TUCO and the global larder

By Matt White, Chair of The University Caterers Organisation and Director of Catering, Hotel and Conference Services at the University of Reading

The student population of millennials and Generation Z spend, on average, 54% of their disposable income on eating out, and are more passionate about food than any other generation. A big part of this passion is driven by their desire to try new things, in particular flavours and dining concepts from around the world. As such, we’re seeing cuisines such as Filipino and Antipodean gain traction this year, with Peruvian, South East Asian and Greek now considered menu staples. 

Incorporating a wide variety of dishes is a core consideration for university caterers and it can be a challenge to continually meet the demands of students, who have some of the most well-travelled taste buds yet. In fact, research shows that almost half of millennial restaurant-goers are looking for globally inspired cuisines. 

Being aware of – and making the most of – upcoming and influencing trends, like the rise in global fusion dishes, can help university caterers to differentiate their offering in a crowded market. Not to mention, it can also provide new sources of inspiration for flavours and formats in the future. However, authenticity is key. In order to draw the attention of students away from the high street, university caterers are emulating the true tastes, smells and overall dining experiences found in the cuisine’s home country. This includes creating popular street-food dishes like spicy ramen noodle soup and Korean bibimbap. 

Matt White

Travelling to different countries to see how food is traditionally prepared and exploring the surrounding culture is a great way to inspire chefs and ensure they’re best placed to capture the essence and true flavours of the dishes they’re creating. At TUCO, we run a number of overseas study tours for this very reason, enabling our members to experience and learn first-hand. For example, this November we held a study tour to Northern India. On this trip, our members were immersed in the traditional cooking methods associated with creating everything from curries and breads to more contemporary street food. By learning about the wealth of cooking styles and ingredients used in Indian food, our members returned with a new set of skills and knowledge to use as a basis for their own Indian-inspired dishes on campus.

Next year’s line-up of study tours is also shaping up to be our most exciting yet – with trips to Vietnam and Cambodia already planned. With 80% of people stating they like the adventurous flavours and spices of international cuisines, we expect campus menus will become even more diverse in 2018. In particular, our Global Food & Drinks Trends research identified Japanese, Mexican, modern Indian, Middle Eastern and Korean foods as the ones to watch. 

By continually researching, experiencing and experimenting with international tastes, through methods such as study tours, university caterers are better equipped to meet the demands from millennials and Generation Z for new dishes, experiences and fusions – ultimately ensuring that students don’t need to look any further than campus outlets to get their foodie fix.” 

For more information on TUCO and its schedule of study tours, please visit www.tuco.ac.uk

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