After years of student opposition, Trinity’s Hamilton cafes have cut ties with controversial catering company Aramark, with new College-run alternatives set to open in the coming weeks.
Aramark, which has been criticised for its involvement in direct provision centres, vacated the cafes after terminating its contract last month, according to Moira O’Brien, the head of Trinity Catering.
The company’s contract was due to end in 2021.
Speaking to The University Times, O’Brien said the new cafe “is being run and operated by Trinity catering staff who are employed directly by the college”, after protests starting in 2017 that included a boycott of the cafes in the building.
O’Brien said Trinity recognises the “concern with the previous operator and wants it to be known it will be Trinity staff catered”.
The cafe will look broadly the same as before, but with slight variations to food and drink offerings, O’Brien said. She added that it is designed more as a quick coffee stop – modelled on the cafes in the Buttery and Áras an Phiarsaigh – than a restaurant proper.
It will have limited seating areas, and will offer similar food selections to other campus eateries run by Trinity Catering.
In a statement to The University Times, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union President Laura Beston said the union is “delighted to see that Aramark will be leaving Trinity campus”.
“A huge congratulations to the activists that started the group Aramarak Off Our Campus, for all their tireless dedication to the cause”, she added.
Aramark signed a five-year license agreement with Trinity’s Commercial Revenue Unit in 2016. Branches of Costa, Freshii and Gastro were opened in November 2016. At the time, in an email statement to The University Times, the US-based company said it is “proud of the partnership that we have with Trinity College to provide nutritious food options on campus”.
Students frequently protested outside the cafes, and in November 2017 The University Times reported that Gastro – one of the three cafes – was lying vacant.
In January 2018, after students protested outside Trinity’s Aramark cafes, the company defended its links to direct provision centres, arguing in an email statement to The University Times that direct provision is government policy and Aramark “has no influence in this regard”.
Mark Long, Aramark’s key accounts director, wrote that Aramark’s staff are “dedicated to supporting residents in these three RIA [Reception and Integration Agency] centres and to making their lives as comfortable as possible while their application for asylum is being processed”.
This January will see Trinity’s eateries offering free hot water to students with their own containers. Students using restaurants’ crockery will pay 10 cent, while those using paper cups will be charged 50 cent in an attempt to encourage students to reusable cups.