Contract caterers have warned of a serious skills shortage as college students continue to bypass the sector for more "glamorous" jobs in restaurants and hotels.
Leading caterers claim hospitality colleges do little to support their industry and fail to tackle the perception that contract catering jobs are not as "sexy" as those in other sectors.
The criticism comes as most of this year's hospitality graduates are choosing to avoid jobs in contract catering.
Only three out of 95 hospitality students at Oxford Brookes University have chosen employment in the sector, and only one in 10 students at Thames Valley University, west London.
BaxterStorey deputy chief executive William Baxter said: "Colleges don't help us put over our side of the business. We've put on a couple of functions to get academics to spend time with us but the response was pathetic."
But David Foskett, professor of hospitality at Thames Valley University, defended colleges, saying it was the responsibility of caterers to raise awareness among students.
"Caterers need to promote their brands better, either by offering bursaries or even branded folders and pens," he said.
His view was supported by Donald Sloan, head of hospitality, leisure, and tourism management at Oxford Brookes University, who said colleges and caterers should work more closely together.
But Robyn Jones, chief executive of Charlton House, said colleges were still failing to support not just caterers, but the industry at large.
She pointed to an event held last week by hospitality funding group, the PM Trust, to make colleges aware of £50,000 of grants and funding opportunities. But only four out of 30 London colleges turned up to the event, hosted by chef Brian Turner.
"It's pathetic," Jones said. "We were looking to hand out money but we couldn't even give it away."
By Tom Bill