Kitchen consultants look to the future as event draws 37% rise in numbers

The UK’s top foodservice consultants came together at the end of last week to tackle a range of pressing issues, notably how to attract and retain young talent within the industry, at the FCSI’s annual EAME conference.

More than 270 delegates from Europe, the Middle East and Africa flew into Madrid to take part in the event, which kicked off with a series of panel sessions exploring innovation generation, BIM and pan-European facilities management (FM).

There were 37% more participants than at the last FCSI annual conference in Warsaw and they were treated to a number of presentations from leading experts in the hospitality field.

Meiko’s Klaus Engesser gave a keynote on global business challenges, while José Manuel Fernández Bosch, commercial director at Spanish airport company Aena, gave the foodservice perspective from his firm’s 46 airports across Spain and other nations.

Bosch revealed that Aena is responsible for servicing 200 million passengers a year. “We have 321 restaurants and F&F units over 121,000 square metres making €400m (£292m) each year,” he said. “F&B plays a key role in the ideal airport commercial layout. For us it’s about transforming the customers’ needs into a complete and coherent offer.”

Meanwhile, FCSI Worldwide president Jonathan Doughty (pictured) took to the stage to interview three ‘legends of the industry’ in Vic Laws, Al da Costa and Clara Pi, to discuss their careers and give their thoughts on the future of the consulting profession and the wider hospitality sector.

In an engaging session, the panel held forth on the successes, failures and challenges they have experienced while forging their career, offering some sage words to young people in the room.

“If I have one piece of advice, it’s to always be nice to people on the way up, because you might meet them again on the way down!” said Laws. “Success for me is when you look at a client and know that they can get on without you.”

Working collaboratively was a key, underlying message from the panel. “Everything you do in life is about collaboration. It’s a function of listening first and speaking second. I learned after doing my first consulting project to find out what the client wants before I started talking,” said da Costa who also stressed  the need for FCSI members to engage with young people, mentor them and show them the value that the Society can give them in their careers.

“For me, it should be incumbent on every FCSI member to find young people and say to them, ‘I want to take you on and help you to become an FCSI member’,” said da Costa. Laws was in agreement. “You get out of FCSI what you put into it,” he said, a point reiterated by Doughty. “Apathy is our biggest enemy in FCSI,” he said.

Foodservice equipment suppliers at the event reiterated the theme of creativity that ran throughout the event.

“Our business is currently growing by 20% and it’s all based on innovative equipment,” said Martin Ubl, VP sales and marketing at MKN. “Five or 10 years ago we were ‘a German company’. Now we’re truly international. We invest a lot in innovation. We’ve just invested €15m (£11m) in a new production line for moulding and bending stainless steel. The future looks very exciting.”

David Riley, managing director, warewash UK, at Hobart, said innovation was completely customer driven. He said: “We run a number of customer focus sessions throughout the year and find out what they want from their warewashers. We have a road map of development for various lines of equipment for the next five years. Sometimes that’s a completely new machine and sometimes it’s just ‘a facelift’. The R&D budget is linked to each road map. It’s not a fixed percentage each year.”

Marcelo Castigliani, export manager and corporate chef at Josper Commercial Ovens, offered a different perspective on innovation given that the concept of charcoal oven cooking hasn’t changed a great deal in nearly 50 years.

“We are innovative as a business. Because we have a strong international presence, we try to be innovative in our strategy. We work with a number of companies, for example with Halton on ventilation. Collaboration works very well for us.”




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