Matthew White has been in the catering industry for 27 years, 24 of those in higher education. He has been a part of TUCO, the leading membership organisation for in-house caterers across further and higher education institutions in the UK, since 2000. In September this year, he will take over as Chair from Julie Barker, who has overseen TUCO’s growth over the past five years including a successful relaunch in 2013.
The Organisation is a dynamic, constantly evolving support network for those involved in the in-house further and higher education catering industry. It helps professionals to not only secure the best deals and meet legislative compliance through its procurement network, but also to stay ahead of ever-changing trends. Quality of catering is consistently voiced as an important element of the student experience and professionals have to be on top of the next big thing. It’s no longer about institutionalised catering, but instead is now centred around the customer experience and is at the cutting edge of fine dining. Universities are adapting to this, but it takes time to realise a new trend. TUCO prides itself in providing up-to-date and relevant market intelligence to its members to help them make decisions as quickly as possible.
Adhering to its ethos of ‘share, learn, buy, grow’, TUCO also drives member benefits including skills development and partnerships. Through its procurement framework, it ensures members receive the best prices for goods whilst being assured of compliance. This is supported by market intelligence, informing members of new regulations and standards that they need to be
Speaking about his plans, Matthew explains: “Something that has become clear to me over the years that I’ve been involved in TUCO and also in my role as Director of Catering, Hotel & Conference Services at the University of Reading, is that there’s an incredible skill-set amongst HE caterers. Dealing with everything from student lunches to huge banquets, the talent that exists in our universities would make any Michelin restaurant proud. I’ve had the privilege to get to know many of my fellow professionals through involvement in TUCO and by working together, I’m confident we will move into the next phase and deliver even more success for our members.”
So, what are his plans for driving the organisation forward and what does this mean for universities across the UK? Matthew and his team intend to drive each of TUCO’s share, learn, buy, grow pillars forward for the benefit of members, enabling networking with other professionals, progression of learning through education, procuring ingredients at the best price and expanding insight and research capabilities.
“The last five years have been an incredible journey,” he says, “and the membership base of TUCO has doubled in size over that period – for good reason. Member benefits are extensive including study tours around the world to learn and share, partnerships with associations such as the EAUC, Craft Guild of Chefs, Footprint and the SRA all help drive value and recognition into the organisation – and are genuinely welcomed by our members.”
Breaking down these pillars further and one of the first things he will be looking at is increasing the voice of TUCO on the national stage supported by insight and research capabilities, working with the industry and beyond to drive awareness and expertise in new areas. TUCO already has a strong industry voice but Matthew intends to push this further, standing together to provide a voice for institutions across the UK.
The TUCO Academy will continue to offer dedicated learning and development programmes, plans are in the pipeline for 2017 and beyond, and TUCO also commits to providing a safe community environment in which members can share news, ideas and opinions – from which they can learn.
In addition, Matthew intends to push the procurement programme further; supporting Universities as they navigate the consumer-centric world and enabling them to offer mainstream choices as well as something that little bit different to students, staff or for outside events.
He believes that the sector needs to share its best practice and discuss innovative ideas, which is where the final ‘grow’ pillar comes in. Access to best practice, evidenced through case studies and advice on how to grow a business in this sector is invaluable for members looking for inspiration. In order to grow, it is important for the sector to also showcase the talent and creativity within it, demonstrating the opportunities and diversity roles within higher education catering have. This is a big part of the future plans for TUCO and with initiatives like its annual Skills Competition and TUCO Academy, the organisation is committed to driving learning and development across the industry, whilst simultaneously highlighting the unique benefits of a career journey in the field.
Supporting Matthew in his role will be Phil Rees from The University of Exeter, who takes over the seat of Deputy Chair. Matthew and Phil are backed by a strong board that has a broad range of skills across key pillars including sustainability, marketing, training and development.
It is clear that TUCO is a leading voice for UK higher education catering professionals. Supporting a network of businesses that often face similar challenges, it ties together hundreds of specialists and enables them all to grow in a way that is relevant and sustainable in today’s changing world.
For more information on TUCO, please visit: www.tuco.org/ or follow the Organisation on Twitter @TUCOltd