Head of Hospitality for Lancaster University, Ros Wilkinson is a highly experienced Hospitality, Tourism & Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism segment professional with experience in the Leisure Industry and Higher Education sector.
Ros started her career as a Management trainee in the hotel industry straight from school at one of the last British Transport Hotels (ex British Rail owned hotels) before Margaret Thatcher’s government sold off the properties during the privatisation of the railways. The comprehensive five-year training programme included a year in France and involved all hotel departments, plus two years of classical chef training in two very different hotel kitchens, a large city centre hotel with conference facilities and a Country House Hotel hosting high profile events and private celebrations.
Ros trained in all corners of the kitchen – butchery, larder skills, sauce, working on the pass through to pastry. Also operating the ‘kitchen control’ (as it was called back in the day) side with the Head Chef planning and costing menus, ordering to stocktaking.
Her experience has taken her through hotels from prestigious Country House estates with golf courses, smaller privately owned hotels to large city centre hotels in major cities (up to 600 bedrooms) and has stretched across roles in operational positions, hotel management, business development and commercial management. She has covered all areas of the business spanning across a range of other sectors of the Hospitality Industry including conference venues, sports stadiums and now Higher Education.
Ros spent five years working for the Engineering Employers Federation, initially taken on to promote their residential training venue and courses then later developing membership sales. This gave her insight into the importance an organisation of this kind can play in supporting SMEs.
In 2013 Ros joined Sport England/Serco Leisure, operating their flagship venues; Lilleshall National Sports Centre and Commercial lead for Lilleshall, Bisham Abbey and Holme Pierrepont Country Park National Water Sports Centre. This role had a high emphasis on the food offered to the elite athletes based at each of these National Sports Centres developing close stakeholder relationships with some of sport’s national governing bodies – for example, nutritional values and working with the nutritionists on the build up to important competitions such as the Olympic Games.
Ros has been Head of Hospitality at Lancaster University since October 2016, leading a team to provide meals for thousands of customers across campus on a daily basis including; students, staff and visitors for meetings, internal and external conferences, Pre-school, food to onsite outlets and catering for high profile university events, VIP dinners and other special occasions.
Lancaster University has recently been named ‘International University of the Year’ by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and is the first University to achieve Allergen Accreditation across the campus for all its catering operations. As active members of The University Catering Organisation (TUCO) Ros and her team learn and share information across the University sector. TUCO is a procurement organisation but offers much more than this to its members by way of training and development, networking and guidance.
Ros Wilkinson commented: “My passion for the industry has not changed, once it is in your blood there is no escape. The greatest satisfaction I have is passing this passion on to teams and colleagues I work with, seeing them develop and achieve their potential”.
There a several challenges I believe we are now facing in the industry:
• Recruitment and maintaining skills within the sector – chefs being one key concern
• Life after BREXIT how that will affect the supply chain
• Sustainability and ethical challenges
• Environmental issues – i.e. packaging”
Join Ros, with 5 other women in the food industry, where you will hear her story at our panel discussion “Inspiring Women in Food” at our Lancashire Female Food Entrepreneurs event on January 30th 2020 at Lancaster University with Marketing Lancashire.
Find out more and book your FREE place for our Lancashire Female Food Entrepreneurs event here.