CESA Conference 2016: Brexit and economic uncertainty loom large

The economic, political and legal consequences of the UK’s decision to leave the EU coloured much of the discussion

Considering the current state of global political upheaval and uncertainty, Evan Davis, presenter of Newsnight and formerly the BBC’s economics editor, was the right chair for this year’s CESA Conference. The economic, political and legal ramifications of Brexit were, unsurprisingly, hot button topics throughout the conference, both throughout a varied speaker programme and with attendees during networking sessions.

The conference was held at the Marriott Forest of Arden in Birmingham on 18 November and produced in association with CESA, Cedabond, ENSE and FCSI UK & Ireland.

While the conference retained the air of “cautious optimism” CESA reported in its recent business barometer, the myriad of challenges its members, many of whom also FCSI members, will face in 2017 were in evidence. “We’ve been dealt one or two curve balls this year,” said Davis in his opening address. “Keeping your head is the absolute key in a time where any morsel of information can be exaggerated.”

The opening speaker session featured an economic update from Davis, a political viewpoint of Brexit from former MEP Malcolm Harbour and a focus on the legal implications from Euclid Law’s Oliver Bretz.

Davis posited a working assumption of the UK’s “rebalanced economy” which stated that, while trade with the EU is unlikely to be easier for the UK than it is now, trade with the rest of the world is “likely to be easier”. The UK, Davis noted, could ultimately end up with an economy 5% smaller than pre-Brexit, but this could be deemed “worth it” by many observers because of the opportunities presented as “a new global hub develops in a post geography age.”

Spotlight on the industry

Doug Fryett of Doug Fryett Consulting Group presented the findings of specially commissioned research from CESA aiming to ascertain if the foodservice supply chain is meeting the needs of the end-user/operator community. “Our biggest challenge is to find new and innovative ways to bring value to the end user/operator,” said Fryett. “We need to morph from a supply chain mentality to a value chain mentality.”

Design consultants asked to identify their most pressing ‘pain’ points in the survey said overhead and cost reduction, raising food costs, consistent food quality and food safety were their top four concerns.

Fryett also chaired a panel session debating the findings of the research. The panel consisted of Gareth Sefton FCSI, Andy Jones of AJ Consulting, Julian Shine of Shine Machinery, David Riley of Hobart UK and Graham Skinner of Serviceline.

“We get the best results on a project when we have direct contact with the end user,” said Sefton. “What we do does not work unless we’re engaging with them. Understand your customer. It’s just as important to speak to the pot washer and sous chef as the manager.”

The conference also featured an update on CESABIM from Stuart Campbell of Specifi, while Mark Bew, chair of HM Government Construction BIM Task Group discussed BIM’s role in the digital economy.

The conference also saw Julian Edwards FCSI, the new chair of FCSI UK & Ireland, addressing attendees. His message was one of “business is usual” for FCSI in the UK as he promoted a forthcoming members lunch on 8 December that will see the “biggest turnout of members ever.”

World Cup-winning rugby legend Matt Dawson gave a rousing keynote at the close. At a gala dinner after the conference, Mick Shaddock, former CESA chair and recently retired managing director of Victor Manufacturing, was named the winner of the Outstanding Contribution to the Catering Equipment Industry Award for 2016.

FCSI member Glenn Roberts, the chair elect of CESA, presented Shaddock with his award. “It’s a great honour and privilege to present this year’s award to such a worthy and distinguished person,” he said. “He is known to every one of us and is absolutely one of those who we are all proud to work with.”

Michael Jones


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