As the leading foodservice agency we make sure we get along to as many Arena networking events as possible and certainly never miss the annual Face 2 Face with Alistair Stewart. This year it was held at the stunning Landmark London Hotel with a line-up including the headline interview with Dennis Hogan MD of Compass Group UK & Ireland, as well as a panel discussion on the impact of Brexit on the hospitality industry.

The morning kicked-off with the panel discussion, which included a number of key issues around Brexit. One point which came across strongly was the importance of allowing enough time to formulate a plan in order to safeguard the hospitality industry’s immigrant workforce. Once article 50 is triggered we will only have two years before any changes come into effect, so ensuring we have a robust plan of action as an industry sector and the governments support will be key, as we need time to ensure there isn’t a detrimental effect on the industry. Also, with the post-referendum exchange rate there is the issue that most EU immigrants work in the UK in order to send money home, but now their wages are worth less due to the poor exchange rate, which may make the UK far less appealing as a destination to work in hospitality.

Also connected to the exchange rate issue is the fact that so far we haven’t seen food inflation triggered by this change being passed onto consumers, but it seems that is because large buyers lock-in their suppliers for months or even years on contract. However, it is predicted that this will start to impact the market in 2017 when contracts are re-negotiated, which may have serious repercussions for the market. In the meantime however suppliers are being squeezed, as their in-costs go up whilst the sell-out prices remain static under contract, indeed some wholesalers are making losses on certain lines and will doubtless be looking to pass on the impact of the weak pound when they come to the end of their contracts.

With some sage words and interesting debate, the panel discussion certainly fuelled conversation amongst attendees and bought to light some of the core issues for the industry. Interestingly one key initiative is for hospitality professionals to lobby their MPs to ensure they understand the importance of hospitality to their constituency and help to drive through any relevant legislation moving forward, with a target to get 330 MPs on-side by the end of 2017.

Then, after breaking for drinks and networking it was time for the main attraction, the Face 2 Face between Alistair Stewart and Dennis Hogan of Compass. Celebrating fifteen years of Alistair hosting this particular event, the TV news presenter applied his trademark direct questioning to Dennis and we learnt a little more about Compass’ American ex accountant MD and his ambitions for the business. Some of the key take outs were as follows:
• He is keen to reduce food waste in the business and believes there is more to go for re. efficiencies in the business.
• He believes a growth mentality is needed within the business and thinks that market consolidation is ongoing.
• He believes that entrepreneurial companies ensure larger ones are kept on their toes.
• Those who work for him have to balance being a Compass employee with loyalty to the client.
• He would like to see contract catering as a natural career choice for people and is committed to bringing the best talent into their business and nurturing that talent ongoing.
• He’d like to see more female chefs, as currently Compass exceed the average with 25% compared to the average of 18%, but they aim to hit 50%.
• He welcomes the LGBT community and encourages employees to be who they are.
• He sees himself as an empowering manger and wants to hit best in class with high street inspiration, partnerships, in-house teams and chef excellence.
• He is hugely proud of their chef competition team and their success at this year’s Hotelympia.

After an enlightening exchange it was time to turn to the excellent lunch provided by the chefs at The Landmark London which did not disappoint. As conversation flowed along with the wine it was clear that the Friday afternoon timing was worked well. Congratulations to Lorraine and her team on another successful event.

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