I recently attended the Third Annual Catering Forum. This is the event, which took place on board the P&O cruise ship Arcadia this year, where more than 100 suppliers and some 400 delegates, representing a large part of the catering industry, are "held captive" for two very full days (Caterer, 18 June, page 9).
Apart from the opportunity of meeting with suppliers one-on-one for 30 minutes, there are a number of workshops and presentations that can prove very interesting.
The workshop I enjoyed most was on "The psychology of design", presented by Steve Thomas and Bill Gouldstone from a company called Whitmore Thomas Angell. They are design consultants and have been involved, among other things, in the design of a number of very successful restaurants. The workshop part of the presentation involved deciding on the surroundings of a restaurant, including furniture, cutlery, lighting, mood, menu and a number of other elements, based simply on a smell. It was interesting that although we were split into three groups of eight to 10 people, we all came up with very similar ideas about what we thought went with the smell. Thomas has a great attitude for making the whole experience fun, which is how people really learn about anything.
Another notable workshop was "wine and food", given by Joseph Berkmann of Berkmann Wine Cellars. Berkmann is the most passionate of speakers. His basic premise is that there is no such thing as the right wine for certain foods. More important in selecting the wine is how the food is prepared and what accompanies it. The workshop part of his presentation involved tasting various wines, then eating certain foods, to show what effect the food and their accompaniments had on the taste of the wine. It was truly amazing that simply putting some black pepper on to a piece of smoked salmon could have such an effect on the taste of the wine.
I also learnt a new expression from one of the workshops - or presentations, I can't remember which - that I plan to use in the future. It sounded very American, but I could be wrong. Actually, it's not so much an expression as a marketing philosophy: "reassuringly expensive". Many people like a brand or product because the price reassures them that it must be good. This could lead you to think that the tried-and-trusted "daily special" or "buy one, get one free" is not the way to generate extra business. Simply put the price up and advertise your product as "reassuringly expensive". And please, if it doesn't work, don't blame me - I have a very poor sense of both taste and smell.
Next diary from Richard Ware: 6 August