The Shaping the Future summer conference was held in July at the Grand Connaught Rooms and officially launched UKHospitality, now the biggest trade body of the sector. The event highlighted important discussions within the country’s hospitality industry, providing a single platform to lay out plans for promoting the business interests of the UK’s hospitality market.
Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, introduced the organisation and laid out its objectives of delivering a successful Brexit and securing a supportive environment for hospitality businesses so the sector can beat its projected growth targets. The key to achieving this root to branch reform of the industry lies in sending a message to the government that ‘we are big business’.
The conference included an update from Tourism Minister Michael Ellis, appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Ellis said he felt ‘buoyant about the influence the sector will have in a post-Brexit world’ owing to record-breaking growth in 2017 that generated £24bn spend by foreign travellers in the same year.
A Dragon’s Den-style investors’ outlook panel debated key topics for the hospitality sector from the perspective of the investor. Panellist Robin Rowland, Former CEO of TRISPAN, alternative asset management firm, said: ‘To be successful, you need a great location, great product, great people and a good understanding of social – you shouldn’t even talk about profit’.
A panel discussion entitled ‘People and Diversity’ saw industry experts identify ways to bridge the gender pay gap by removing barriers for career progression routes. Anne Elliott, CEO of marketing
agency, Elliott, introduced the session by reflecting on her promotion to Marketing Director of Pizza Hut in 1988. At that time, Elliott was one of just three women at board level wxithin the industry. Thankfully, things have come a long way since then, but there is still substantially more to be achieved. The panel noted that companies need to provide a culture for women to progress and explained that successful businesses could use diversity to better understand their customers by making their business look like their customers, that is, more diverse.
Retail Futurist Howard Saunders’ ‘To Hell in a Handcart?’ standout session addressed how the technological revolution will impact the industry. From the dangers of soulless contactless payments and AI, to the value of rooftop space in the future, Saunders rounded up with the birth of sophisticasual hospitality offerings – and warned delegates not to dismiss street-food as a blip.
‘What some big business has misunderstood’, says Howard, ‘is that the rise in hospitality is in people – the social spaces of food halls and markets are where real value lies. Humans are smart – let’s make the most of them while we can.’