CONFERENCE REPORT: Equipment association CESA seizes the chance for change

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225 delegates saw the last CESA Conference before it transforms into FEA.

CESA sprung a surprise on attendees at its 2019 conference, held at the Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel on 13-14 November.

It announced that it is re-branding to become the Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA), putting the decision to a vote at the AGM on the first day of the event, and the motion was passed.

CESA worked with GCA Management’s Graham Veal on the project, who detailed to delegates that an April 2018 membership survey had revealed that a majority of members didn’t feel the association’s name accurately represented their interests.

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They preferred the term ‘foodservice’ to that of ‘catering’, as they feel that it reflects a broader service provided – not only in catering.

Veal explained that the new name represents the breadth of membership, including aftermarket services, beverage products and emerging technologies, as well as supporting the association’s international reach. The association will officially re-launch as FEA during next year’s HRC show at London’s ExCeL on 3-5 March.

Meanwhile the main business day programme kicked off with conference facilitator and BBC business editor Simon Jack giving the 225 delegates present the lowdown on the country’s current economic state. “This has been a hugely damaging period for business confidence, but companies have shown extraordinary resilience,” he reported.

However, he warned that all business experts say that the 13-month transition period Boris Johnson has set out to complete an EU trade deal, if Brexit happens on the latest deadline of 31 January, will be impossible to achieve, therefore: “The most likely place we are heading for now is a no deal Brexit at the end of 2020.”

He also feels that Brexit won’t help to ease the burden of cumulative red tape and warned that European manufacturers are likely to swap from UK suppliers if Brexit does go through.

Jack detailed that public opinion has been moving against big business and that companies are now having to actively demonstrate that they are a force for good in the world.

He then handed over to duo, Mike Faers and Piers Skinner, respectively MDs of foodservice product development consultancy Food Innovation Solutions and monitoring solutions provider Telemetry Ltd. Skinner analysed: “The smoking ban helped coffee shops replace pubs in society. There is projected to be more coffee shops than pubs in the UK by 2030.”

Both hailed the rise of dark kitchens, with communal facilities split into different sections for multiple brands and cuisines. Plus they reported that food delivery services on a continuously upwards trajectory, typified by Deliveroo currently generating £470m of revenue for its restaurant partners from its 6m UK customers. Faers predicted that this will create a revolution in delivery packaging and hot food transport technology to preserve the quality of the meal.

He also revealed that small box food-to-go concepts are highly profitable, as they have a minimal footprint and low energy usage, so: “Equipment needs to adopt a mantra of not only faster and cheaper but also flexible.”

Faers added: “Front of house equipment will become a differentiating factor for consumers, especially as the rise of food halls will become more aggressive.”

Skinner detailed that the government’s pledge to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050 could mean the end of gas cookers.

On foodservice equipment connectivity, he stressed that it is important for the industry to collectively agree a common data standard, or else risk one being imposed upon the sector.

The next presentation, made by HR expert, Kevin Green, underlined that people are at the heart of business’ success. “A great people strategy delivers. This involves bright, fully engaged people who love coming to work every day so they can give of their best. This is what creates value and enables businesses to out-perform their competitors,” he said.

He advised that to create employee engagement, managers have to focus on individuals’ strengths, and ensure they are given positive feedback so they are motivated to perform. Green detailed that productivity rises by an average of 31% with engaged employees.

Furthermore, he emphasised that the millennial generation often want to run their own businesses now, so will opt out of corporate jobs unless there is a great set up, which can incorporate flexible working and agreeing with the organisation’s values.

The CESA Conference’s ‘Titans of Industry’ session began with Kathleen Seelye, the founding executive principal of the Ricca Design Studio foodservice consultancy, warning that at some point the foodservice industry will be in the crosshairs of policy making with relation to restaurant energy usage. She feels that consultants need to ensure they are selecting the right equipment to meet sustainability goals.

“Operators aren’t thinking about energy efficiency, they are focusing on the broader picture, on energy waste,” she commented. “We produce kitchen energy models which align the goals of the kitchen to the energy consumption of the whole building.”

Seelye believes the next step in kitchen appliance technology is demand management, being able to control equipment consumption through software. Whereas thus far these systems have been used to even out peaks in consumption, she forecast that if renewable energy becomes prominent, operators will want to collapse all the consumption into those peaks.

This year’s ‘Titans of Industry’ panel: Middleby’s Najib Maalouf, Ricca Consultancy’s Kathleen Seelye and Hilton Supply Management’s Andy Earley.

Plus she reported that consultants are looking at how to help create energy storage systems specifically for the foodservice industry that are independent from the grid, citing examples such as a battery storage facility incorporated into the floor of a building itself.

The second ‘titan’ was Andy Earley, Hilton Supply Management’s senior director of category management for the EMEA region. He reported that as of June, the hotel group recruited a dedicated catering equipment procurement manager who is based in Frankfurt but regularly visits the UK. This is part of the business’ increasing focus on kitchens, whereas previously the priority was front of house.

With the group opening 40 more hotels in the UK over the next few years, Earley detailed that the firm is moving away from traditional procurement to more of a value creation strategy.

He lauded the information that connected appliances provide the group, but appealed for a single system where all the data can be accessed.

The last ‘titanic’ speaker, Middleby group MD Najib Maalouf, felt that his company could solve the single system issue with its purchase of the Powerhouse Dynamics platform.

He believes that the labour challenges that many operators face can be seen as an opportunity for equipment manufacturers to create smart and adaptive appliances. For example: “With self-cleaning equipment, it is less demanding for human capital.”

Maalouf added: “The next stage of equipment is to have it mentor kitchen staff, tolerate their mistakes and adjust accordingly.”

He then concluded: “My job is to put money in people’s pockets and present solutions that make a difference today.”

In the afternoon session, CyberGuard Technologies’ technical director, Paul Colwell, urged all businesses to think about whether their own IT systems and those of their supply chain are secure, particularly in light of smart kitchen equipment’s advance. “Anti-virus software will protect you against 90% of malware, but it won’t stand up against a modern cyber attacker,” he warned.

“You need to consider what information is valuable to your business. For example, cyber criminals are stealing intellectual property to shortcut research and development cycles.”

Colwell further advised that every business should know how quickly it can restore IT systems in the event of a breach, and that as some cyber attackers encrypt back-ups as well as the main IT system in a ransomware attack, all companies should make sure that they have access to an offline back-up.

The technology theme continued with Rohit Talawar, the CEO of foresight firm, Fast Futures, who analysed: “We tend to underestimate how fast technology is moving unless we can see it. The best companies think about where growth is going to come from over the next 3-5 years, evaluating the opportunities.”

Among the ideas on the horizon, he suggested that lab grown food equipment could be combined with kitchen appliances within the next decade. He also feels that another long-term opportunity could be catering equipment vendors delivering more in-situ training via video.

Talawar made his presentation interactive, with a series of polls that delegates could vote on using their internet-connected devices. Among the findings were that ‘retaining customers and finding new ones’ was what keeps most attendees awake at night, ‘self-monitoring, self-cleaning and self-repairing equipment’ topped the list of technology opportunities they could see in the next 5 years, but that the ‘rise of robots and fully robotic kitchens’ was the most disruptive development they forecast for the food sector.

The day was rounded off with Formula 1 expert Mark Gallagher revealing that the most successful motorsport teams, such as Red Bull Racing, question the established way of doing things and empower their staff to innovate. He concluded: “Everyone has a role to play in success.”

Tags : CESAcesa conferenceeventrebrand
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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