Food authenticity on the menu at catering conference

Day two of the HTA Catering Conference held this week at The Belfry in the West Midlands, tackled food trends, staying local, gluten free and creating a sense of place.

In a session on what's hot in catering, Neil Moodley, head of bespoke trends at thefoodpeople, introduced delegates to emerging core trends - consumer, macro and food, that are crucial to understanding consumers.

Right now there are 16 hot trends to try in garden centres he said – such as ugly vegetables, round the world breakfast, modernising classic recipes, kids’ menu makeover, and condiments.

The panel session encouraged garden centres to use vouchers, particularly bounce back smart phone vouchers and special offers like 'buy one get one free' 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, he advised that while provenance and traceability are good – quality needs to be top notch too.

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 tenth customer is looking for GF and they are loyal.

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?

Sarah Dunning, chief executive, The Westmorlandland Family, told the inspiring story of her family owned motorway service area food business at Tebay in Cumbria, complete with farm shop and kitchen, and now expanding with a £40 million project.

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.

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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