the world” soon after it opened.
Some 30 per cent of the visitors to the Science Gallery visit to eat or drink in the cafe, according to the tender document.
In 2013, Sztal and Kavanagh launched a micro coffee roastery, which now supplies cafes and restaurants all over Ireland. In June, the company won a packaging design award at the World of Coffee trade show in Amsterdam.
The new Cloud Picker Café on Pearse Street will open Monday to Friday, from 7am to 3pm.
It will serve coffee, egg-based breakfasts, wild mushrooms and porridge, according to the press release.
After seeking legal advice in January 2018, the cafe concluded that its own licensing agreement with Trinity did not obligate it to comply with the terms of the exclusive pouring rights deal that the Coca-Cola Company signed with the College in 2016.
As part of the agreement, campus-based outlets are, by and large, not permitted to sell bottled drinks made by any other company.
At the time, Sztal told The University Times that he was “aggressively” approached by a Coca-Cola representative who told him that he had to remove all non-Coca Cola products from his fridges.
“It was a long battle over eight to ten months”, Sztal said. “I was trying to fight it. I just didn’t agree that someone could come in and tell an independent business what to stock.”
Trinity’s Commercial Revenue Unit trumpeted its deal with Coca-Cola as a “key partnership”. In addition to the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union shops, the 10-year agreement covers the Buttery, the Dining Hall, the cafe in the Arts Block, the Pavilion Bar and Westland Eats.
A substantial amount of the proceeds from the deal has been directed towards Trinity Sport “to help develop student health, fitness and wellbeing”, Trinity’s website says.
Multinational catering provider Sodexo recently won the tender for the new Business School’s 300-seat restaurant. The company also operates the Perch cafe in the Arts Block.
The new restaurant, which was named Forum, will feature an outdoor area and space for a pop-up restaurant.
Speaking to The University Times, the Dean of the Business School, Andrew Burke, said that the company has “done a really nice design” and that “they do catering for many universities around Europe and they’re quite diverse in what they’re doing”.