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Apr 25, 2023
  1. Aramark and Avoca were always something of an odd match. The US property, retail, and services group and the darling of Ireland’s foodie scene. At its core, Aramark was a mass caterer and a facilities manager; Avoca was a niche food and retail business. Aramark ran direct-provision centers, among other things; Avoca won awards for its sourdough bread.

    So when the US company acquired Avoca from the Pratt family for a reported €64 million in 2015, many wondered if the Avoca brand would suffer, not least because Aramark had a reputation for cost-cutting. Both sides promised it wouldn’t.

    Six years on and that pledge looks increasingly shaky. Aramark has presided over a mass exit of Avoca staff while people close to the business say standards have slipped under the new owners. Most of Avoca’s original management team has left, including the company’s two executive chefs Leslie Hayes and Mark McGillicuddy; its executive manager Teresa Byrne; the head of food buying Elaine O’Conner; the head of retail buying Mandy Haslett; and Avoca’s innovation chef Andrea Carydias.

    About 51 managers, assistant managers, and other senior staff across the group’s 14 stores have also been let go. Most received the minimum statutory redundancy payout of two weeks’ salary per year of service, some with more than 20 years of service. Many of those taken on since are said to be young. Many are understood to be on minimum-wage contracts.

    Prior to Covid, Avoca had a workforce of just over 1,000 across its network of branches, the head office in Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, and the group’s central production unit in Bray, Co Wicklow.

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