The Arena networking events are always a highlight in the hospitality industry calendar, but Lorraine and the team excelled themselves with this Autumn’s event at Haberdashers Hall. With not one, but six speakers and the culmination of the Hospitality Hero search, not to mention a fabulous three course meal from the CH&Co team and the usual excellent networking opportunities, the day was chock-full! Themed around the importance of maintaining brand reputation in an ever competitive market, we heard from a range of speakers all with differing backgrounds and angles on the issue.

CGA kicked off the round of speakers with facts and stats on the market, drawing on their research to reveal some of the secrets of how operators establish and sustain strong consumer perceptions of their brands. They also shared insights from this year’s recent Brand Momentum Report from CGA and Stone & River, explaining how certain brands retain their relevance, while others struggle to keep up in this highly competitive and dynamic market. Then it was time to hear from Wagamama, who focused on how they are pushing boundaries with new delivery initiatives and a sneak preview of their new grab and go initiative.

From noodles to fried chicken, Thunderbird then took to the stage to deliver an inspirational talk on achieving success through fun. With an impressive track record in the casual dining market, Marcel Khan shared insights into his latest brand, Thunderbird, and the importance of ensuring his team have more fun than his rivals on the high street. Then it was onto the nuts and bolts of the hospitality business. It may not be sexy, but logistics is essential and Best Food (the logistics arm of Bidvest) shared their stunning turnaround story and how they have worked hard to challenge the ‘race to the bottom’ on price, focusing on service and building sustainable relationships with some of the biggest names in fast and fast casual space, by offering transparency through customer and supplier portals and crucially delivering on time! With the interesting observation that the future might even see a time when the logistics is a side line to the monetisation of the big data insights they can harness from their business, it was an eye opening take on this often overlooked side of the foodservice world.

Then it was time to get into our territory, effective branding. Supersonic’s Mark took us through the importance of having a strong brand essence and remaining true to it. Having run our fair share of branding workshops we couldn’t agree more! The next speaker up was from Venners who highlighted the pitfalls hospitality businesses can fall victim to from pdq machine fraud to poor allergen management back of house. With some interesting food for thought from the speakers, it was then time to find out the winner of the Hospitality Heroes search. The three finalists were exceptional examples of young people working in hospitality who go the extra mile to give back to charity and their community. The overall winner was announced as Leo Kattou of Simpson’s Restaurant who received his trophy and will be invited to sit on the Arena board to help bring a new younger dimension to the networking organisation.

After a highly informative day it was time for more networking over a glass of bubbles, after which we were more than ready for the delicious meal prepared by the CH&C team. As ever it was a great day and with thoughts of the upcoming Tom Kerridge dinner and Arena Christmas event to plan into busy diaries we departed. If you missed out on this great day you can see more highlights by searching #ArenaEvents19 on Twitter.