A New Partnership to Transform Campus Dining

The University of Kentucky negotiated a 15 year, nearly $250 million contract with Aramark to create a public-private partnership for dining that will transform this vital service for our students, faculty, staff and the larger community we serve. The partnership is an opportunity to improve service, provide healthier food at lower cost to our students, invest millions in facilities and enhance our commitment to locally sourced food. Similar to the public-private partnership that has revitalized our approach to residence halls and the living and learning environment, the University will build a national model for dining services and its impact on our people and the Commonwealth.

Key provisions of the partnership with Aramark will include:

  • Prices for UK's six current student meal plans will be reduced, with the most expensive plan falling in price by 26 percent or about $740 per semester.

  • $70 million in facilities investments, including $40 million in new facilities, subject to board approval, would be made by 2017-2018, including the new K-Lair at Haggin Hall and substantial upgrades to the Student Center Food Court, both to be ready for this fall and a newly constructed Commons for Fall 2015 that will feature Kentucky Proud products and sustainable design elements.
  • Several new food brands will be locating on campus starting this fall and next year. This fall, a new locally owned Common Grounds, Rising Roll Gourmet, Einstein Bros. Bagels and Greens to Go will open on campus.

  • In Fall 2015, the first on-campus Panera in the nation will open as part of a new, $32 million Commons that Aramark is building near the W.T. Young Library.
  • More emphasis will be placed on nutrition and wellness with a full-time dietician hired by Aramark, digital menu boards, a nutrition website and mobile apps for nutrition and fitness that will be instituted, among other innovations.
  • Aramark is providing guarantees to increase Kentucky Proud and local food purchasing, including an 11 percent increase in the first year of the contract with $2 million in guaranteed purchases. Over the life of the contract, local food and Kentucky Proud purchases are projected to grow each year and represent approximately 25 percent of total food purchases by the end of the term.
  • Significant sustainability initiatives will include LEED certification being sought on new construction, hiring of a full-time sustainability coordinator and implementation of Green Thread business practices, including waste stream management practices, minimizing food waste and supporting composting, energy audits and other energy and conservation initiatives.
  • The creation of a "Food Hub" in partnership with the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, including a $5 million guaranteed investment in an unprecedented academic partnership. More details about the food initiative will be announced later this summer. "The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment community is excited about promoting food education and outreach campus-wide, in partnership with Aramark," said Nancy Cox, dean of the college. "Soon we will begin soliciting input to plan programs that strengthen the student experience and elevate UK's prominence in the study of food systems." 
  • Current UK employees with dining — about 110 people — will have the opportunity to remain university employees with the same salary and benefits — a guarantee made by the university more than a year ago.
  • Aramark is committed to growing the number of full-time and student employees.
  • Key Performance Indicators on all major facets of the contract between UK and Aramark will be tracked and will include financial penalties if measures are not met in areas such as local food sourcing, customer satisfaction, nutrition and wellness, and employee numbers.

Aramark currently partners with more than 1,000 colleges, universities, K-12 and preparatory schools across the country.  The company employs approximately 2,500 people at a variety of businesses, municipalities, and education and health care institutions in the Commonwealth.

UK has been assessing dining service options for nearly two years. Three committees ― with representation from faculty, staff and the student body ― have studied the issue. Three campus-wide forums have been held, and numerous meetings have been held with dining services employees throughout the process. Feedback from interested stakeholders yielded a promising partnership for our future.