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ScottyMcGeester's avatar

Why is Aramark food service terrible?

Asked by ScottyMcGeester (997 points ) February 7th, 2013

I’m trying to dig up some dirt on the quality of Aramark food service at colleges and universities. I myself went to a university where Aramark served the food and it was, of course, terrible. I wanted to find more sources though around the nation. I tend to run into lots of blog posts, but I was hoping for something more official and credible. Apparently I read that a lot of schools condemn Aramark’s quality and stop having them as their server. Does anyone know which ones stopped having Aramark? Even better, have you attended a college/university where Aramark served?

Also, what are some GOOD food services out there instead for colleges/universities?

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12 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I don’t have any dirt on Aramark, sorry. But I went to college at a place that had a hotel and restuarant college and oh man the food was so good. Plus my fraternity had a full time chef. I had to work to get those pounds off.:)

burntbonez's avatar

Aramark is bad because they are a large corporation, and they run food as a mass production operation. You can’t mass produce good food. It simply isn’t possible. The food has to wait, and the taste and texture degrades every second between the time it is cooked and the time it hits the fork.

They don’t hire trained chefs. They hire cooks. The cooks don’t care whether the food is overcooked because Aramark has a monopoly. The cooks never get to see a customer. Their jobs don’t depend on individual eaters. They depend on the corporation. The customer is the university. The university doesn’t have taste buds.

The only way the university tastes things is if students make a mass protest. That’s hard to organize, and anyway, students come and go. Administrators may also come and go, but they always follow the course of least resistance. They don’t make extra money by pleasing students’ taste buds.

So there is no incentive for good food in a university, unless there is sustained mass protest. That can only last for so long.

One other way to pressure schools is to have these score cards that do score food. But even so, students, and I mean no disrespect, really don’t care that much about food as food. They are in the fuel stage of their lives. They eat to eat, not to taste. Most of them, anyway.

So those are all the theoretical reasons why Aramark sucks at making good food. They are great at mass producing food-like substances. And that’s what their job is. It isn’t to make good tasting food.

Anyway, look for schools with smaller food preparing organizations, or where there are student run coops or individual chefs in houses—that is where you will find good good on campus.

JLeslie's avatar

Food at my university was pretty good. I went to the school that is number two in hotel restaurant, I have a feeling @Adirondackwannabe went to the number one. Our claim to fame was we had the largest nonmilitary cafeteria in the nation. Not sure if that title still holds. We also had a very large student body living on campus, and even various dorms changed their menus to satisfy the students in particular dorms. The “Jewish” dorm had more vegetarian options for instance. My caf being so huge had a huge selection. We had a deli bar at lunch daily, hot entrees, salads, fresh ice cream produced from the cows milked on our farms.

I am pretty sure Aramark used to service a company I worked for in NC and the food was hit or miss. Never great, but not always terrible. I don’t know if it was because that company I worked for was in the south and Aramark caters to the tastes of the market? Or, if their food wasn’t great in general around the country.

thorninmud's avatar

To get good food, there has to be someone in the process who : A) takes pride in the quality of their work and/or B) works with the enjoyment of the consumer in mind.

In large-scale food service operations, the consumer is a complete abstraction. You have no idea who’ll be eating your product, so it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll have their pleasure in mind as you crank out yet another thousand food units.

Pride in one’s work is possible, though difficult, to achieve on a large scale. The management has to create a culture of human dignity, where people are treated with respect. They need to be given input into the improvement of the product so that they feel personally invested in the outcome. In short, they need to feel some connection between who they are and the product that rolls out the doors.

It takes very skillful management to establish and maintain that kind of culture. It’s also, unfortunately, not likely that such a company will often be the low bidder to an institutional client.

gailcalled's avatar

And to continue @thorninmud‘s thought.
You have no idea who’ll be eating your product, or when.

When I went to a woman’s college a long time ago, every house had its own kitchen and cooks. Each meal was prepped just before eating, although there was a lot of reconstituted powdered eggs and chipped beef on toast.

El_Cadejo's avatar

We have ChatWells at my school and its just as horrible…

ScottyMcGeester's avatar

If the school you went to had good food, do you know if it was another distributor (and if so, do you recall the name) or was it made right there and then by the school itself?

For example, I visited Rutgers once a long time ago and the food was 10x better than mine. I wonder where that food came from.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@ScottyMcGeester The only time in school that I had good food was when I was attending tech school for culinary. The culinary students prepared all the school lunches so it was all fresh stuff and a wide variety of recipes.

The really weird thing about the case with my current school and Chartwells is that when the school has benefits and such Chatwells caters that as well. The food is almost always phenomenal.So its not that they aren’t good or talented cooks, its just the normal school food is sub par garbage in order to turn a greater profit.

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s not terrible in Germany where I live.

StarvedInTampaBay's avatar

It sure looks to me like Aramark prides itself on a variety of venues for serving up what I’d say is some serious slop. They seem to love not limiting their handiwork to bad cuisine at fine places of academic excellence like colleges and universities. How about professional sports venues, like Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fl where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and U. of South Florida Bulls play. You will find terrible Aramark offerings there for a premium. I am convinced when determining how much to charge, the Aramark people took proposed prices and repeatedly said “not high enough”. Then when reviewing tastiness of the food selection, they constantly kicked back the menu and said “not lousy enough, not tasteless enough!” I can understand why food tastes bad at a hospital; I mean, people are sick and need bland food to help their tummies and guts. Many just had major surgery. But c’mon, in an NFL and Big East sports stadium you need some spice, some flare, some creativity, some life for God’s sakes. So if you want to drop a few pounds, go on the “Aramark diet.” How does it work? Well, sign up for the full meal plan and eat there once. If you don’t like the food, just tell them about it, and they just might make sure it’s worse the next time you visit. So to answer the question, “Why is Aramark Food Service terrible?,” the answer is “because they care about everyone being at a healthy weight.” I can’t confirm, but I think I lost 126 pounds in 3.5 days. Wow!

tnyles's avatar

This might be a late post… but at my school we have Aramark and it is TERRIBLE. Aramark did a terrible job at my college of Fall 2013. I then put my two weeks notice because it sucked. When i worked there, the cashiers and people working in the lobby would be at most 2. 1 on cashier and the other person doing EVERYTHING. Plating the trays, cleaning the tables, refilling soda or cereal or condiments and vacuuming the floor and sweeping. Aramark kept bringing on problems to us like “EAT LESS SO WE CAN SAVE MORE MONEY” or how some of the workers had to RECORD how many people ate some certain food and would plate it for them in small amounts. I remember a Aramark representative came to judge us and left us with how much food we cook and how we should cook less for the students and serve LESS. So I quit. This year, Spring 2014, I learned from some employees that Aramark became stricter and now the employees cannot eat unless they work over 6 hours. The chef there was also an ass. He never cooked in the cafe but sat on his ass all day staring at the computer or just sleeping in his office. Then when he’d come out, he’d yell at us for doing a shitty job and how we needed to improve. . I am so happy i that i quit. Most of the students hate eating there also. All my friends hate it and when I was a cashier, I would see everyone hating the fact they had to eat there.

David_Faubion_CSUEB's avatar

A school that contracts to Aramark The Terrible should be audited for other incompetency, abuses, mismanagement and/or corruption. CSU East Bay does and it has Aramark egg all over its face. The only viable solutions are non-profit business or in-house operations, which could enhance student worker participation, instead of make a nightmare of it.

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