Challenging caterers to work with new trends

By Matthew White, chair of the University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) and director of catering, hotel and conferencing at the University of Reading

Have you got what it takes to compete against the very best in university catering? Whether you’re a chef, waiter, barista, bartender or even if you like to bake in your spare time, I am delighted to tell you our annual TUCO Competitions are back for 2019. As ever, they challenge university caterers to put their talent and skills to the test.

To promote diversity and variety, this year we have introduced two brand-new competitions, a photography challenge and a grab-and-go challenge. Both of these are relevant to current student eating and drinking habits, along with emerging trends.

The new photography challenge is perfect for the Instagram-savvy catering operation seeking picture-perfect food and drink. In our Global Food and Beverage Trends report 2018, it found we want quality, nutritious food, but visual display is important, too. The report found nearly six in ten (58%) of consumers aged 18–34 said they like to take pictures to share on social media and, with that in mind, this competition will showcase photographers with a good eye for natural, colourful food.

Fast food healthy options

Last year, our Student Eating and Drinking Habits report found many university-based catering outlets are used between 10am and 2pm, in which case consumers are likely to look for healthy, fast food options. The brand-new grab-and-go competition challenges caterers to deliver two plates of a hot savoury dish using a bread or dough-based carrier, along with two plates of an allergy-free dessert. These dishes must be suitable for a university grab-and-go outlet. In line with our sustainability values, all competitors must use sustainable or disposable containers and wrappers.

These new challenges will run alongside our established competitions including our popular bar skills competition, barista skills challenge, chefs’ challenge, cook and serve challenge and our exclusive salon culinaire.

Best in class

Catering for universities puts us in a unique position. During term time we cater for students from across the globe, and when terms closes, we provide best-in-class hospitality to blue chip companies and all manner of private and corporate clients. It’s an extremely broad range of skills required and if we consider the evolution of food and beverage trends in the last few years, the expectation for tasty, quality meals and excellent hospitality services has never been higher.

Our prestigious TUCO Competitions take place on 26 and 27 March at the University of Warwick. We look forward to seeing you there.

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