The organisers of Hotelympia boasted before the show that this year’s event would have “a number of new and exciting changes…which will make this edition of Hotelympia more vibrant.” They pledged to inspire visitors with “new ideas to develop your business” citing Hotelympia as “the best place to source new products and ideas from the great volume and variety of suppliers – more than any other UK show”.
Those changes included a new spring date of 28 April–1 May and a new floorplan at London ExCel, which grouped more than 160 catering equipment stands together at one end of a single exhibition hall, resulting in easier navigation.
But one thing organisers were unable to factor into plans was a 48-hour London Underground strike sitting plumb across days two and three of the show. That said, footfall remained strong at the show while exhibitors remained convinced on the whole that attendance was good and that things could have been a lot worse.
The show also boasted an impressive line-up of speakers, day one being bookended by an interview with top chef/restaurateur Bruno Loubet and closing with the presentation of a lifetime achievement gong to industry legend Sir Terence Conran.
Loubet (previously head chef at the two Michelin-starred Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Four Seasons, Inn on the Park, and Bistrot Bruno before opening Bistrot Bruno Loubet at London’s Zetter Hotel in February 2010) was an engaging interviewee. He stressed the importance of establishing a strong link between the kitchen and the front of house in a restaurant.
“We do simple things like chefs and front of house sitting together for lunch and dinner,” he said. “They joke and talk and then go about service like good friends on the same journey. A kitchen can produce the best food in the world but if they don’t communicate with front of house it will be irrelevant. Bonding is one of the biggest things. One team, not two teams.”
Sir Terence Conran, recognised for a career’s excellence on the London hospitality scene during more than five decades in hospitality, was presented with the Hotelympia Lifetime Achievement Award for “influencing a generation of designers”. Sir Terence was praised for his work on high-profile restaurants and hotels (Bibendum, Quaglino’s, Boundary, Guastavino’s in New York, Pont De La Tour, Great Eastern Hotel, Coq d’Argent) that remain “every bit as on trend, stylish and fresh as when they first opened”.
Additional gongs for Best New Hotel Design and a series of Innovation Awards were also handed out on the first day of the event. The former was won by The London Edition Hotel (featured in the forthcoming Q2 2014 Foodservice Consultant magazine) recognising star hotelier Ian Schrager’s extraordinary work.
Manitowoc’s Blend In Cup machine scooped the Catering Equipment Innovation award with chef Cyrus Todiwala of the judging panel praising the “standout product” as being “a real game-changer” that would appeal to larger and smaller operators alike.
Chair of FCSI’s Europe, Africa and Middle East division Martin Rahmann FCSI was also honoured with the esteemed Order of Merit Award from CESA (Catering Equipment Suppliers’ Association) at the show. The award is given to industry leaders and others who make a significant voluntary contribution to the development of the hospitality industry.
Other speakers at the show included Michelin–starred chefs Tom Kerridge and Tom Aikens (interviewed for Foodservice Consultant here), Patrick Dempsey, managing director of Whitbread and Peter Ducker of the Institute of Hospitality, taking in a range of diverse topics from the future role of the chef to how to encourage careers in hospitality. Tube strikes notwithstanding, this was a strong show and seemed to benefit from a renewed energy and a refreshed outlook.