With over 1,000 exhibitors, numerous Michelin stars and classes and demonstrations galore, Hotelympia 2016 promises something for every operator. The Caterer asks organiser Toby Wand what visitors can expect from the hospitality industry's biggest show
What's new about Hotelympia in 2016?
In 2016 we're taking the show to the visitor. It may seem a contradiction in terms to describe an event the size of Hotelympia as having the feel of a bespoke, tailored show, but this coming February that's exactly the experience we will deliver. Whatever day guests spend with us, and whichever attraction, new product, key exhibitor or insightful speaker is on their hit list, the experience will be individual to each sector. It will be all about operator needs, and the requirements of their business and their customers.
From hotels and restaurants to pubs, cafés, contract catering, casual dining, the cost sector and beyond, every hospitality operator will be catered for by almost 1,000 exhibitors in food and drink, catering equipment, technology, interiors and tableware, careers, and the sustainability-focused Waste-Works.
What about the demonstration elements?
The line-up includes: the chef-patron of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, the prodigiously talented Clare Smyth; Hotelympia favourite Tom Kerridge from two-Michelin-starred the Hand and Flowers and the Coach at Marlow; Claude Bosi of two-Michelin-starred Hibiscus; and the fantastic Nathan Outlaw of the eponymous two-Michelin-starred restaurant.
Which speakers take top billing this year?
The show welcomes a host of insightful addresses from leading industry lights. The master of service, Diego Masciaga, restaurant manager of the world-famous, three-Michelin-starred Waterside Inn, will be giving a front-of-house masterclass. Oliver Heath, the leading designer and sustainable architecture pioneer, will talk about the many benefits of twinning class-leading design with elements of nature. Ella Jade Bitton, a star of TV's The Apprentice and now a designer in her own right, will make the link between high fashion and creating a 'personality' for your hospitality brand. And Terri Scriven, Google's head of hospitality, will impart her years of experience about the right digital tools to help your business flourish.
What's the biggest challenge in putting on a show of this scale?
For almost 80 years this show has been the only one that the entire hospitality fraternity builds up to, so there is a massive amount of brand recognition to uphold. The trick is to try to move with the times and stay relevant to the sectors you represent. The show is perfectly placed to do this, being staged in London - the vanguard of UK dining trends and European innovation.
Many shows have tried to recreate the Hotelympia formula on a smaller scale, but no other hospitality show can boast the breadth of suppliers or depth of product innovation fed by trends and insight drawn from the UK's culinary capital and dining destinations across the world, represented by some 70 international exhibitors from 18 different countries.
Which exhibitor sections excite you this year?
With over 120 exhibitors already confirmed - the largest line-up ever under one roof - state-of-the-art catering equipment is once again set to be one of the jewels in the Hotelympia crown.
What's the Meet the Buyer programme?
New to Hotelympia 2016 and created in partnership with the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association, the Meet the Buyer programme will match buyers' requirements to the exhibitor whose equipment best meets their needs. They will then be able to speak directly and confidentially to manufacturers about everyÂthing from technical specifications to energy-saving benefits. Crucially, they will also be able to compare and contrast kit and try before they buy.
A big part of the Hotelympia drama takes place at the skills theatre. What's happening in the competitions this year?
One of the most compelling visitor attractions at the show, Salon Culinaire, returns in 2016. This year we have a new chef-director too - Steve Munkley, executive chef of the Royal Garden hotel. He's influenced a host of programme changes to keep the world's premier culinary competition fresh and relevant.
In addition to the three competitive elements of Salon Culinaire - La Parade des Chefs, Salon Display and Live Theatre - the 2016 show will offer the Skills Theatre. This initiative will offer chefs at the very beginning of their careers - including apprentices and students, and those who have not competed before - the chance to experience the thrill and bright spotlight of competition, with classes including butchery, fishmongery, pastry, sugarcraft and many more.
So there are classes this year too. What's going on and how do visitors get involved?
A first for Salon, front-of-house staff will get to demonstrate their skills and put their efforts to the test in a selection of service classes.
Salon Display (sponsored by Compass Group UK) and Live Theatre will also see a refreshed programme of classes. Highlights include the TUCO Cook and Serve Challenge, which requires a team consisting of a chef, commis chef and waiter to prepare, cook and serve a three-course meal with beverages for four covers - a real test of teamwork and skill. Churchill's Chef and Potter Grand Prix also sees teams of three preparing a three-course menu, served on Churchill tableware, to show how creative use of china can elevate a dish.
And La Parade des Chefs will now have a sector-specific 'team versus team' competition, with the winner becoming sector champion. Each daily champion will go forward in a bid to be crowned overall La Parade des Chefs team at the end of Hotelympia.
What's the greatest change you've seen in the show since its inception?
Thankfully, I haven't been around for the past 80 years, but changes have taken place which make any trade show look different. There are fewer very large exhibits: gone are the days when exhibitors took a stand the size of a playing field. Now, they work in a smarter way, using the stand as a place to do business and welcome clients, as well as to show off their wares.
The sheer scale of product innovation is something that continues to amaze me. Just when you think exhibitors have pushed the envelope as far as they can, they go further, creating smarter, cleaner, quicker, simpler products. I am proud to say that throughout those 80 years we have been part of that evolution - the perfect launchpad from which these innovators can continue to flourish.
What's the most memorable thing to ever happen in your experience of Hotelympia?
For me, it has to be launching the Hotelympia Hall of Fame in 2010 and inaugurating both Albert Roux and Michel Roux Snr - industry legends - as our very first recipients. The dignity and humility on display from both these icons was something to behold and it made for a really special moment.
Since then we have been lucky enough to welcome both Raymond Blanc and Sir Terence Conran into our esteemed halls. On day one of the show (Monday 29 February), the Stage will be the place to be as we honour yet another industry giant by enrolling them in the Hall of Fame. I hope you can join us.
Hotelympia is the UK's largest foodservice and hospitality event. It takes place at ExCeL London from 29 February to 3 March 2016.