Over the past year, the University of Central Florida has come under fire for contracting out the new Student Union expansion project to Aramark. The customer service conglomerate provides food services and facilities to organizations across America; they pride themselves on bringing ethnically diverse restaurants to their customers, as is seen by the new Pollo Tropical by the Recreation and Wellness Center and the upcoming Panda Express in the Union.
As the Union continues to undergo significant changes, the Stallion spoke with Aramark’s representative James Harrison about the company’s upcoming plans and long term goals.
When will construction conclude, and the food court open, in the Union?
To embrace the mentality that has made UCF so iconic, we expect to bring down the temporary walls in the Union in late 2018, wait a few weeks, and then tear the whole thing down so we can reconstruct the entire Union from scratch.
How do you respond to accusations that Aramark mistreats and underpays its employees?
Let’s be real; these students are lucky enough to have jobs at all. They’re in no position to be complaining. We have a whole queue of applicants, so we make it clear if they plan on getting sick they shouldn’t even bother coming in for their next shift. We’ve already replaced them.
How do you see Aramark approaching future projects with UCF?
Our main goal is to offer a number of inexpensive, diverse options for all students to enjoy. In short, we will not rest until every building has a Chili’s.
Your newest contract has caused a bit of a stir. Do you have any response for students who take issue with your actions?
The most common complaint that we hear is our tendency to replace small “mom and pop” style restaurants, like Wackadoos, with more established (and delicious) restaurants — like Chili’s. I guess my response to the dissenters is a question: You know what school you attend, right? UCF is one of the biggest schools in the country, and the university culture here thrives on generic, one-size-fits-all dining. If you want quaint, mom and pop style maybe check out New College.
Where do you see the UCF/Aramark relationship going in the next five years?
Within a few months, we hope to make a permanent mark on campus by starting construction on the Aramark School of Hospitality. There won’t be any classrooms or offices in the new building, but there will be many, many burger places.
What drew your company to first sign a contract with UCF?
As a company that has historically provided services for prisons and correctional facilities, we assumed the transition to the University population wouldn’t be a drastic shift.