As the saying goes: may you live in interesting times, and no-one can say that the business landscape over the next couple of years will not prove interesting for the latest chairman of CESA, Glenn Roberts.
It’s a good job then that he says he likes to be challenged, as the uncertain climate throughout the Brexit process and post-Brexit is likely to throw up many challenges for catering equipment suppliers and manufacturers based in the UK. “I am pleased to be involved in CESA but perhaps there is a bit of a poisoned chalice attached to the kind of business environment we are entering into over the next months and years,” he commented.
“If we look at the amount of potential commercial headwinds that could be flying our way post-Brexit and the challenges that affords us, bearing in mind that of the nearly 200 members of CESA a very high proportion of them are reliant upon product that has a relationship between Sterling and Euro, that potentially creates lots of operational and profitability issues.”
Nevertheless, Roberts is determined that his time spearheading the association will be put to good use. “We’ve got to do what we can to represent our members as professionally as possible and protect their interests, as well as ensuring CESA stays relevant to them. We have to be a mouthpiece for our members and the greater marketplace. I fundamentally believe we are stronger together as a whole supply chain rather than working in our own factions, so we will be pursuing collaboration with other associations across foodservice.”
To try and reflect a widening and changing marketplace, CESA has expanded its executive to 16 people, including differing skillsets and age groups to enable a more immediate knowledge of what is happening on the ground. Furthermore, the association is working closely with government to put forward its members’ views on the skills gap, immigration issues, free trade and importing products.
While it will use its strong voice as part of EFCEM (European Federation of Catering Equipment Manufacturers), Roberts conceded that this voice might be weakened by the Brexit process. “There will be a quandary but we will do our best to continue being part of EFCEM and hope our voice is still heard.
“We have also worked hard with the UK’s Department for International Trade to look into opportunities for our members to successfully export to either Europe or further afield. Post-Brexit, this may be an enabler.”
Citing helping to open new trade markets, sourcing expert information and running UK pavilions in trade exhibitions as key CESA actions within this strategy, Roberts emphasised: “CESA can be in place to help and point people in the right direction, especially now when suppliers may be looking even more internationally.”
CESA stated that Brexit is at the heart of its work in representing members’ interests. It will be seeking tariff-free access to the single market and free movement of labour to work in member business and also in customers’ operations. The effect of the currency exchange changes has also brought problems for the sector where products or materials are imported.
Another aspect of business which CESA wants to assist with is the development of the digital economy. “We want to make sure our members are aware of how to interface with customers in new and quicker ways,” said Roberts.
One of the ways this is reflected is in the association’s involvement with the CESABIM and EFCEMBIM foodservice BIM models databases. CESA believes that further development will mean that BIM and its requirements will touch on more businesses. It will be keeping members informed and encouraging the use of CESABIM.
Training is another strand where the association features strongly. The CFSP (Certified Food Service Professional) qualification that CESA introduced created an educational benchmark in the marketplace. According to Roberts: “We all bear a responsibility for ensuring that our teams and the wider industry have the opportunity to educate themselves, improve their professionalism, product knowledge and knowledge of the wider marketplace.”