Experts discuss the future of HE catering at TUCO conference

The University Caterers Organisation host its annual, and largest conference to date, in Hull

The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) have held their annual conference at the University of Hull, East Riding, Yorkshire.

This year’s conference was TUCO’s biggest yet, with 57 universities and 180 delegates attending. A further 98 companies took part in the supplier exhibition and TUCO welcomed 21 new members to its organisation.

This year’s theme ‘Yesterday, today, tomorrow’ brought an eventful few days of first-class knowledge, inspiration and exposure to new product innovation for caterers and foodservice professionals alike.

TUCO is the leading professional membership body for in-house caterers operating in the higher and further education sector.

Showcasing a wide range of influential speakers, a supplier exhibition and dedicated workshops designed to drive learning, development and product innovation. Matt white, TUCO Chair, said: “Ultimately our aim is for delegates to go back to their institutions with practical knowledge and inspiration after their conference experience.”

As an organisation, we have been working hard to support our peers to increase knowledge within the industry and offer various money-saving tools to cut costs

TUCO CEO Mike Haslin added: “This year’s TUCO Conference had a very exciting line up. As an organisation, we have been working hard to support our peers to increase knowledge within the industry and offer various money-saving tools to cut costs.

New launches 

During the conference, TUCO launched its new money-saving Further Competition Service. Alongside TUCO’s procurement service, full members will have the opportunity to get even more value from their framework agreements. The goal is to provide one-on-one support to really drive down prices further.

The conference was opened by Sky News Sunrise presenter Stephen Dixon, who hosted the event over the three days. During the event, four speakers delivered keynotes, running alongside various breakout choices in the live lounges. Delegates also had a selection of interactive seminars to choose from with topics including plant-based catering, waste management and the growing challenges of the UK’s food system.

ABOVE: award-winning author, broadcaster and former MP, Alan Johnson, took to the stage on the first day of the conference 

Speakers included food writer and critic Matthew Fort, Paul DaCosta – Koppert Cress, Andrew Dargue – Vanilla Black, Margaret Bates – Professor at University of Northampton, Kateline Porritt – The Food People, Mark McCullough – We Are Spectacular, Alan and Gary Keery – Cereal Killers and Anna Taylor – The Food Foundation.

On the opening day, award-winning author, broadcaster and former MP, Alan Johnson, took to the stage. Johnson discussed the regeneration of Hull as well as some highly topical issues such as rising tuition fees and Brexit.

The closing day saw keynote Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, commonly known as The Black Farmer, speak on the subject of ‘Flavours without frontiers’, along with a session covering entrepreneurship, creative thinking and how to achieve success.

“I think foodservice is changing at a fast speed. Consumers really do care about where their food comes from,” said Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones.

“Traditionally, foodservice has gone down the route of price without really considering how the produce is produced or how animals are kept, and I think that that is not going to be the case in the future. It’s an exciting time. More and more people want good quality food.”

Celebrating rising stars 

Also at the conference, the Organisation announced the winners of its prestigious awards to more than 150 industry guests. Now in its second year, the awards include a rising star award, innovation award, sustainability award, team of the year, member of the year and new to 2018, outstanding achievement award. The awards were established to recognise members commitment and dedication.

Matt White, TUCO Chair said: “Congratulations to all deserving winners! It was very difficult for our judges to decide on the winners from the talented and hard-working list of finalists. As an organisation we want to show our appreciation for every effort and contribution to the industry.”

Outstanding achievement award was won by Helen Anzani from the University of South Wales. Anzani’s commitment and dedication for changing the catering offer to rival and beat the high street in its diversity and quality of offer was recognised. Anzani was also recognised for her dedication in helping TUCO grow into the institution it is today and for her unstinting support for the Welsh university sector.

The Innovation award was awarded to the University of Reading for the ValidFill system which utilises RFID chipped vessels to control pours and allows subscription models to be implemented such as unlimited drinks for a certain period of time. Eight freestyle machines are now at six locations across the UK.

Royal Holloway, University of London was honoured twice, once for Member of the Year award, and once for Helen Earwaker who took home Rising Star award.

Congratulations to all deserving winners! It was very difficult for our judges to decide on the winners from the talented and hard-working list of finalists

Helen Earwaker, new business executive at Royal Holloway, University of London said: “It means the world, it’s so kind and wonderful to be recognised. TUCO is a brilliant organisation. It’s my first conference and it really feels like a family.”

ABOVE: Helen Anzani from the University of South Wales, collecting her Outstanding Achievement Award with TUCO Chair Matt White.

Manish Shah, Head of catering and conference services at Royal Holloway, University of London shared his delight for his team winning the member of the year award: “It’s incredible. We’re one of the smallest universities compared to many here and TUCO is a great support for us. It offers us great opportunities but TUCO networking is one of the most valuable reasons for being members”

University of Cambridge won the Sustainability Award, and the final award of the night went to the delivered hospitality service team from Cardiff University who were presented with Team of the Year award. Sarah Richards from Cardiff University, said: “It’s overwhelming, I’m lost for words. TUCO offers amazing opportunities, it’s very supportive.”