Everyone from the greenest kitchen porter to the most seasoned veteran can glean a career or business tip at this year's Hotelympia. Caterer and Hotelkeeper puts you in the picture
As the godfather of hospitality shows, the five-day biennial Hotelympia is, for anyone connected to the industry, an offer you really can't refuse.
It's not just the 40,000 anticipated exhibitors that should whet the appetite, showcasing everything from food and drink products to state-of-the-art kitchen equipment, but also the wealth of educational and inspirational material at your fingertips throughout the five days, from 26 to 30 February at London's ExCeL.
Read on for Hotelympia's principle features and Caterer and Hotelkeeper‘s top 10 highlights at this year's show.
Why visit Hotelympia?
"Hotelympia is a must-attend event for a variety of reasons. It is Europe's leading trade show where you can meet top suppliers showcasing their latest products and services; benefit from the amazing choice of workshops and presentations from leading industry experts; network with numerous people from the industry; bump into old friends; get careers advice and look for your next career move; be fit and healthy by taking part in the showcase opening event, the Hotelympia 10k, on the Sunday and support your two leading industry charities by taking a table at the show-stopping BIG Event on the Monday. Don't miss it!"
Anne Pierce, chief executive, Springboard
"Hotelympia is the best opportunity to see the whole of the industry in one place at one time and to see the latest innovations in technology and culinary art and design. It's also a great place to meet people and its real advantage is that it covers every single aspect of the industry. There's something for everyone, irrespective of whether you work in food service, hotels or restaurants."
Philippe Rossiter, chief executive, Institute of Hospitality
"Just as Caterer and Hotelkeeper is the industry's weekly news and views magazine, Hotelympia is the industry's chief showcase, and any young people intent on joining our world have to go along. Watch the chefs compete at international level, meet suppliers and chefs, and most importantly start to network with like-minded people and start to carve a future for yourself. After years of attending, both as a competitor and judge, I have grown up with what remains the largest industry show, and young industry hopefuls should do the same."
Robert Kirby, chef director, Lexington Catering
"Hotelympia is the industry showcase for culinary talent and innovation. It is hugely important to visit the show and gain insight on new product development, food and equipment trends and to network with peers and colleagues."
David Mulcahy, craft and food development director, Sodexo
"Hotelympia is always a hotbed of creativity and we never fail to be inspired by the talent and expertise on show. It's a key opportunity to stay ahead of trends and industry changes; essential to our product development here at Mette."
Caroline Santos, director, Mette
Hotelympia's Top 10 Highlights
1 Meet, eat and network at La Parade des Chefs The ever-popular fine-dining experience and cooking challenge at the heart of Hotelympia is this year being staged in two 100-cover fine dining restaurants, sponsored by Steelite and Dudson.
Ten teams, including chefs from the House of Commons, Claridge's, and the Irish National Culinary Team, will take turns preparing three-course menus during the show, with one team crowned the winner at the end.
The kitchens are run under competition rules and places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. So why not break up a day soaking in the exhibitors, seminars and products at Hotelympia by indulging in a glass or two of wine and a £34 three-course meal (which includes a £2 discretionary fee donated to the industry charity, Hospitality Action).
2 Francesco Mazzei at The Skillery Anyone who has eaten at Francesco Mazzei's London restaurant L'Anima will know the appeal of the chef's sophisticated Italian cuisine, and his turn at The Skillery is undoubtedly a real highlight among a host of top-notch chef demonstrations. Watch and learn as the chef cooks and talks the audience through a selection of his dishes.
3 Stay on the cutting edge of hospitality products at the Innovation Awards Featuring six finalists in each of the four categories - food and drink, catering equipment, interiors and technology - the awards provide a platform for novel new product launches in the hospitality industry.
In a change from the inaugural 2010 awards, finalists will have to pitch their products behind closed doors - Dragons' Den style - to a panel of hospitality industry leaders and product gurus. Visitors will be able to view all 24 finalists in the central boulevard throughout the five days, before the winners are announced on The Stage at 5pm on 27 February.
4 Get on your marks for the Hotelympia 10k run The opening event of the show, this year's Hotelympia 10k run will feature an improved course and the hallmark post-race brunch, organised by the Craft Guild of Chefs.
Places are still available for those who feel fit enough, with stunning views of the Royal Victoria and Royal Albert Docks along the flat race suitable compensation for any aching legs. For those who need an extra burst of energy, head along to the pre-race Pasta Party at the London ExCel Novotel on the night before to fuel up for the 9.30am start.
Enter online at hotelympia10k.com. Proceeds go to The Springboard Charity - the industry's training and education charity.
5 See the winner of Hotelympia's inaugural Design Award The nationwide search for the UK's most outstanding hotel suite reaches its finale at Hotelympia. Whittled down to a shortlist of three, the finalists are the Royal Suite at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower, the Royal Suite at the Mandarin Oriental hotel (both in London) and the Pavilion Number One at Lime Wood hotel in the New Forest, Hampshire.
Each of the finalists will present their hotel interiors to the audience before one is crowned as the country's most elegant suite.
The winner will be announced on The Stage at 3pm on 27 February.
6 An audience with Fay Maschler Take a seat at The Stage on 28 February at 3pm to hear the London Evening Standard's long-standing critic Fay Maschler discuss the pleasures and the pitfalls of over a quarter of a century in the job.
Learn from the customer's perspective why some restaurants succeed and others fail. Also, as the co-owner of a restaurant consultancy, Maschler will shed light on everything from branding to concepts, sourcing products and pricing. A must for budding restaurateurs.
7 Go with the fizz at Wine+** Lead by Xavier Rousset, co-proprietor of Michelin-starred London restaurant Texture, compare, taste and discuss the sparkling wines of four countries. From France's Cremant, to Italy's Prosecco, Spain's Cava and the sparkling wines of England, learn the terroir and the processes that make each of these drinks so distinctive, and the time and the place to serve them all.
27 February, 3pm**
8 Learn to Tweet** Has social media passed you by? Feel competitors are stealing a march on you in cyber-space? Then visit How to market your restaurant through Twitter at the Hospa Technology Hub. Courtesy of John Coupland, owner of social media adviser Networkerplus, learn how the best in the business use Twitter to ramp up their e-marketing activity.
Hospa, 26 February, 3pm**
9 Take a trip to dessert heaven at the Salon Display This year sponsored by contract caterer Compass, year-on-year the Salon Display provides a showcase of expertly hand-crafted works in the likes of chocolate and marzipan. Want to see two miniature dragons battle it out in intricate marzipan choreography? If you're to find it anywhere, you'll find it here.
10 Give yourself a leg up at the the Careers in Hospitality section Whether you're just starting out in the industry, or a veteran of a few years ready to make the next step, take advantage of advice and opportunities from 17 of the country's biggest hospitality businesses at Careers in Hospitality.
Representatives from companies including Marriott Hotels and Resorts and multi-national contract caterer Sodexo will be on hand to offer career guidance to aspiring members of the hospitality industry, from individual face-to-face meetings to seminars aimed at the next generation of talent.
To see one lucky under-30 gain a substantial leg-up, head to Hotelympia's Big Event on the evening of 27 February, where the winner of the Hot Talent Award scheme is to be announced, offering the prize of individual mentoring by Alan Murchison, CEO of the 10 in 8 Fine Dining Group, and Ben Spalding, head chef at London's Roganic.
The main areas
If you're looking for business inspiration, The Stage is definitely the place to head for. Gain precious behind-the-scenes insight at some of the country's best known establishments. Speakers include Robin and Judy Hutson, co-founders of Hotel du Vin, who will discuss their past and present successes and the key to keeping the customers coming in stormy economic waters; and Ashley Palmer-Watts, head chef at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, who will offer a glimpse behind the scenes at Dinner's sister restaurant, the three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck.
Technoheads and technophobes alike should make sure they leave time for a couple of seminars at Hospa, the show's technology-focused forum. From how to market your restaurant on Twitter and Facebook, to the do's and don'ts of mobile apps, make sure you stay on the cutting edge of the fast-moving world of customer communication and e-marketing.
With five days of cooking demonstrations on offer, visitors to The Skillery will get the chance to see some of the best in the business cooking live. Whether it's a turn on stage by caterer and cookbook writer Sophie Wright, or a double act by Henry Brosi, executive chef at the Dorchester, and Christopher Basten, executive chef at the Marriott County Hall, learn first-hand from some of the UK's best chefs.
Whether you know your vintages inside out, or are new to the vast world of wine, the Wine+ Theatre will have a seminar for you. Beginners can pick up vital tips at WSET's introduction to Food & Wine Pairing (26 February, noon), while even the most knowlegeable of sommeliers might be tempted by the WSET's guide to upselling on wine lists and staff training (26 February, 4pm and 28 February, 2pm).
Le Salon Culinaire
Hosting over 80 competitions across five days, Le Salon is made up of the Salon Display and Le Parade de Chefs (see highlights panel), as well as the Live Theatre, which will host the majority of the competitions, including the semi-final of the Global Chefs Challenge, featuring the doyen of British competition chefs, Simon Hulstone.
Book a table for The Big Event
Chefs John Campbell, Jason Atherton and William Curley will be preparing a course each for the Big Event at Hotelympia 2012 on the evening of 27 February.
Campbell will work alongside a team from BaxterStorey to create the starter, Atherton will work with Compass Group to create the main course, and Curley will work with Elior to deliver a dessert.
The event will bring together all of hospitality to enjoy some special food, fantastic entertainment and the opportunity to network with the best in the business.
What's more, by making a booking you'll be helping industry charities Springboard and Hospitality Action to help young, disadvantaged and unemployed people to get sustainable employment in the sector and to support those who may have fallen on hard times or have developed substance dependency.
The Stage on Sunday
On Sunday 26 February Caterer and Hotelkeeper hosts the presentations on The Stage, so make sure you come along to learn how you can Profit from 2012, be a more responsible operator and make the most of TripAdvisor.
Ufi Ibrahim interview The BHA chief executive speaks her mind about VAT, minimising red tape and how we can work together to promote British tourism overseas.
Creating a responsible hospitality business The Considerate Hoteliers Association's John Firrell, Mark Linehan of the SRA and Rebecca Hawkins of the Responsible Hospitality Partnership offer practical steps to boost your sustainability credentials.
Seizing the Olympic opportunity Caterer and Hotelkeeper hosts a panel of our Business Tracker operators to find out how they are preparing. Chris Foy, head of 2012 games unit at VisitBritain, will join James Parsons and Chrys Fisher to offer insight into how businesses all over the UK can benefit from London 2012.
Marketing the May Fair How the people behind the publicity stage-manage the hotel's celebrity.
TripAdvisor masterclass How to make the most of online feedback and gain revenue from reviews.
Pay Caterer and Hotelkeeper a visit
Caterer and Hotelkeeper will be exhibiting on stand N2746 at Hotelympia.
Make sure you drop by to pick up a copy (and make a subscription) and pay a visit to our journalists who will be reporting live from the show.
Our experienced team will show you how you can be kept informed of all industry news, innovation and inspiration across all our channels, while you will be able to see that week's issue being compiled live from the show. So if you've a story, come and let us know.