Partnerships are central to driving innovation in university catering, says David Nuttall, board member of the University Caterers Organisation
Global food trends, along with an increasing number of international students and EU legislation on allergens, have all added to the long list of challenges faced by university caterers.
Against a backdrop of rising food prices, awareness of sustainability issues and a dip in the number of chefs moving into the higher education sector, university caterers appear to have a ‘mission impossible' situation on their hands.
The challenges can seem endless. With the rise of ‘foodie' trends, on-campus outlets have to compete harder with the high street. It was reported that an estimated £425 a year is spent on ethnic food per person in the UK, with the biggest market share being 16- to 34-year-olds and those in full-time education. With limited budgets and overheads to think about, university caterers simply don't have the same resources as restaurant chains.
Finding an approach that meets all these needs is a task the very best in the business would find daunting, but universities up and down the country are finding a way. As with so many things in life, keeping it simple and being collaborative are key to making this balancing act work.
Take the University Caterers Organisation and its partnership with the Sustainable Restaurant Association as an example. By bringing together resources, knowledge and expertise, the two organisations have helped drive sustainability in university restaurants to a whole new level. This has been achieved by demonstrating how little changes can make a difference and how a concerted effort - no matter how small - can have an impact.
Tapping into greater knowledge
In the end, it comes down to support. With the help of industry organisations, the knowledge is there for caterers' to tap into. As a result, caterers are continually stepping up to the mark and delivering diverse menus and sustainability plans that any establishment would be proud of.
That is not to say that more can't be done. New challenges will always appear as the foodservice sector continues to grow in size and stature. But with the right information, caterers can continue to tackle them head on and with confidence.
For more information, visitwww.tuco.org
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