With Hotelympia 2014 just around the corner, Mark Lewis speaks to Toby Wand, managing director at event organiser Fresh Montgomery, about the industry's pre-eminent show and what's new for 2014
Give us the elevator pitch for Hotelympia… Hotelympia 2014 will unite the very best of catering equipment, food and drink, tabletop, design and technology, plus Salon Culinaire under one roof. There'll be a wonderful array of almost a thousand exhibitors cutting across all aspects of the industry, meaning that you can see pretty much any product in the world of foodservice and hospitality.
â¦and the history lesson The show launched in 1935 - back then it was called The International Hotel and Catering Exhibition - and has been running biennially ever since, with a hiatus during the Second World War. It quickly became the most important event for the culinary world. Then, increasingly, it became a centre of excellence for design, technology and equipment. Today, it's by far the UK's leading exhibition for the hospitality and foodservice industry, hosting close to a thousand exhibitors.
What's with the name? We were in London Olympia for many years and that's where the name originated. In the mid-1980s we shifted to Earl's Court, and in 2004 we moved again, to ExCeL - next year marks a decade in our new home. The show was growing and we needed a purpose-built space with no pillars, easy access and scale. Earl's Court was bursting at the seams. ExCeL's transport and hospitality infrastructure has improved enormously in that time, culminating in the hosting of nine sports at the London Olympics, with as many as 70,000 attendees on one day over that period.
Why the move from your traditional winter slot to the end of April? We consulted widely with the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA), the Craft Guild of Chefs, HOSPA and many regular attendees on this. The new slot helps us to avoid the bad weather that blighted us in previous years, and also the February half term break. The fact that it'll be lighter later in the evening will also facilitate the huge number of networking events that we and the exhibitors have planned.
What's new for 2014? Next year is all about reinvention. We're introducing more changes in a single year than ever before. First, there's the new brand and also a new layout: the whole event will take place in one extended hall, accessed through a single hub entrance - we'll be offering the biggest and best welcome ever.
To help with this, we're working with Westminster Kingsway College and the principal trainer behind the London Olympic and Paralympic Games Makers to train 30 first-year students as our own Hotelympia Show Makers. They'll be fully briefed on all aspects of the show, and will be able to help visitors get the most out of their attendance as well as give them a great hospitality welcome at the entrance.
We'll also be showcasing the 24 products that are shortlisted in our Hotelympia Innovation Awards along the show's central aisle. The awards span catering equipment, technology, food and drink, and design and tableware; and will be judged, Dragons' Den style, by panels of experts.
Is it all about food, drink and kitchen kit? Not at all. We've created an enhanced Design At Hotelympia feature section with its own seminar theatre hosted by many of the top design associations. These seminars will feature leading designers and architects, including such luminaries as Sir Terence Conran.
On top of that we also have a large Technology section incorporating an enhanced HOSPA Hub.We also host a valuable Careers in Hospitality event promoting opportunities in this dynamic industry.
Visitors should also allow time to check out WasteWorks, a co-located waste management and recycling event offering exhibitors, seminars and solutions for the hospitality industry. With so much new waste regulation hitting the industry, WasteWorks will help operators to profit from waste.
What about the culinary competition, Salon Culinaire? We've appointed James Tanner as chef director for Salon Culinaire this year. James takes over from outgoing Salon director Peter Griffiths. Peter's are big shoes to fill, but James has the flair, dedication and expertise to succeed him.
We're also making some tweaks to the way we run Salon following the results of a survey of past contestants. They told us they would welcome more feedback, so we'll be taking photos of every dish in competition; and at the end of each live theatre session, there'll be a 'feedback corner' where competitors can seek judges' opinions on their work.
We'll also be holding winners' ceremonies at lunchtime - some contestants make early starts to get to ExCeL and don't want to hang around until the end of the day. The other noticeable change is that Salon Display's amazing works in marzipan, fat and chocolate will be showcased right down the main aisle of the show.
We have already got many big names appearing - Tom Kerridge, Tom Aikens and Phil Howard are on the schedule for interviews and demos - but there will be many more, so check for the latest updates at www.hotelympia.com
Any tips on how to get the best out of a day at Hotelympia? Check out our website and decide which day offers the most valuable seminars for you. Then study the range of Hotelympia exhibitors that you want to see and draw up a wish list. Our website will enable you to select all the stands you want to visit and create a walking route planner that takes in all of them.
Most importantly make a note of the show dates - Monday 28 April to Thursday 1 May - and get ready for an amazing welcome when you get to Hotelympia!