This week a busy hall at the NEC buzzed with the sounds of cutting-edge culinary products being demonstrated, tableware being tried out and dishes being developed as the industry congregated at Hospitality 2011.
Suppliers from across the sector were on hand to impart their expertise alongside industry experts offering business advice in Business Seminars and Business Mentors sessions.
Alex Polizzi proved the main draw at the seminar theatre, discussing her hospitality background and view on the hotel star rating scheme, while British Hospitality Association chief executive Ufi Ibrahim expressed her frustration at the delays to the Government's long-awaited tourism strategy.
If all that wasn't enough, Caterer and Hotelkeeper was on hand to meet delegates and put together this very issue live from the show, with screens around the stand displaying blog posts and tweets from the show as well as all the news on www.caterersearch.com.
BHA CHIEF IBRAHIM CRITICISES GOVERNMENT FOR DRAGGING FEET ON TOURISM STRATEGY
The coalition Government was criticised for dragging its feet on its promises to promote UK tourism by Ufi Ibrahim (pictured), the chief executive of the British Hospitality Association.
Ibrahim expressed frustration that the Government had not kick-started its plan to help the industry boost its competitiveness and had failed to have any impact in marketing the Olympics.
Despite David Cameron's pledge to work with the trade to stop the decline in the UK's competitiveness globally, Ibrahim said the Government's efforts so far had been woefully inadequate.
"The tourism strategy is being postponed and postponed," she said. "What is it that we are waiting for? We are seriously slipping as a destination choice. We are getting worse while the competition is getting better."
Ibrahim emphasised the threat posed by nations like China, which has invested billions in a bid to put travel and tourism at the heart of its economic transformation.
"Unless we do things differently in this country very quickly, there is not going to be enough benefit from the Olympics beyond what's happening in London, "she said.
OPERATORS WARNED OVER EGG SOURCING
Visitors were warned that changes to egg production legislation meant that food service businesses might be serving illegal eggs when implemented in January 2012.
Next year battery cages will be banned and replaced by enriched cages. But with battery cages accounting for around two-thirds of production in Europe (50% in the UK) and producers struggling to meet the deadline, there is the potential for illegal eggs to enter the supply chain to cater for demand.
Kevin Coles from the British Egg Information Service said that caterers should be aware that illegal eggs could still find their way into prepared products from Europe even after the deadline.
"Operators need to check traceability and think about the eggs that are going into their products be they cake, quiche or ice-cream," he said. "Some 80 million battery eggs are produced across Europe daily, so there is real potential for shortages."
Coles said that operators should where possible specify British Lion eggs to be sure that they meet the EU directive, particularly as it is not clear who would be liable should illegal eggs be found in a products.
ROB KIRBY LAUNCHES CHARITY COOKBOOK
Chef-director of Lexington Catering Rob Kirby announced he was set to launch a cookbook this year to raise money for the Great Ormond Street Hospital School.
The book, entitled Cooking for Kids, will be published by Absolute Press and cost £9.99, with all royalties going to the school.
Kirby has strong links with the GOSH School, having hosted cooking sessions for its children as part of the Academy of Culinary Arts' Chefs Adopt A School scheme for the past seven years.
SALON CULINAIRE 2011
More than 50 competition classes took place over the course of the three-day event at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), Birmingham, within La Parade des Chefs, Live Theatre and Salon Display.
This year, for the first time at Hospitality, the national culinary teams of England, Scotland and Wales competed against each other in La Parade, with the English team scooping gold for their efforts on day one of the show (other results not available at time of going to press).
Contract caterer Sodexo concluded months of regional heats to name John Hughes from the firm's corporate services division the Sodexo Chef of the Year, while Chris Munroe of the Royal Garden Hotel, London, was awarded a silver medal in the British Culinary Federation Young Chef Challenge.
THE HOTEL INSPECTOR EMPHASISES SPARKLING SERVICE
It was standing room only for an interview with Alex Polizzi (pictured) on Monday at Hospitality 2011. The Hotel Inspector star's appearance was so keenly attended that the audience spilled on to nearby stands to get a view.
Polizzi shared her views on the proposed scrapping of the star rating system for hotels. She said she was very nervous about the rating system disappearing, adding that she didn't think solely using opinions on the internet was the way to go.
"I understand why the Government don't want to keep supporting a duplicate rating system [as the AA already offer one] but I think with all its faults it's something that should stay," she said.
Speaking more broadly about her experience, Polizzi said that quality service was the most important aspect of any hospitality business. "That's what sorts the wheat from the chaf," she said. "A good manager can leave a great impression."