As part of Catering Insight’s remit to be part of the catering equipment industry, we go to relevant conferences and exhibitions. This helps us to meet key industry contacts, see new innovations and discover the issues really occupying the minds of distributors and suppliers.

These are no doubt similar reasons for the dealers and manufacturers themselves to attend events. After all, equipment or project sales are not made overnight; they require several face to face meetings in order to discover what each party requires or can deliver. I overheard one supplier at such an event saying that it takes at least three meetings to make a sale.

Therefore, conferences can give each side that all important first contact with companies which may prove crucial to each business’ success.

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But I have increasingly found that whether an event has a speaker line-up, or a set of ‘speed dating’ style meetings, the actual business is done at the bar following the main proceedings. This is where all the individuals can relax, socialise and have a free-flowing discussion (along with free-flowing drinks to loosen tongues a little!) away from the more regimented main agenda.

Catering equipment manufacturers can have the best product in the world, but if no-one knows about it or the supplier’s salesperson doesn’t know the precise distributor contact they should be talking to, they might as well have cobbled together an ‘appliance’ with matchsticks and superglue.

So, especially in this fragmented industry, the personalities involved are in effect the brand, and every time each one attends an event, they are essentially selling themselves. The real business is carried out through relationships – making and sustaining them.

This is perhaps something that could be explored on the end user side of things. As far as I know, there are no ‘speed dating’ types of events between distributors and operators, especially the big chain end users who have a hefty amount to invest in multiple venue openings or refurbishments.

It may be a good idea for someone to take up this line of thought, as for operators to meet many dealers in one place could save each party valuable time and they could discuss the real challenges they all face day to day without having the pressure of being tied into a project and only focusing on that.

For instance, one dealer commented to me that certain end users will demand a project is turned around in just days and that puts a lot of pressure on the company. Perhaps if this was discussed way in advance at a strategic level, both the dealer and the end user would have a good idea of when projects are approaching and can be more prepared for such.

This is possibly something to ponder as this events season kicks into high gear.

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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