Talking ?real food? at the HTA Catering Conference

Day two of the HTA Catering Conference, sponsored by Vision Commercial Kitchens, and held at The Belfry in West Midlands, was all about real food. Tracking food trends, staying local, gluten free and creating a sense of place were all on the menu.

Tracking food trends globally and how they evolve in the What?s hot and what?s not session, Neil Moodley, Head of Bespoke Trends at thefoodpeople, introduced the delegates to emerging core trends – consumer, macro and food, that are crucial to understanding consumers.

Right now there are 16 hot trends for 2015 to try in your garden centre ? such as ugly vegetables, round the world breakfast, modernising classic recipes, kids? menu makeover, and condiments galore.

The panel session, chaired by Trevor Pfeiffer, Garden Trade News, encouraged garden centres to use vouchers, particularly bounce back smart phone vouchers and special offers like BOGOF in their restaurants to get ?bums on seats?.

?Follow these with strong point-of sale and campaigns like Love the Plot you’ve Got and you can turn catering customers who aren?t always good gardeners into garden centre customers?, said the panel.

Local produce improves income, was a key point that came out of the Staying local session from Emma Milton, Catering manager and Beverley Spindler, Marketing manager, Mains of Drum – a family business accredited to the Visit Scotland Programme.
Close the circle was the key message from Brian Turner, Food buyer, Chatsworth Estate, in terms of telling the story of the product from field to plate. Overall Brian advised that while provenance and traceability are good ? quality needs to be top notch too.

Don?t get left behind, capitalise on gluten free (GF) as it?s here to stay, was a key tip from Rebecca Rayner, Joint managing director, Glebe farm Foods. Every 10th customer is looking for GF and they are loyal, so what are you offering? There is much more to offer than a sad looking cupcake.

The delegates also took advantage of workshops that asked are you making the most of your menu, are you equipped for success, and are you optimising your offer and growing sales?

A sense of place was the key term to take away from the keynote speakers. Sarah Dunning, Chief executive, The Westmorlandland Family, told the inspiring story of her family owned motorway service area food business ?Tebay? in Cumbria, complete with farm shop and kitchen, and currently expanding with a ?40 million project Gloucestershire. Her advice to those following a similar path was to know your purpose in order to create a real sense of place and provide an experience that feels part of the local area.
Valentine Warner, TV chef and author, closed day two with a passionate talk about understanding the link between food and nature, so you can put a sense of the environment on a plate. Like Sarah, Valentine emphasised the point of creating a sense of place and eating from the situation you stand in. His advice was to understand locality and what?s around you through research.

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