Innovation Generation: FCSI EAME conference day one

The 2015 FCSI EAME Conference tackled a range of pressing issues, notably how to attract and retain youngsters, reports Michael Jones from Madrid

Taking place at the impressive Melia Castilla Hotel in Madrid, Spain, the FCSI EAME conference had a hugely positive atmosphere from the kick-off. FCSI EAME chair Martin Rahmann FCSI announced that 270 participants were in attendance, a 37% growth from the 2013 conference in Warsaw, with over 100 Professional FCSI consultants at the event.

Event chair Duncan Ackery FCSI revealed that the conference programme would feature 17 speakers from 10 countries who will have clocked up a total of 20,000 miles to reach the event. To offset this, FCSI EAME pledged to offset this carbon footprint by planting 500 trees in Mongolia as part of Clara Pi FCSI’s initiative to a sustainable future.

Read the day two blog here

A sustainable future was very much the theme for the first speaker session with the conference theme of ‘Innovation generation’ being superbly conveyed in a session on attracting and retaining young talent. The panel, chaired by Niccola Boyd-Stephenson FCSI and consisting of Mieke Verduijn of HTC Advies in the Netherlands, Mendes Cavin, founder and CEO of Miners Hospitality in Switzerland, Bruno Dettwiller of ARWYTEC in France and Daniel Birn, the 26 year-old sous chef at The Ritz in London, brought to life their own respective career routes, the obstacles they have encountered along the way and their musings on how they see the hospitality industry evolving.

“Social media is very important to us,” said Cavin when asked how he engaged with his customers. “It’s the best marketing tool we have.”

The concept of continual professional development and lifelong learning ran throughout the session too. “It took me a long time to find the perfect job for me. I love the job of kitchen design, but I’m not done yet with learning,” said Detwiller. Birn reiterated the view. “I have always thrown myself into all aspects of the business, giving myself new goals. I’m still learning new things every day.”

According to Cavin, the parameters of how to measure success are also shifting for a younger generation. “For me, it’s never been about money or success; it’s about being able to give something back.”

Next up was a panel session on Building Information Modelling (BIM) chaired by former FCSI UK & Ireland chair David Bentley FCSI. Andrew Humble FCSI from Humble Arnold in the UK, Steve Carlson FCSI from Robert Rippe & Associates in USA, Milan Milovanovic FCSI from Sweden and Roberto Assi of Italian catering equipment manufacturer UNOX, discussed what Bentley described as “the biggest hot potato in Europe right now for us in this industry.”

“Using BIM has made our projects cost efficient and saved time,” said Milovanovic, who, along with the rest of the panel also acknowledged the challenges adopting BIM can bring with it.

A session on pan-European facilities management (FM) was chaired by Andrew Etherington FCSI. Andrew Price, senior vice president for global corporate clients for ISS Worldwide, Chris Stern FCSI from the UK and Mariëlle Hintzen from HTC Advies in the Netherlands addressed the scope of pan-European FM contracts and how to get the best value from them. “’Facilities management’ is a horrible term. It suggests we only manage bricks, assets and equipment, when it’s actually about being able to provide a fantastic service that complements our client. It’s about managing people, not buildings,” said Price, who also reiterated that “transparency is hugely important when working internationally in this industry.” Chris Stern agreed. “There is a lot of short-term thinking with FM contracts,” he said.

An engaging presentation from Meiko’s Klaus Engesser on working overseas highlighted that “the most important thing in global business is service. You must have a strong service structure in place. Success is all about partnership. We have to work together.”

Creativity and business expert David Gilbert posed the eternal question of ‘where do ideas come from?’ as he looked at how creative professionals in the commercial marketplace, including those who work in retail and restaurants, can learn from creative people in the arts sector. According to Gilbert “Authenticity is everything and catering is a very creative sector because differentiation is key in this industry.”

A final presentation from José Manuel Fernández Bosch, commercial director at Spanish airport company Aena, gave the foodservice perspective from his firm’s 46 airports across Spain and other nations, responsible for servicing 200 million passengers in 2014. “We have 321 restaurants and F&F units over 121,000 sqm making €400m each year,” said Bosch. “F&B plays a key role in the ideal airport commercial layout. For us it’s about transforming the customers’ needs into a complete and coherent offer.”

For Duncan Ackery the conference, and the social functions attached to them, is particularly useful and pertinent for FCSI members because it gives members “An opportunity to hear some great ideas. It helps us to export our talents. A particular highlight of the conference for me was to get a chance to speak with Clara Pi over dinner. It was a privilege to speak to hear her talk about her work, the world of hospitals. She really brought it to life. What’s she’s done has been groundbreaking. It left me enthused and excited.”

Martin Rahmann felt that the first day of the conference was of a very high standard, praising the “great mixture of the programme” and the “structured agenda.” For Rahmann, it was most important that the day began with its focus on young people and attracting talent. “We are doing a lot in EAME to get in front of young people at the hotel and culinary schools and to speak to them about FCSI and how they can join us as designers or consultants. We have to reach them early because they are the future of our industry. They really are the innovation generation.”

Michael Jones

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