Innovation rules at Hotelympia 2016

Hotelympia, the UK’s largest foodservice and hospitality event, has pulled in both the numbers and plenty of new thinking and new products. Michael Jones reports from the show in London

Held across 300,000 square feet of floor space at the cavernous ExCel London exhibition centre between 29 February and 3 March 2016, Hotelympia has attracted 1,000 exhibitors demonstrating the latest in food and drink, catering equipment, interiors, technology, careers, and waste management.

“The hall has been packed throughout the first two days and we have had great feedback from our exhibitors on the quality of visitor,” says Toby Wand, managing director at show organiser Fresh Montgomery.

“Once the show has ended we will be releasing exact visitor numbers but signs are extremely positive that we will have smashed 2014’s attendance record. Watch this space.

“Key moments such as the inauguration of celebrated chef Anton Mosimann into the Hotelympia Hall of Fame, and the announcement of both the Innovation Awards, Restaurant Design and FoodBev awards have been incredibly well patronised, with standing room only at our dedicated Stage,” says Wand.

There is, says Wand, so much more still to come later this week too. “Visitors to days three and four will get the chance to see some of the UK’s leading chefs on The Staff Canteen Live – Skillery, a host of insightful talks across The Stage, Technology-focused HOSPACE Hub and Waste-Works, competing chefs on Salon Culinaire, as well as some of 2016’s most innovative new products from almost 1000 exhibitors.”

For Wand, the highlight of the show so far is an easy choice. “Without doubt seeing Anton Mosimann being interviewed prior to him being inaugurated into the Hotelympia Hall of Fame was a real highlight for me. It’s often said that the UK culinary scene can be neatly split into two periods, pre-Mosimann and post Mosimann – it’s such an elegant analogy, but that really is the regard in which he is held,” says Wand.

“He spoke graciously, and seemed genuinely moved to have received the honour. For someone so highly decorated, that spoke volumes.”

Elsewhere at the show, a full conference programme boasted expert speakers and panellists on a wide range of topics within foodservice and hospitality. Professional FCSI member Kate Gould of Keg Catering Consultants and FCSI Allied member Glenn Roberts, MD of Gram UK, debated the subject of barriers to going green in the kitchen alongside Dominic Burbridge of Carbon Trust, while Andrew Etherington FCSI, in conversation with Anthony Kingsley of Vacherin, Wendy Bartlett of Bartlett Mitchell, Stefano Picco of Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill, debated the subject of sustainability in catering. David Bentley FCSI of Bentley Consulting Ltd took to the floor to discuss the topic of ‘consultants and working partnerships’ with Stewart Millar of Schematic and FCSI allied member Andy Blake of Winterhalter.

In a conference session, expertly chaired by consultant Duncan Ackery FCSI, Peter Martin of market experts CGA Peach (pictured above), addressed the key ‘disruptive trends’ shaping the industry in the UK.

The British foodservice sector is, says Martin, “going through some of the most creative and competitive times in the last 30 years.” He cited street food as the most disruptive factor that has affected the UK food scene in the last five years, challenging the footfall of the 1,300 new restaurants that opened in the UK last year and suggesting that the challenge for operators now is to “understand what consumers want in an ever-changing market”. The UK is, says Martin “a country of experience junkies. We want to be wowed.”

Top chefs wowing the crowds with their own culinary skills or being interviewed about their careers at the show, have included Jason Atherton (Pollen Street Social, Berners Tavern), Claude Bosi (Hibiscus), Angela Hartnett (Murano), Graham Hornigold and Daniel Pearse (Hakkasan), Clare Smyth (Restaurant Gordon Ramsay) and Tom Kerridge (The Hand and Flowers and the Coach Marlow).

Meanwhile, at the Hotelympia 2016 Innovation Awards Carpigiani UK scooped a gong for its pioneering Multiple Choice range. Presented by chef Cyrus Todiwala OBE, Carpigiani’s Multiple Choice, which was revamped by the brand in mid-2015, was chosen as the winner of the Innovation Awards’ Equipment category, having been selected as a finalist by industry experts in January of this year. ‘Wi-Q’ by Wi-Q Limited (Technology) and ‘Recycled Compostable Black Cutlery’ by Vegware (Interiors) were also the big winners during a ceremony in front of a packed audience on Hotelympia’s Stage.

Launched in 2010 the Innovation Awards shine a light on the very best new products that the hospitality sector has to offer. “Congratulations to our three winners for truly showing the way when it comes to product innovation and ingenuity and very well done to all of our finalists. I know the judges were faced with a herculean task in separating them, such was the quality on show. Visitors should take time out to experience the winning products, as well as the finalists, for themselves in our dedicated Innovation Awards area,” says Wand.

For Wand, topping this year’s show in 2018 will be a huge challenge for the organisers, but he is confident of achieving that. “The pace of hospitality innovation, even in the last two years, has been so fierce, that in 2018 I expect our exhibitors to yet again raise the bar. We will continue to be a platform for them to showcase their ground-breaking wares, while being the only place to catch the very latest trends and insight shaking the industry.”

Michael Jones

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