Shanghai hosts the 25th Hotelex Shanghai Expo 2016

Victoria Brownlee reports from one of Asia’s leading hospitality and catering expositions

The 25th Shanghai International Hotel Equipment and Supply Expo (Hotelex Shanghai) showcased the best in the hospitality and catering industry, with 15 themed sectors on display, from hotel engineering, design and cleaning to catering equipment supply, coffee and tea, bakery and ice cream, and wine and spirits.

Taking place from 29 March to 1 April, the four-day event covered 280,000 sqm at the Shanghai New International Expo Center, attracting over 150,000 visitors to discover more than 2,800 domestic and overseas exhibitors displaying products spanning the entire hospitality industry.

Jimé Essink, president and CEO of UBM Asia, said that along with this year’s record large size, “what makes Hotelex so unique are the special activities of which we organise over 70 this year, like the four global coffee championships co-organized with World Coffee Events (WCE) in China.”


Events are becoming a key draw at the expo, many which focused on coffee (with World Coffee Events bringing in the 2016 World Latte Art Championship, World Cup Tasters, World Coffee Roasting, and World Coffee in Good Spirits Championships); and with other events featuring bartending (the 2016 China Master Bartender Competition), as well as gelato crafting, pizza making and bakery master championships. For the list of winners, see

While key industry professionals battled it out at championships across the four days, forums were also taking place on site, including a Commercial Franchise Business Development Forum, an Alibaba Special Forum and an IPA Matchmaking Meeting.

The Central Kitchen Construction and Development Forum

Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI) co-organised the Central Kitchen Construction and Development Forum on 31 March along with organisers China Cuisine Association, Shanghai UBM Sinoexpo International Exhibition; and, additional co-organisers Union Central Kitchen Institute, Catering Food Industrial Committee China Cuisine Association, and China Cuisine Association Central Kitchen (Nanjing) R&D Center.

Central kitchens are quickly gaining popularity in China. The interest in this trend was on display with a large number of investors, equipment suppliers and managers in attendance at the forum, and in the central kitchen showroom.

Clara Pi FCSI points to China’s large urban populations as a key enabler for the growth in central kitchens, helping food professionals to “produce food in large quantities, in a safe way that is cost efficient, labour efficient, with food safety so that everyone can have proper meals.”

During the forum, the morning sessions were dedicated to the profit security of central kitchens, central kitchen construction, and product design and food ingredient supply. The afternoon sessions continued in-depth presentations on central kitchens, with Tony Wang FCSI talking about concept and application, Jackson Wang FCSI speaking about catering applications and expansion issues, and Pi discussing standardised production.

As to the future of central kitchens, when Pi visited China 20 years ago, the interest was small because there was easy access to manpower. Now, Pi claims, “young kids don’t want to go and work in the kitchen, so you have to replace them with automation. Labour costs have gone up, too. And then you also have a problem with employees who are mostly from villages. They come into the city to work and then at Chinese New Year, or during other holidays, they go home and don’t come back.”

Central kitchens will help ease many issues faced by restaurateurs. An ideal represented on a sign in the central kitchens showroom at the forum: “You can open a restaurant without chefs”.

FCSI involvement

For Pi, the importance of FCSI’s presence at Hotelex is twofold. The first is to help people understand the work of FCSI, which helps gain new members and create a stronger network. The second is to help develop a platform where people in the industry can share and learn from people in different divisions.

Jackson Wang agrees, stating that Hotelex is a huge forum with the latest in technology and trends; now also exhibiting the latest trends in central kitchens. “People go to get the latest updates on what they can do. People also bring in equipment from overseas. They’re required to understand the local needs and applications”. So it’s a win-win for people who travel to Shanghai for the expo, and for the attendees.

The future of Hotelex

Organised by the China Tourism Hotel Association and Shanghai UBM Sinoexpo International Exhibition Co., Ltd., and also guided by the Shanghai Tourism Bureau, this worldwide professional tradeshow has grown significantly year on year.

Essink announced that next year’s show will be split into two phases to cope with this growth: “Phase 1 Hotelex for catering, table ware and food, taking place in SNIEC in March 2017 and phase 2 Hotel Plus with among others Hotel Furniture, Contract Furniture, Vending Machines, Building and Ceramics also taking place in SNIEC in April 2017. This will bring Hotelex to the next stage of development.” A move that is testament to the strength of the hospitality industry within the Chinese and Asia-Pacific market.

Victoria Brownlee