It is often said that the catering equipment sector is mostly comprised of a certain staff demographic – and not to put too fine a point on it, this is predominantly ageing, white and male. The reign of the ‘older’ age group especially could spell trouble, as if they all retire at a similar time, there will be widespread personnel shortages in our sector.
But maybe the tide has now turned and new blood is entering the fray. For instance, at this year’s CEDA Conference, Suzannah Nicol, the chief executive of construction industry body Build UK, conducted an ad hoc survey of delegates’ age range during her presentation. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that around a quarter of us identified ourselves as ‘millennials’ – those born between 1981 and 1996. While it’s not approaching a majority, it’s certainly more than I was expecting!
This could be down to the admirable work CEDA has been putting in to encourage the next generation into distributors’ workforces through its CEDA Academy. Comprised of members typically under 30 years old, the initiative aims to develop them into senior positions within the foodservice equipment field, in design, supply, installation or service. The Academy regularly meets for training at suppliers’ premises, as well as at the CEDA Conference itself. Long may this programme continue.
In terms of the gender split of the industry, which regular readers will know I am prone to bang on about, looking around the room at the conference I still feel there is a bit of work to do to get more women into the higher echelons of distributors. But conversely I can reveal that for the Catering Insight Power List 2018 nominations that have been flooding into us, a significant proportion of them are for women. Make sure you check out our July issue for this year’s rundown of the most worthy distributor staff.
Elsewhere, ethnic origin was something we touched on within the June issue’s cover interview with new Caterfix MD, Ajaz Akhtar. He noted that he finds it very advantageous to be from an Asian background, as more than 70% of his customers are also from an ethnic background. This means he can speak the language, understand their culture and their way of thinking, and ultimately know exactly what to sell them and how best to go about it.
The lack of ethnic diversity at distributors may not be servicing end users well, especially as there is such a variety and spread of cuisines finding favour with consumers across the country. We all need to be conscious that difference equals strength, with everyone bringing their own advantages into the mix.