Event review: FCSI EAME 2022 Conference in Chantilly, France, 12-15 May

Covering geopolitics to student challenges, the FCSI EAME 2022 Conference showcased fantastic speakers and saw great networking opportunities all within a fabulous setting, reports Michael Jones

The theme of the FCSI Europe, Middle East, Africa (EAME) 2022 Conference in Chantilly, France on 12-15 May was Together, Action, Change, Transformation (TACT). It proved to be a particularly pertinent one for an industry still dusting itself down following the horrific impact of the Covid pandemic.

If the last two years has taught us anything it is that we are better together. That taking action on the front foot when facing a challenge is always preferable to being passive or simply feeling sorry for ourselves. That when things become tested, and begin to break, change is required. And that insight and learning from each other can bring the transformation that will get us back to doing what we do best: helping customers to serve wonderful food, in very cool places.

With sustainability permeating many of the speaker sessions across the two-day conference program, it was apt that outgoing FCSI EAME chair Remko van der Graaff FCSI cycled onto the stage of the conference hall at the Hyatt Regency Chantilly on the first day of the Conference program. “We have to change some of our ways in this industry and become more sustainable. We must change for a better future,” he said.

From geopolitical megatrends to everyday challenges

Hosted by Tina Nielsen and yours truly, the conference program saw topics covered as varied as global food consumption trends, the future of food supply, agriculture and world hunger, carbon footprint measuring, food waste, disability access, sustainability, BIM, branding, improving the hospitality experience and banishing plastics.

Opening keynote Christine Schäfer, a researcher and speaker for Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI), gave a fascinating insight into the link between the planet’s diminishing biodiversity with the microbiome deficiency of people in developed nations, plus how our own gut health can influence our mental health.

Benjamin Calleja, founder and CEO of Livit Design and Livit’s own test-lab restaurants, part of the Fast Fine Restaurant Group, gave a compelling account of how a disruptive lifestyle hospitality company with a growing portfolio of restaurants is changing the game across Europe, the US and the Middle East.

The Conference again also saw two teams compete for the prized 2022 FCSI EAME Student Challenge award. Students from Dubai, Lebanon, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany and France combined forces to present competing ideas for a hospitality concept of the future. The judges could not split the two teams, who were jointly awarded the prize during a gala dinner at the fabulous Royaumont Abbey on Saturday 15 May, an event that also saw consultant Roger Obeid FCSI honored for his services to disability awareness in hospitality.

Capturing carbon, creating a consensus

The second day of the Conference program saw FCSI EAME Allied member representative Mick Jary of Meiko introduce Progressive Content’s Cameron Sharpe to the stage. Sharpe presented his findings of the FCSI EAME: Conference Carbon Report, using comprehensive data submitted by all attendees, the organisational employees and the hotel F&B team that logged travel and energy usage to reveal the full carbon footprint of the conference.

Jary proposed to attendees that the Conference’s calculated carbon emissions could be offset via a donation of only €23 per person, with donations being sent to the Society’s chosen sustainability charity in Africa. FCSI Worldwide president Mario Sequeira FCSI, in attendance at the Conference, pledged that future FCSI Conferences globally should also aim to be carbon neutral.

A roundtable focusing on ‘Sustainability and carbon footprints’, featuring Sharpe, Sofia Gustafson FCSI, Michael Neuner FCSI, and Michael Meirer of Meiko Green, then followed, with the panelists revealing some fascinating examples of how they are helping to make the projects they work on more sustainable.

Closing keynote Bruno Parmentier, a lecturer, consultant and author about agriculture and world hunger, then addressed the attendees on the subject of solutions to end hunger and prepare for a more sustainable future.

Amid those serious topics, there was time for MasterChef BBQ competitions, dancing, inspiration tours of the neighboring Château de Chantilly and plenty of networking downtime over fine food and exquisite French wine.

A conference with ambitions to address how to face and answer the major, burning issues of the day,  managed to showcase that doing that together, taking action and bringing change to instigate a genuine transformation – can be great fun when you’re doing it with friends and colleagues too. Chapeau!

Michael Jones

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