Hub Spot: Arena’s Savoy Lecture

April saw the return of the annual Arena Savoy Lecture, bringing together over 200 foodservice professionals, to deliver the insight and explore the issues that matter the most to the industry. As ever…the event didn't disappoint, with keynote talks from Kate Nicholls, CEO of the newly created industry body UKHospitality, and Simon Townsend, CEO of Ei Group. And lets face it…it’s not every Monday night you get to be wined and dined at The Savoy. What can we say, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it!

Kicking off with a champagne reception in The Savoy’s iconic ballroom, we also got the chance to sample Nestle Professional’s latest innovation, Nescafe Azera Nitro, as we caught up with friends and colleagues from across the industry before heading into the first guest speaker of the evening.

The recent merger of ALMR and BHA, created UKHospitality, a major new trade body representing the UK's £130bn hospitality sector. The forum for leading businesses in the UK hospitality and tourism industry, UKHospitality represents over 46,500 private sector establishments, working as one voice with the aim to be better heard by Government.

Kate outlined the aims and objectives of the newly formed associations, and the issues that the hospitality sector currently faces, including the current labour shortage, rising employment costs, food supply chain and security issues, crippling business rates and, the dreaded ‘B’ word, Brexit.

Outlining some of the facts behind the stats, Kate told the captivated audience that:


- The hospitality industry is the third largest employer in the UK
- Is worth over £130bn to the UK economy
- Contributes over £40bn to the UK tax total…the equivalent of the Brexit divorce bill.

She went on to explain to the captivated audience the different policies and frameworks the body plans to create to better support the hospitality industry including improved skills training, embracing the digital world, as well ensuring the industries infrastructure is fit for purpose to cope with these challenges.

Following a brief break. Simon Townsend took to the stage.

A long-term client of The Hub, Ei Group explained the strategy behind the UK’s largest pub co, which increased its estate from 1,100 pubs to 9000 following a string of acquisitions. However, the 2007 smoking ban, 2008 recession and changes to the way we eat and drink as a nation hit the pub sector hard, and change was vital for the industry to survive.

Now, four businesses are operated under the Ei umbrella; managed houses; joint ventures; commercial properties and tenanted pubs, and there has been a significant reduction in the overall estate. This structure and the intended competition it breeds have driven great successes.

Simon also talked about future-gazing, saying that staying ahead of the curve and anticipating just what the consumer wants next is vital – which we couldn’t agree with more. As millenials shun the pub for the gym, and as we see the likes of deliveroo delivering drinks straight to our sofas, experience is king – simply put – it’s no longer enough to serve up a fantastic pint and a packet of peanut, which presents both a challenge and an opportunity for operators.

With plenty of food for thought…it was time for the educational aspect of the evening to close…although the night wasn’t quite over as we still had three-courses of frankly, fabulous dinner to tuck into!

Another great Arena event!

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