The new chair of the University Caterers Organisation has a vision for the future. Matthew White explains how he plans to build on TUCO's ethos
I have been in the catering industry for 27 years, with 24 of those in higher education (HE) and as a part of TUCO since 2000. This month I start a new role as chair of TUCO, having been passed the baton by Julie Barker, who has overseen the organisation's momentous journey over the past five years.
TUCO already has a strong industry voice and we intend to build on our key philosophies of ‘share', ‘learn', ‘buy' and ‘grow', ensuring best practice for our members and their staff and students. We are committed to standing together with our members to provide a voice for institutions across the UK.
As an industry it's so important to share innovative ideas with each other. Access to market-leading initiatives, through case studies, study tours and other successful methods, is invaluable for our members looking for inspiration.
Something that has become clear to me over the years that I've been involved in TUCO, and also in my role as director of catering, hotel and conference services at the University of Reading, is that there's an incredible skill-set amongst HE caterers. Dealing with everything from student lunches to huge banquets, the talent that exists in our universities would make any Michelin restaurant proud. I've had the privilege to get to know many of my fellow professionals through TUCO and by working together, I'm confident we will move into the next phase and deliver even more success for our members.
With an increasing amount of career and progression opportunities in the HE catering sector, we believe in upskilling the whole workforce, from new starters to directors, and therefore the TUCO Academy forms an essential part of our vision. Plans for the Academy are in the pipeline for 2017 and beyond, to continue its dedicated learning and development programmes.
Here at TUCO we are constantly striving to showcase the fantastic talent that we have in the sector through events such as the TUCO Skills competitions. In the past, the HE hospitality sector was not always associated with first-class skill and innovation, however, this perception is changing year-on-year and the Skills competitions continue to prove that there's no shortage of talent. This is something that we're all truly proud of and will continue to platform.
We always strive to support our members, especially when it comes to navigating the consumer-centric world and competing with the high street. We will be going all-out to drive our flexible procurement frameworks even further, allowing caterers to access products that are perhaps a little bit different from the norm - and, if necessary, without further commitment. This 'trial' purchasing will reduce the risk aspect of investing in the latest student food craze, allowing caterers to try out a variety of new menu options to rival competitors.
Development and growth moves hand-in-hand with adaptation and flexibility. Half of TUCO suppliers are already smaller, local producers and companies, and we aim to do more by increasing the amount of money spent locally. The ability to try new things and develop market-leading sustainability initiatives, without a massive risk factor, is invaluable - and this is what TUCO will continue to offer.
It is vital to give the talent within the education catering sector, across all positions, a real voice when it comes to sharing information on best practice for learning, buying and growing. TUCO promises to support all of its members, and the industry as a whole, to ensure innovation and development continues to flourish.
For more information on TUCO, please visit www.tuco.org or follow @TUCOltd on Twitter
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