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Improving efficiency with a critical eye

Mike Haslin, Chief Executive Officer at TUCO, The University Caterers Organisation, discusses their new independent Efficiency Review procurement tool

“It’s that fresh pair of eyes looking at the operation that brings a new and exciting perspective” Matthew White, director of campus commerce at the University of Reading

How often do you review your catering operation in its entirety? This was the question we asked our members and from which our brand-new TUCO Efficiency Review procurement tool was founded.

From finances to your menus and staff development, how well is your operation truly doing against competitors? And further still, how often is your operation compared objectively to that of your competitors on the high street or similar-sized higher education institutions?

It’s probably not as often as you would like, which is why the TUCO Efficiency Review has been created.

At TUCO, we are always looking for ways to support financial growth and business development. The review, in association with leading consultancy Litmus Partnership, will independently measure your complete business performance and provide valuable metrics to help improve take-up, spend per head and margin.

There are three stages to the review:

 – Pre-site visit. Financial information including financial performance from the last full financial year and annual total food, beverage and sundry spend will be require   

 – Site visit, whereby we will secure a full understanding of the services supplied, followed by a visit to all outlets to complete the review and KPI Matrix

 – Review report and dashboard which will be uploaded following the review and a feedback call will be arranged to discuss the report

TUCO Efficiency Review at a glance

● Objectively assess how well you’re doing versus the competition

● Benchmark your performance and provide valuable metrics

● Experienced, independent consultants well respected in the higher education sector

● Quick and easy three stage process which should take no longer than three to five working days to complete

● Multiple business benefits

● Efficiency Review is offered to TUCO members at an extremely competitive and low cost


Cardiff University, the University of Reading and the University of Leeds were amongst the first to take part in an Efficiency Review.

Cardiff University

“We sent Litmus Partnership financial information, profit and loss accounts and some human resources information about head counts, job details, etc. We also sent them some procurement information ahead of the visit, things like level of spend with suppliers – all data that should be easily accessible.

“They then came to the University and walked around all of our catering units, scoring us against set criteria. They looked at everything in terms of the operation, from a customer perspective and from their professional perspective.

“The following report showed any improvements that could be made with purchasing, plus lots more useful information. It also gave assurance in areas where a good score was gained.

“The report has helped Cardiff to add further value to the catering strategy and the need to implement and invest in catering at Cardiff. We found the industry KPIs and benchmarking of value in measuring ourselves against the industry, and the recommendations made by the report, combined with advice on where to source.

“It can be used for benchmarking against similar higher education institutions, but it also gives you a score that I’d like to think that if we revisit it in a year or two years’ time, we would have made some improvement.”

Mike Haslin

The University of Reading

“We helped to develop the TUCO Efficiency Review. This simple and yet extremely effective review by independent consultants will provide some very powerful feedback that you can utilise to grow and develop your business.

“The findings are positive and insightful and will help signpost TUCO tools and services that can support you and your team in your daily operations. Late last year we took part in the pilot of this new service and I have to say there were several quick wins that were easy to implement that have helped grow sales and increase profitability here at the University of Reading.”

University of Leeds

“The Efficiency Review confirmed those things that we are doing well, whilst also providing us with some suggestions as to how we might develop the services in the future.

“It was interesting that many of the recommendations aligned with our current plans, whilst also giving us a few new ideas. The ability to benchmark our performance against other universities is useful and we are considering using the review as a regular independent audit to ensure we are demonstrating continuous improvement.”

To see full details of what the review assesses and to view a sample dashboard, click here. To find out more about becoming a TUCO member and benefiting from the TUCO Efficiency Review, visit tuco.ac.uk or, to sign up, email mike.haslin@tuco.ac.uk.

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