Welcome to UNICUS
UNICUS provides a commercial offering across the University, ranging from cafes & bars to hotels, conferencing, delivered catering and even weddings. All of this and more is a part of the withUS portfolio.
Why you should use our services
- UNICUS is wholly-owned by the University and all profits generated are reinvested into the facilities and services offered.
- Money/resource is kept within the University group to give a much stronger consolidated financial performance - recirculating resource within the group rather than losing it externally.
- By all being within the same VAT group, this means that no VAT is charged on internal University transactions and so again this keeps the money within the University group to recirculate.
UNICUS is a wholly-owned subsidiary company of the University of Sheffield and was formed in July 2012 as Sheffield Trading Services Ltd, being renamed a year later to become UNICUS Sheffield Ltd. The organisation helps to operate some of the commercial services that are owned by the University and runs some of its own businesses as well.
An external review of the catering services was undertaken in 2009, triggered by the ongoing campus redevelopment strategy and the need to expand the catering offer into several new buildings. This was to create improved social spaces for students and staff to meet, study and relax. With several new openings planned over the coming years, a sustainable way of working was needed, as the forecast revealed a steady decline into a worsening deficit position.
The review offered three options for consideration; in-house, outsourcing or to create a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). Following extensive consultation, approval was obtained by University Council in July 2012 and UNICUS was created as a wholly-owned subsidiary company of the University.
Our surplus policy
Commercial services and UNICUS finances are ring-fenced, which means that the University does not subsidise our catering, event, conferencing, hotel or restaurant services. Our sales income supports all of our business activities.
As a business UNICUS needs to offer services comparable or better than the high street so that we are chosen for the fantastic quality of offer we are able to produce, our ethical standards and great service. Our benchmarking and auditing are through external providers, aligning our terms and conditions to our sector of Hospitality and Catering, making sure that we have an ongoing programme of improving our services and offers. Our pricing policy is a break-even +10% approach, much lower than external operators who typically return between a 15% - 30% surplus.
UNICUS took a loan from the University to set the business up. Loan repayments start in 2017 and once the loan is repaid any surplus will be reinvested into refurbishments, improvements or new offers, and services for students and staff. The business is governed by a Board of Directors in unpaid positions, one of which is the Students' Union Development Officer. There are no shareholders or dividends paid.
Tendering to external companies
We believe we have an amazing food offer and great staff, so by competitively pricing the external offer, we can achieve a better surplus, all which goes back into supporting staff and student activities. It also creates great work opportunities for students and improves our engagement in the city.
UNICUS and WithUS
UNICUS operates a wide range of hospitality services and venues under the brand name 'WithUS', providing healthy and sustainable food and drink options for staff, students and the wider community.