2012 Acorn Scholar Simon Houston has set up a new taskforce to raise the profile of contract catering within colleges and universities.
Houston, BaxterStorey's group manager for Europe, met with eight contract catering peers from rival operators, including Compass Group, CH&Co and Lexington, to discuss how best to tackle the challenges of attracting potential leaders to food service.
Despite the mutual agreement that contract catering offers excellent development opportunities as well as a great work-life balance, only one in 130 hospitality graduates go into it.
Scott Wakefield, a general manager at Lexington who works closely with graduates, said the main issue is a general misunderstanding of the sector. "They think its event management and weddings. I'm trying to pull them back from that."
Another issue raised by John Hicks, chef trainer at BaxterStorey and Acorn Scholar runner-up, is the way food service is covered in education. "If you go into a college you tend to find that contract catering is not being talked about nearly enough."
He added: "Lots of people coming out are encouraged to go into restaurants. Contract catering doesn't get looked at equally. We need to change the mindset from colleges up."
The taskforce, named "Sauced: hospitality's best kept secret", has agreed on a three-pronged approach aimed at universities, lecturers and students, to promote the sector.
Lorna Burns, impressions project manager at Restaurant Associates; Simon Price, ISS corporate development chef; and Frankie Reilly, HR administrator at Bartlett Mitchell; will produce a downloadable information pack.
A versatile format for presentations to be given to students and lecturers will be developed by Houston, Wakefield and CH&Co project manager Rebecca Cupitt.
Hicks will work on a promo video with Host food academy executive chef Stephen England and Jeremy Lusseau, general manager at Harbour & Jones.
The Sauced taskforce will meet regularly throughout Houston's year-long tenure as Acorn scholar.
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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