Industry Focuses on Sustainability, Employment & Innovation
This year’s conference, held at Whittlebury Hall near Towcester, had a theme of ‘A Platform for Growth.’ As well as enjoying a high quality speaker platform, several delegates took advantage of local amenities including golf at Whittlebury Hall itself and rallying at nearby Silverstone. The conference was rounded off at the Gala Dinner in the Brooklands Suite on the Friday night.
Conference facilitator Tanya Beckett is not only one of the BBC’s best business journalists, she also has a piercing wolf whistle. She used it to good effect to bring to order the 2012 Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA) Conference, in association with the FCSI (Foodservice Consultants Society International) and BHA (British Hospitality Association). Once shocked delegates had taken their seats, retiring CESA Chair Mick Shaddock and FCSI Chair David Bentley welcomed the 230 plus delegates, representing over 90 different companies. Both attendance figures are conference records.
Mick Shaddock gave an overview of the Mind The Gap research undertaken by CESA in conjunction with CEDA (Catering Equipment Distributors Association) and the FCSI, looking at differences in attitudes towards sustainability. (Delegates were given a summary of the research in their conference packs). The key findings were that there is optimism that the industry is willing to invest in sustainable solutions, but that product substitution – where a specified energy-saving model is replaced by a conventional one to cut costs – is a key issue. “This is a collective challenge,” he said. “We all need to work together with government and business partners to encourage the use of resource-saving equipment.”
Tanya Beckett presented what several delegates described as the clearest ever explanation of the global financial crisis, emphasising that the Eurozone crisis was the most significant danger for the UK economy. However, she was cautiously optimistic: while the forecast for UK growth was quite low, a period of stability in terms of inflation and interest rates was good news for SMEs.
The eating out industry is in its most competitive and challenging time for 30 years, according to Peter Martin, CE of hospitality research specialist the Peach Factory. It is also at its most interesting and innovative. Whilst more people are eating out, a big issue is ‘brand promiscuity’, with consumers increasingly willing to try new experiences. Both he and Simon Stening, of Allegra Food Strategy, highlighted trends as diverse as Peruvian cuisine, meals for sharing and healthier lifestyles. Simon pointed out that, despite the focus on value meals and vouchers, we are becoming a foodie nation and premiumisation is a growth area.
“We are in danger of sliding into a Clockwork Orange society, with an increasing subclass of unqualified, unemployed youngsters,” said Sir Garry Hawkes CBE. The former CE of Garner Merchant and Director General of Sodexo, now president of the Edge Foundation, gave a scathing view of the education system that is letting so many people down. A recent poll found that 20% of youngsters were not looking forward to the future. “We need a pathway to technical excellence, alongside the academic,” he said.
Rohit Talwar’s insightful and entertaining romp through the future featured chefs basing menus on customers’ individual genetic profiles and a restaurant in China where 18 robots welcome guests, take orders, prep and plate up the food, and so on. As CEO of research organisation Fast Future, his core message was that successful businesses are those that future-proof themselves by, for example, creating the right mindset in their staff, encouraging experimentation and curiosity.
Given the furore that has surrounded his department’s recent decisions in catering equipment procurement, David Shields, Managing Director of Government Procurement Services, must have felt he was stepping into the lion’s den by speaking at the CESA Conference. He explained the complexities and difficulties the GPS faced, with operational cuts of 40%, a spend forecast of £11billion and a savings target of £1.1billion. Speaking of the procurement process, he admitted past mistakes and said: “We know we have to improve – we are here to deliver value, not to make life difficult.” He promised to make it easier for SMEs to tender in the future and to use the GPS’s buying power to stimulate innovation in catering equipment design.
Lord Trefgarne, patron of CESA, thanked David Shields for speaking at Conference and for having met the CESA delegation two months previously to discuss the GPS issues. He also welcomed Vince Cable’s announcement on ‘changing the culture,’ to help SME’s get involved in the procurement process.
David Blunkett MP began his presentation by endorsing Vince Cable’s views. He then went on to give a hugely entertaining and scurrilous insight into the workings of government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Toby Wand of Fresh Montgomery, organisers of Hotelympia, revealed new plans for the 2014 event including a more consumer-style approach. He also announced that, in response to exhibitor and visitor demand, it would be held later in the year, from Monday 28 April to Thursday 1 May, 2014.
A selection of the conference presentations are available to download from cesa.org.uk
CESA’s new Chair calls for synergy
Nick Oryino, the new Chair of CESA, called on the various sectors of the catering equipment supply chain to work together. “We should focus on our synergies, not our differences,” he said during the Conference, where he officially took over from Mick Shaddock. The way forward is highlighted by the work CESA is already doing with CEDA, the FCSI and the BHA, amongst others, for example in World Skills UK, to encourage young adults into the industry, and through the Mind The Gap sustainability research.
Eddie Moffat: an outstanding catering individual
This year’s Outstanding Contribution to the Catering Industry Award was presented to Eddie Moffat, founder of E & R Moffat Catering Equipment. The award, sponsored by CESA and Caterer & Hotelkeeper, was announced by new CESA chair Nick Oryino who described Eddie Moffat as ‘an inspiration’. Serving as agunnerinthefleetairarm in WWII, Eddie set up the company in 1963. Now based in Bonnybridge, it boasts100,000squarefeetofmanufacturingspace and employs 150 people.
The FCSI / CESA Sustainable Catering Equipment Awards
The Granuldisk Granule Smart pot and pan washer, which uses plastic granules in the wash, won top prize in the FCSI Sustainable Catering Equipment Awards, announced at the Conference. The judges highly commended two other entries: the Adande Compact from Adande Refrigeration and Victor Manufacturing’s Optimax Retail Merchandising Units.
The Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA) is the authoritative voice of the catering equipment industry, representing over 160 companies who supply, service and maintain all types of commercial catering equipment – from utensils to full kitchen schemes. For more information on CESA visit www.cesa.org.uk
Throughout the conference delegates were invited to give their views on a variety of issues, via handsets that recorded their votes. For example, asked about sustainability, 87% said they expected it to have a big impact on their business during 2013.
Conference Charity: Hospitality Action
The conference’s popular informal dinner, which ties off Thursday’s networking activities, was attended by Sir Garry Hawkes who helped jolly money out of delegate’s purses to raise £3420 for his chosen charity, Hospitality Action. The cheque was presented to Sir Garry by Mick Shaddock and David Bentley.