Taming the beast at the HTA Catering Conference

Catering is a beast. The customer is king. It’s all about cake, coffee and hot food. Is it a trend or fad? Coffee is a culture. Casual diners still expect excellent service. Local is a given nowadays.

These were the sounds of the HTA Catering Conference, sponsored by Vision Commercial Kitchens, that took place this week on 7 and 8 June at The Belfry Hotel and Resort, near Sutton Coldfield.

Catering is an unusual, exciting, fast-paced beast that operations managers need to get behind if they want to move forward. This was the call to action by Pippa McKean, Director, McKean Consulting, who opened the conference and reminded delegates that we’re now very much a hospitality industry as well.

Over the two day event delegates heard tips, advice and case studies that they could apply to their own businesses…

Build a team of naturally positive people who smile and good service will follow. Top tips from Fred Sirieix, General Manager, Galvin at Windows, who treats service like a religion, included: be charming first, greet your customers with five smiles, give service with a magic touch, say thank you, and have two staff briefings a day.

Financial issues are trending in catering, but there are several ways to combat this by making cost efficiencies; the design and flow of your kitchen is a good place to start.

Aim for fast food naturally said Henry Dimbleby, Co-Founder of Leon Restaurants. Fast food can be good food too, but, it’s all in the detail – right staff, food cost, offering and consistency.  Make your garden centre a place for the community to gather .

To make a good cup of coffee you need to get the basics right – a good machine combo and a skilled barista. Don’t waste your milk!

Top ten food service trends were – grab and go, have three locations (garden centre, airport, workplace), offer wellbeing, serve afternoon tea and all day breakfast, make it personalised, go with the cafe culture, adapt to technology, try global flavours, consider delivery, find a partnership, and follow the trends not the fads.

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