An abundance of inspiration from the HTA Catering Conference

‘A Recipe for Growth’ was the theme of this year’s HTA Catering Conference, held on 5 and 6 June, in the new venue of the beautiful Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The two-day event and exhibition provided a great forum for looking at opportunities and challenges for garden centre catering with delegates feeding back that they found the event enjoyable, valuable and informative.

Keynote Speaker for day one was Jim Cregan, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee. He shared with us his story of how starting as a festival compère and labourer, he felt ashamed of how his girlfriend’s parents would describe him and adventured to Australia for exploration and inspiration. Whilst there he discovered iced coffee, and on his return to the UK was appalled at the offerings available, packed with sugar and lacking in coffee kick. Joining forces with his sister and with a little help from their parents, they developed Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, and with a lot of grit and determination it became the brand that it is today. Jim shared with us his key points to making a brand something you are proud of achieving: ‘Hunger and drive’, ‘A real story’, ‘A plan’, ‘Rad products’, ‘An ability to trust your instinct’, ‘Learn to say ‘no’’, ‘Build an epic team’, ‘Build culture that people love’ and ‘Let money be a bi-product of your dream’. He concluded the inspirational session with the quote; “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver.

The annual HTA Catering Conference dinner was also held in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, with the drinks reception held in the sunshine on the beautiful terrace in front of the glasshouses. Rosemary Shrager was the after-dinner speaker of the evening. Rosemary endeared herself to the nation when she took part in ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ where she proved she could cook just about anything, anywhere. Her latest programmes include The Big Family Cooking Showdown which aired on BBC 2 in 2017. Rosemary was also a part of the very successful The Real Marigold Hotel which aired in early 2016 on BBC to great acclaim and was nominated for and won a string of awards. During her talk she endeared the audience with the tales of her career, from training with world renowned chefs, being cooking TVs best kept secret, and insights into her upcoming book and projects. She urged the audience to do more events in the evenings to maximise the foodie elements of their businesses.

Day two of the conference saw a strong focus on food. The day was started by Paul Hargreaves, Cotswold Fayre, giving us an insight into current and upcoming food trends, Jane Land, Co-founder of Veganuary, discussed the shift towards veganism and the reasons behind this, and Boyd Douglas-Davies, Managing Director from Hillview Group, shared with us his insights from his trip to Australia and how they premiums their offerings to maximise on return.  There were also demonstrations from Eco-Chef Tom Hunt and Tom Styman-Heighton from Funnybones Foodservice. The event concluded with a panel session, chaired by Boyd which saw Philippa Stubbs from British Garden Centres, Matthew Bent from Bents Garden & Home, and Greg Timmerman-Delves from Timmerman’s Garden Centre discuss issues such as recruitment, menu planning across different sites, car parking and growing produce for use in the garden centre kitchen.

For the full HTA Catering Conference report, including details of all the speakers from the event, can be viewed at www.hta.org.uk/cateringconference  from 11 June.

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