Industry thought-leader, EP Business in Hospitality (www.epinsights.co.uk), brought together nearly 200 senior players from world class hotels and restaurants and leading food service operators from across the country to debate some of the major changes and future challenges that are impacting the industry today. The conference titled: ‘Food at the Heart of Culture’was hosted by EP in partnership with international law firm Bird & Bird at its London headquarters last week.
Headline speakers at the event included Chris Garside, MD at leading contract catering firm, Compass Group UK & Ireland, Gareth Banner, MD at luxury hotel complex and exclusive members’ club,The Ned and Mike Saul, Head of Hospitality & Leisure at Barclays, to name a few. The variety of speakers and businesses showcased during the day shared much common ground in line with the issues affecting them right now, despite being very different businesses, reinforcing the number of trends and recurring themes that impact the industry as a whole.
CEO at EP, Chris Sheppardson explained: “Food and beverage is pivotal in bringing people together both in life and work but it is also central to improving productivity in the workplace too. A key thread throughout the conference was the growing need to reach future generations, embrace all levels of society and people from the perspective of lifestyle, values, food styles and nutritional diets. But there is also a much greater level of generosity at play today, which is evident in the broader approach of many businesses and that is changing and becoming ever more progressive.”
Many of the panel debates heard during the course of the day revealed that a greater level of social responsibility is emerging via food and service which is driven by a more sustainable approach, but also a recognition that food brings people together, so food service, hotels and restaurants have a genuine opportunity to play key leadership roles in communities and beyond.
Other trends centred on the role of AI and tech becoming more significant across the industry and the need to look at how this can help future businesses to better understand their customers in order to create positive change. Attendees learned how food and beverage is playing a key leadership role in mental health and how some companies are capturing this information via AI and technology to provide a more impactful and personalised approach towards customer engagement.
Key trends and highlights from the conference include:
- “Food is social currency” – it’s the reason for people to get together.
- There is a challenge to deliver a more personalised experience. Apps to support service delivery are key in hotels reaching out to multiple generations, as we need to start to understand our customers better.
- AI is becoming ever more important and there is a need to look at how it can improve understanding of the customer through access to greater data and information.
- AI and technology is becoming more personalised and playing a highly impactful role in engaging customers.
- Service is growing in importance and we need to see a marriage of AI combined with the best of traditional hospitality in terms of personal contact.
- There is a greater demand for traditionally niche diets and eating preferences emerging that are becoming more mainstream, led by veganism, which continues to soar in popularity.
- Revenues can be increased and improved by hotels, restaurants and food service operations by playing a key role in supporting communities and social networks. The argument was that food and beverage is one of the very few things that does bring people together and there is a genuine golden opportunity for the industry to play a leading role here, if it is able to grasp it.
- By 2050, 80% of all foods will be consumed within cities and for every £1 spent on food the cost is double in the cost of healthcare, environment and economic costs. There are major programmes in play seeking to create stronger processes to support sustainability and the food system.
Sheppardson continued: “Food and beverage is on the verge of enjoying a new golden era with new and exciting food styles emerging from across the world. All sectors of the industry are responding and embracing new ideas, concepts and food innovation as food itself almost creates its own tribes in a way that has never happened before.
Reinforcing the message on the importance of good food and its impact on culture, conference guests also enjoyed a colourful banquet of contemporary vegan dishes designed to enlighten, inspire and engage.