Catering inspiration from China

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Building partnerships with other countries and knowing how to cater for overseas students and visitors is high on the agenda in most UK universities. St John’s College, Cambridge, has just led a research mission to gather fresh ideas on how to cater for its overseas visitors.  Bill Brogan, Catering & Conference Manager at , Cambridge organised a collaborative research mission to China in conjunction with The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO).

The aim was to gain inspiration and establish links with a diverse range of institutions including universities, technology corporations and catering businesses in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.  Leading a 15-strong delegation of catering professionals from universities across the UK, Bill wanted to obtain a deeper understanding of the differences between British and Chinese food culture, in addition to looking at how Chinese universities cater for their students and customers so that he could look to enhance the services on offer in Cambridge.

St John’s College is already well-known as the only venue in Cambridge to offer authentic Chinese cuisine and regularly hosts dinners for Chinese groups from other Colleges, as well as conference delegates and business cohorts from China.

Speaking about his trip, Brogan said: “Although some UK establishments claim to offer Chinese food, in reality they are just peddling a westernised version which is very far from authentic Chinese dishes.


“Our visits to five Chinese universities also highlighted differences in service trends between the UK and China. There’s a lot we can learn from Chinese universities; the numbers they are catering for are amazing. One university we visited had just served 20,000 breakfasts and Peking University serves around 47,000 lunches each day.

“Members of the delegation have returned full of ideas on how we can take some of the ideas from the trip and roll them out in our own organisations. At St John’s we can use our experience to reassess our organisational processes and ultimately provide a more efficient and tailored service to meet our visitors’ needs. This includes looking at our food offer to ensure it is authentic Chinese, training our chefs and re-evaluating how people are now using social media following our visit to Tencent in Shenzhen which owns We Chat and QQ, used by 600 million people at any one time.”

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