The Hotel, Restaurant and Catering Show 2020 took place March 3-5, 2020, in the weeks when anxiety over the coronavirus in the UK had not yet peaked, writes Sam Lewis. If it had been scheduled a week or two later it is unlikely the show would have gone ahead, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson officially advising against mass gatherings late on Monday, March 16.
Despite this, foodservice equipment manufacturers turned up in force to display their latest products and support the industry at the HRC Show 2020. Catering Insight was there to ask if the situation had affected their plans for the show, or the event in general.
Wayne Bennett, head of sales for MKN UK and Ireland, said of the brand’s experience at the HRC Show 2020: “It’s been positive for us. The customer base is still coming through and our activity levels are up about 25% on two years ago, so we’re really pleased with the lead generation.
“It is evident that some of the UK’s main suppliers are not here,” he said, wondering whether the coronavirus was the reason for the no-shows. “But the customer base is still coming through. In terms of footfall we’re not seeing quite so many end users as we have in the past. It is more the dealer network.
“We’re also four colleagues down because of the coronavirus. The company have a blanket policy on international travel at the moment. Even for us in the UK, if we are to use trains and public transport, we have to get management sign-off due to the current situation. So we’re being encouraged to travel by car.”
We’re also four colleagues down because of the coronavirus. The company have a blanket policy on travel at the moment.”
MKN was at the HRC Show to debut its new FlexiChef 2.0 multifunctional cooking appliance. Bennett was particularly pleased with the system’s self-clean function, saying: “It’s the only one on the market that doesn’t need any manual cleaning. So after service you lock the cleaning arm in to the pan and that will clean it.”
Internal sales executive Andrew Arnold was unfazed by the situation. He said: “People are just following the general advice, using their common sense. People seem to be getting on with it, being sensible. Everyone’s prepared with their hand gels and the handwashes.
“There was no worry it wouldn’t go ahead. For ourselves we know it’s a big opportunity coming to this event. It’s the place to be for pushing products and meeting people and getting the name out there.”
Pentland was present to show off the Blizzard range. Arnold said of the line: “It’s an ever-expanding brand that we’re really proud of and it’s going to do well with the whole catering industry. We’re getting more and more versatile units in.
“We’ve brought a new range across that we’re pushing. It varies from induction hobs, to catering equipment, a lot of serve holders and multidecks that we’re very impressed with. We think they’re going to do well.”
Krupps was at the HRC Show to show off its updated, wifi-enabled dishwasher range. “The aim of the show for us was to display the newly added component to our dishwashers, the soft-shut door. The door cannot close on fingers, a new safety setting,” said Riccardo Scuotto, export managing director.
He continued: “And also we want people to see that we are here, keep our presence noticeable, and to find the dealers and distributors, rather than client and end user.”
Scuotto said that the coronavirus had some impact on the company’s plans, but was not enough to keep it away from the show. He explained: “Even though we are an Italian company and some of our staff are Italian, no, we had no problems. I live and work here in the UK, for example, so was able to make it here.
“But I was scared that the coronavirus would stop people coming to the show, because we know that other companies have cancelled their stalls, so we thought it was going to be a problem, but not so far. So far it’s been quite good.”
Blue Badger’s operations manager Alison Harvey was similarly surprised to find the HRC Show 2020 unaffected. “I was a bit concerned that the show might be affected by the coronavirus,” she said, “but it’s been really busy.”
While Blue Badger’s plans were unaffected, Harvey worried that visitors to the show might be deterred by ongoing events. “We just wanted to come along and get on with it,” she explained. “It’s good to see that other people felt the same way.”
We just wanted to come along and get on with it. It’s good to see that other people felt the same way.”
She then explained that the company was promoting a number of products at the show – indeed, it has too many on its portfolio to show off all of them at one event.
“We have lots of different products,” she said, citing Hobart’s EcoMax in particular, “but we can only bring a small number. But it’s always good for people to see those higher selling products. Customers actually really enjoying seeing and getting to know them.”
Charvet sales director Ian Clow said that the new enameling the brand is offering on its products is what it wanted to show off at the HRC Show 2020.
“We really want to highlight the premium finish, the enameling that we now do as a bespoke process on our modular equipment as well, giving that tailored finish,” he said.
As for Charvet’s goal at the show, it was simple. “Orders,” said Clow. “As a manufacturer and sales team we want orders, but we also want to reinforce the brand. As a branding exercise we try to continually keep that promotional message going. As one of the headline manufacturers in the market, knowing that there’s a lot of competition out there in the market, we want to keep that profile up there in people’s minds.”
Commenting on the show itself, Clow said the stand quality was some of the best he had ever seen and that Charvet would never miss a chance to come to the HRC Show. “We have never missed a HRC Show and never would. We think it’s up to those in the industry to put the money on the table and stand up and be counted.”
When asked if the coronavirus had affected the brand’s plans for the show at all Clow kept it short and sweet. “No. No effect at all on our show. Next question.”