Commercial Kitchen, a new trade exhibition designed to connect foodservice operators and buyers with catering equipment suppliers, launches next month. FEJ caught up with Chris Brazier, group event director at Diversified Communications, the show’s organiser, to find out why the industry is in need of its first catering equipment-only show.
What led you to create a show specifically focused on commercial catering equipment?
Equipment manufacturers tend to deal with many different sectors, which requires highly targeted marketing at multiple target groups, from restaurants, pubs, hotels, schools, hospitals, care homes and offices to name just a few. One exhibitor we spoke to attended over 70 separate trade events in one year in order to meet all the different sectors, which is very costly and time consuming. So we spent two years having conversations with key suppliers and buyers about the idea to create one all-inclusive annual showcase for the industry, which would target and attract specifiers from all sectors at the same time. It seemed a simple, cost-effective solution and the response was overwhelming. Similar broad events already take place in Italy and America, so it’s not a completely revolutionary idea!
Your existing shows, such as lunch! and Casual Dining, take place at venues such as the Business Design Centre, which have an intimate feel to them and make it easy for visitors to see everything. What led you to choose a larger, more mainstream exhibition venue such as the NEC for Commercial Kitchen?
The most important area for innovation in both the food-to-go sector and the restaurant sector is undoubtedly London, so both lunch! and Casual Dining have to be in the capital to be close to the biggest buyers in their sectors. Commercial Kitchen is much broader and appeals to anyone who has a commercial kitchen, anywhere in the UK, so we felt it was crucial that the event was located as close to the centre of the UK as possible to make travel easy for everyone. Venues don’t get much more central than the NEC. It’s got great transport links and we know that the hugely conscientious buyers will be prepared to travel to be part of their definitive new event.
Commercial Kitchen is aimed at individuals involved in the sourcing, buying and specifying of foodservice equipment. Why should they attend the show?
Buying equipment is a very different buying decision and requires a different mindset and approach than buying food produce. For starters, one tends to be a capital investment, whereas the other is operational. Fitting out a commercial kitchen can also be a big investment, so it makes sense for buyers to have the opportunity to attend a dedicated show, where they can compare products and see the latest innovations, to make sure they specify the most cost-effective equipment for their kitchens, which meets their specific catering needs.
We spent two years having conversations with key suppliers and buyers about the idea to create one all-inclusive annual showcase for the industry”
Have you been able to learn any lessons from your existing shows that you are intending to apply to Commercial Kitchen?
I think buyers prefer shows which are specific to their needs at a given point in time. So whilst equipment exhibitors at Casual Dining, for instance, tend to have a very successful show, the main reason visitors attend is to look at the food and drink, with equipment being secondary. And whilst the equipment manufacturers like Gram, Rational and Unox have a very successful show, it’s because we limit the numbers in order not to become an ‘equipment show’. Getting the balance right between food, equipment and other product groups is a very delicate balance to get right for most organisers but we won’t have that problem at Commercial Kitchen because it’s all equipment! I think it’s a very simple and powerful proposition.
What will operators and buyers be able to take from the show that they couldn’t necessarily get if it didn’t exist?
A focused environment dedicated to equipment. If you want to buy cakes, coffee, cheese or chairs, you’ve come to the wrong show, and I think that’s important. If you are going to a show with your kitchen re-fit hat on, it’s very unlikely that you will want to see the latest food innovations at the same time. As I said, they’re two different mind-sets, and with the kitchen equipment industry as important as it is, I think it deserves its own dedicated annual showcase in the UK.
They want it to be fit for purpose, innovative, efficient, sustainable, future-proof and cost-effective. Buyers like to know what’s available in the market and how they can create the very best kitchen environments. Service and supplier relationships are an important part of the buying decision as well.
To what extent will buyers be able to see equipment in action and working at the show? Are you endeavouring to make it easy for exhibitors to be able to do this?
I think that’s one of the most important points about this show. Because it’s dedicated to equipment, exhibitors will be keen to show how their equipment works in practice, so there will be loads of demonstrations on their stands.
Tell us about the exhibitor list. How many companies are due to be exhibiting and is there anything that visitors should look out for?
We expect to have around 80 innovative companies in the first year, including an amazing list of top brands. There’s going to be some big stands as well, so it’s going to be a very impressive show with exclusive launches and products that have not been seen anywhere else.
The days of trade shows just being about exhibition stands were over a long time ago. What additional features have you got planned?
I think what people look for in a trade show is a great, relaxed, enjoyable and focused environment. It’s no longer about the number of stands, but the relevance. Similarly, the days when a show’s success was measured in numbers of attendees are well and truly over — these days it’s all about relevance, quality and return on investment. We have some great seminars in the Keynote Theatre, entertainment and lots of meeting areas for people to network and do business.
Date: Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th June
Opening times: 10am to 5pm both days
(last entry 4pm)
Venue: NEC Birmingham
Free trade ticket
To register for your free trade ticket in advance (saving the £20 door free), visit www.commercialkitchenshow.co.uk and quote priority code CK64.
Equipment buyers ready to seek out the best kit
Leading equipment purchasers and specifiers from across the foodservice sector are lending their support to Commercial Kitchen ahead of its launch next month. Among them are representatives from Pret A Manger, Ask Italian, Zizzi, YO! Sushi, Bill’s, Whitbread, Morrisons, Pizza Hut, Marston’s, Punch Taverns, Mitchells & Butlers, Elior, Bidvest Foodservice, Bourne Leisure and WSH.
Equipment buyers from Sainsbury’s, Imperial College London, Butlins, Flamingo Land Resort, Luxury Family Hotels, Small Batch Coffee Company, Hand Picked Hotels and Pod will also be attending the event.
“Our kitchen teams are the heart-beat of our shops, which is why we’re excited about the launch of Commercial Kitchen,” explained Sean Burlinson, food director at Pod. “Without the right equipment we cannot continue to innovate and drive consistency, which ultimately means happy customers. We look forward to visiting this major new show.”
Matt Ashton, group executive head chef at Hand Picked Hotels, said: “We carefully research the market for kitchen equipment to ensure the quality of product meets the needs of our business. Having a dedicated show enables us to see equipment first hand and meet potential suppliers.”
Matt Goodman from GKMS Consultancy, and former head of kitchen projects and maintenance at Jamie’s Italian, thinks the show will give buyers insight to the top kit on the market. “For someone who is dedicated to making sure the kitchens I help are the best in their sector, I believe there is an urgent need for a dedicated trade show that celebrates new innovation, energy efficiency and quality, and showcases launches of the most cutting-edge kit and ideas for commercial kitchens,” he said.