The TUCO Winter Conference is a free annual event that gives TUCO members the opportunity to get together before Christmas to pick up some valuable insight ready to implement in the New Year. Each year features content from experts within the hospitality industry discussing practical tips to gain a competitive edge in the market, through to thought-provoking sessions on key issues.


The theme of last year's Winter Conference was ‘Forks in the Road’. Speakers included Professor Chris Elliot, Pro Vice Chancellor at Queen's University discussing food security post-Brexit and Stewart Wood, Lord Wood of Anfield, on the way that Brexit will impact Universities. The outcomes of the TUCO commissioned research on the impact of hospitality, catering and residence staff on the student experience was also presented by Donald Sloan of the Oxford Cultural Collective.

Following the Conference, delegates attended a Study Tour, specially designed to focus on regional food and offering the opportunity to meet growers, farmers and fishermen, as well as some of Northern Ireland's finest chefs.


Tuesday 4th December: Drinks Reception and Dinner
Wednesday 5th December: Conference 
Wednesday 5th December - Friday 7th December: Northern Ireland Study Tour

Agenda & speaker details for Wednesday 5th December:

09:00 - Coffee
09:30 - Welcome from Mike Haslin, Chief Executive Officer, The University Caterers Organisation
09:45 - Stewart Wood, Lord Wood of Anfield: Brexit & UK Universities: What Next for HE after March 2019?
10:45 - Coffee
11:15 - Professor Chris Elliott: The Future for Food Security
12:15 - Lunch
13:00 - Professor Paul Smeets: Why healthy eating might be challenging
14:00 - Donald Sloan of the Oxford Cultural Collective: Outcomes of the TUCO research into the impact of hospitality and catering staff on the Student Experience
15:00 - Tea
15:10 - Panel discussion: The post-Brexit business choices for Northern Ireland. With speakers: Matthew White (Chair, The University Caterers Organisation), Michele Shirlow (CEO, NI Food) Howard Hastings (Managing Director, Hastings Hotels), Dr Katy Hayward (Reader in Sociology, Queens University)
15:55 - Closing remarks from Matthew White, Chair of The University Caterers Organisation


Stewart Wood

Lord Wood of Anfield is a Labour member of the House of Lords & a Fellow of Magdalen College, where he taught politics from 1995-2011. From 2001-2007 he was a member of the Treasury’s Council of Economic Advisers, working on a range of public policy issues for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. From 2007-2010 he worked at 10 Downing Street as a Senior Special Adviser to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, leading on foreign policy (Europe, USA & Middle East); culture, media & sports policy; and Northern Irish affairs. He was a member of the Labour Shadow Cabinet & an adviser to Ed Miliband from 2010-2015. He writes regularly on issues of contemporary public policy. His research and teaching focused on political economy in western Europe & issues of public policy - ranging from training & skills policy to constitutional reform.

Chris Elliott

Chris is currently Professor of Food Safety and founder of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast. He serves as Pro Vice Chancellor for the university and is responsible for the Medical and Life Sciences Faculty. He has published more than 380 peer review articles, many of them relating to the detection and control of agriculture, food and environmental related contaminants. His main research interests are in the development of innovative techniques to provide early warning of toxin threats across complex food supply systems. Protecting the integrity of the food supply chain from fraud is also a key research topic and Chris led the independent review of Britain’s food system following the 2013 horsemeat scandal. He currently co-ordinates a large Horizon2020 food safety project involving 16 European and 17 Chinese partners.

Over the years Chris has developed a high level network of collaborators across Europe, the United States and Asia. He is a visiting Professor at the China Agriculture University in Beijing and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a recipient of a Winston Churchill Fellowship and is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Society of Biology and the Institute of Food Science and Technology. Chris has received numerous prizes and awards for his work. In 2017 he was awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry Theophilus Redwood Prize and was also awarded an OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Paul Smeets

Dr. Paul Smeets is Associate Professor at the Division of Human Nutrition and Health of Wageningen University and the Image Sciences Institute of the University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands. He aims to understand the drivers of human eating behavior. The central theme in his research is the decision to eat, which is taken in the brain on the basis of multiple neural as well as hormonal signals. Research topics include the neural correlates of food evaluation (sight, smell, taste), (un)healthy food choice and satiety, the effects of personal characteristics on food-induced brain responses, food-gut-brain interactions and gastric digestion.

Donald Sloan

Donald Sloan is the founder and Chair of the Oxford Cultural Collective, an international cultural institute dedicated to promoting better understanding of food and drink, in pursuit of personal fulfilment, professional development and social change. The Collective’s core team includes internationally renowned food writers, journalists, chefs, broadcasters and academics.

Prior to founding the Oxford Cultural Collective, Donald was Head of the Oxford School of Hospitality Management at Oxford Brookes University, a position he held from 2003 to 2017. Throughout his tenure the school received many plaudits, including being ranked in the top three hospitality schools the world in 2016 at the prestigious Worldwide Hospitality Awards.

He is a Trustee of the Jane Grigson Trust, a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality and he holds a Master of Business Administration in Higher Education Management from University College London.