THOUGHT LEADERSHIP IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY

At a time of global increases in prices for every type of basic food, we look at the upcoming Hotel, Restaurant & Catering Show ask; who is taking the lead here, – what does this mean for people in the food industry, and for you and me as mere consumers?

To judge by the hype – maybe nothing. This Hotel Restaurant and Catering event has brought together a range of business leaders, chefs, and tech-savvy people, to talk about, well, just about everything. In particular, the focus at the Tech X Stage will look at AI, as a way of solving the problems of lack of staff.

This is an interesting gambit, because if by chance – we are to have an influx of Ukrainian youngsters – and why not! – then where does this place IT in the grand scheme of things. Are we replacing Polish and Latvian baristas with their equivalent brothers and sisters from Nikolaev.?

So, nothing changed there, then. And yet, the key themes of the Conference are “innovation”, and “profitability”.

It’s not before time. After three years of drought and COVID lockdowns, is this a time of harvest, and if so, where is that new market coming from?

The difficulty, -according to noted Swedish chef Kristin Emilsson, who took her degree in food management in London – is that it is really about the costs facing the suppliers, rather than what the public would like to have.

She says “Obviously it is general costs – but what about staffing?” Her view is that the rapid changes in the world order have led to an acute shortage of chefs, who since lockdown, have now gone and found other jobs elsewhere”.

At the Hotel Restaurant and Catering event this Monday, we expect to see a range of new ideas, new ways of coping with these unforeseen challenges.

We expect to report further in due course.

The Conference can be viewed at: https://www.hrc.co.uk, from this Monday 21st March.

Human Nature. Just the same as before.

We take a fresh look at this new interpretation of the standout 2014 production of Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” and ask, as it returns to the London Coliseum here in March 2022; how come the the mix of Women and Men and Mozart, never loses its appeal?

There is a young business lady waiting hurriedly inside the Chanel Shop at St Pancras as I happen also to be stepping inside for something. We exchange a few words of greeting. She says that she is running for a train to Darlington. I tell her I am en route to Cosi, at the ENO.

“Oh!! I just love that opera!” she says. “I would love to come – when is it on next?” I quickly look at my ENO app, and smile give her some alternative future dates etc.

I am taking an early dinner at the restaurant just up the road from the London Coliseum and the maitre d’ squeezes me in at a single table just alongside two ladies who are well dressed, with obligatory bottle of chilled white wine, and they are talking animatedly.

“We are going to the Opera!” , they say.

“Really!” – I reply.

“Yes – we have not been for ages, and we are SO looking forward to going out again, And “Cosi Fan Tutte” is one of our favourites.

There is a lot of psychology talked in the media about the darkness of human nature within Cosi… and are we talking about all Women, or all Men, or all relationships – or just a few, and my answer to that is; Come on, guys – this is a Funny Story. That’s it.

The appeal of its story and attraction, is indeed based on several levels, and I will come to that shortly – but people do not come to the ENO production of Cosi Fan Tutte because of they want a seminar on human nature. If they sat down and thought about it, they come because they want to enjoy the constant melody, the incredible harmonisation, the forcefulness – and subtlety – of the direction, the spot on note perfect singing. People going to an ENO Mozart Opera want to be entertained and feel good, despite its underlying messages. I found myself still singing the tunes long after getting my return train from Paddington.

This production is the same as before in 2014 in many ways, the same Coney Island fairground set. There is the same Fortune Teller cabin, redolent of Tom Hanks in “Big”. The same concept of circus gymnasts skills ensemble. It is slapstick and very, very funny.

The additional playing the Ukraine National Anthem, before curtain up – added to that sense of absolute importance. It reminded me all those years ago of the Don Giovanni first night, on the first night of ENO at the Coliseum, – when the Russians had just invaded Prague. No, some things don’t change.

This performance gave a shop window to several of the Harewood Artists who are the future of ENO Operas. Nardus Williams as Fiodiligi is superb as soon as she starts singing; Benson Wilson is just great to listen to. But stealing the show, so to say, has to be Neal Davies as Don Alfonso, always in charge of proceedings, never losing his grip – and his synergy with Soraya Mafi, whilst not as crisp as Mary Bevan originally, was spot on note perfect. I think she can be even more acidic and sharp in her storytelling.


But what took all of our breath away – was the sheer complexity and delivery of the close harmony. It never let up. The complex intertwining of medallic lines, each protagonist singing as if their lives depended on it. It was absolutely glorious.

My colleague at the end of Act 1, stood up at the Interval and looked at me, in a state of shock. We all know that ENO performances and direction are always on the edge, the exploration of new angles and avenues. But nobody does Mozart better when it comes to opera for the people.

There are still a couple more performances at my time of writing this Note. Well worth making a point of going.

IT’S HOLIDAY TIME – ON A BIG BOAT!

As gaps are starting to appear in the COVID stranglehold – we look at the background to getting back on the water, with a visit to the CRUISE SHIP INTERIORS EXPO in London Excel, – and what we can expect when we travel.


If you are going to have a Conference about Cruise Liners, then basing yourself by the side of the Thames, and just two tube stops down from the O2 Arena, is not a bad place to start. Adjacent also to City Airport, and equally close to Tower Bridge and some of the richest mooring spots in an already wealthy city financial area – it’s not hard to see why the organisers of this new Event, chose the Excel as their stopping off point.


They all had a party, the night before. If they say that every vertical market is like a small village – everybody knows everybody – then this was the ambience as you walk through the frankly deserted hallways of Excel until you come across Hall 3, and step inside the Trade Show area.


Perhaps the exhibitors and organisers, were expecting more? It didn’t help that just two days earlier, the UK went into a new series of COVID travel restrictions. More than one exhibitor confided that they had to fork out more than £100.00 on a sudden PCR test, that had not been made apparent before travel.


The chaotic travel scenario alas extended into the event itself. And this was a pity. Because CRUISE SHIP INTERIORS EXPO 21 – was actually rather good! There were some very, very inventive new products in the space-saving category, clever hospitality devices rubbed shoulders with travel agencies – and every Stand had at least one major decision-maker resident. Every conversation, was a productive experience.


I loved the Nautilus bedroom pod from Matalika; and the rather interesting invention from Icecooldesign, The nice lady at Franz Fertig showed me how to create a sofa-bed, without pretty much lifting a finger.


People come to Trade Fairs, to do business. There were far more European vendors, than British, and they had travelled there for a reason. There were more conversations in Italian – than English. Everybody was happy to have a chat.


The comparative lack of people created an intimacy – you could progress in a conversation beyond the usual “meet and greet”.


For that reason, although the Fair was not large in size, by comparison to others at Excel – this was a more worthwhile experience.


There was enough space not to need absolutely a mask, all the time. Just to be on the safe side, I put mine on, when re-emerging onto the Excel hallway. I think we are in for the long haul with COVID into 2022, but hopefully long gone by the time we all get back for the same event in 2022. I’ll be among friends.

CAN NEW ENERGY THINKING, SAVE THE WORLD?


We interview Paddy Young, Director of Enlit Europe in Milan this November 21, and ask – if Energy has had a bad press from Global Warming, who will listen to its voices now?

Paddy Young sits back, across the screen from me. He is wearing a blue sweater, very relaxed in what appears to be an office environment, the image is a mix of social cool but also business mode. We are all chilled now.

As the “bringer to the market” of the first major event for the energy industry since European Utility Week & Powergen Europe rebranded into Enlit Europe and COVID planning took over – this is a milestone, that, following on the footsteps of COP26, are we going to see big announcements, big differences?

“No – this is an energy transition event”, he says. The big misconception of you and I, say, is that we want everything all at once”. Paddy continues; “Big gestures, grand concepts, will not themselves be necessary. But what we are looking for, is targeted integration from old to new”.

It is a valid point. This Enlit new-brand of event, is bringing together a segregated group of specialists, ranging from start-ups, through to established voices, each given their “area” or “hub” so to say, to talk about, guide, and show, where an energy future can go.

It is a practical meeting point. And Paddy himself is no specialist. He is a realist, He delivers events in vertical markets, where he can make a difference. His background, from studying in Bucks in the UK, to a global journey of delivering for large corporates, including being the messenger for a global water crisis for so many countries, his remit is to bring to our attention those aspects that we have passed over, but need to change.

The difference, between now – and former years – Paddy explains, “is that we are now entering an age of consumer empowerment. You and I do not have to buy this energy brand or that one. The success of which energy process succeeds will depend on the brand and its ability to engage with its market.”
“People may well choose to pay a bit more” he continues, “if we can start to “love our energy company”.

The fact that people can now make choices, “is that we are all together on the same journey, instead of being a supplier and a reluctant consumer”.

Enlit Europe is spread over three days. It is enough time for people to meet and link with the partners of their choice. We have finished our 30 minutes together – but could have gone on for much longer. “Very stimulating discussion”, he says.

IS DIGITALISATION THE SUICIDE NOTE OF BUSINESS?

We look at SEO and the epidemic of digital solutions in Biz Dev, and ask; are we missing the point here?

I have a colleague, who is Head of Procurement for some large areas of Scandinavia. And what he says is this; “Richard” – he says – “ I have deliberately stopped answering any emails, or any calls, from anybody I do not recognise. If you want me to talk to any of your people, just let me know in advance and I will put their number in my personal contacts.”

In the same way that the freedom of the internet has given us multiple information choices that should have given us a broader outlook – and the reverse has been true – that we only focus on those news feeds that say the things we already believe, – and made worse by algorithms that proactively feed us those restrictive views. So – the same is with SEO and all things digital.

We can now reach out to anybody on this planet. But so can everybody else. Which means that the people that we need and want to talk to – for our business growth, our customer service, etc – have long since made the decision not to be available, at all.

What that means is that, far from being simple to grow a business by finding a person who we do not know, and just giving them a call, has now become more than four times as long and four times as expensive, and now involves, pre-sales people, post-sales people, all manner of IT support and analysis, to do what used to be the straightforward and simple task of just phoning a friend of a friend.

But what is worse, is that this has given acceptance and justification, to being proactive in not making human contact possible at all. Woe betide any receptionist who passes on yours or mine contact details!

This means that both sides are the losers. Vendors of great solutions give up, because they cannot support the increasing drain open their marketing spend. And Corporates or our Public Services continue with their outdated practices because nobody has been able to show them otherwise.

If COVID restrictions have taught us anything, it is that human nature needs human involvement, and yet we seem to be travelling at warp speed in the opposite direction. It is as if we are scared about the whole process of actually talking together in a business environment, or being”sold to”. How terrible.

In our own business here at Profomedia, we research a lot and are continually building personal relationships. Whenever we want to find out something, we reach out and phone someone we already know, – who then introduces us to someone who we don’t.

There. It wasn’t so difficult, was it.

THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

We talk with Dr Minesh Patel, Partner at the Moatfield Surgey in the UK, and ask – how come they are so good at delivering healthcare for the common man?

Why is it in the UK NHS, that there are good surgeries, and not so good ones, and well, rank awful ones? Why are some standout – and others not so? If human nature is a common denominator, why are there not a set of standard rules, a sort of “go to guide for repairing a surgery”, a recipe book for getting it right, that we all can apply, and that’s job done? And if human nature is indeed the common linking factor, – does this explain why some surgeries are so terrified of change? And others embrace it.

At a time when “innovation”, and “digitalisation” are this year’s buzzwords, can these be imposed by some higher authority – “look, here’s some money, go and start this or that process?” – And if that is the case, then why do we not all have standout surgeries?

The answer is that my human nature, is not your human nature. In short, the success of a surgery, depends on the individual, and the mix of individuals, in each case. You’ve got to “want” to be innovative, to deliver excellence. The only question is whether this is nature at all – or nurture, can we “learn” to be innovative?

Minesh Patel hesitates as he answers this one. In his case, there was never much choice. His father was a doctor, his own daughter is a student doctor, so this is a family tradition so to say, The choice of working in a hospital, or running a surgery, was the freedom to improve and innovate given within a surgery, but it was a journey, taking in improving PCT performance, being Chair of a CCG, leading the clinical strategy development of a developing iCS, before settling and developing the Team at Moatfield, in East Grinstead.

Minesh readily admits that he cannot change or improve everything. Sometimes, the structures themselves do not lend themselves to change. And health inequality from one region to another, one person to another, is a life reality. Having said all that – is there a “process”, an attitude of mind, that is the difference , and what would be the roadmap for other surgeries to follow?

“The answer is little steps, all the time”, answers Minesh.

“At Moatfield, we have a daily huddle, we analyse all of our processes, and we act quickly. Our new website took just 4 days of re-tooling. We are not afraid to act if we believe in something” Minesh uses the word “innovative” a lot. 3 years ago, he became Chair of the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC), which he says has brought him into contact with a lot of like minded and talented people around the country, both within other surgeries and other providers, who are beacons of excellence, and who are learning from each other. It’s a case of seeing “what are the neighbours doing”. so to say. But it is also visionary.

Although we are talking about the daily routine, there is a focus also on the wider picture, why can’t we do things in a different way.

We are getting ahead of ourselves in the discussion.

As if on cue, I look at my watch – we have been talking for 29 minutes. “I’m really sorry!”, Minesh says…. “I have a patient call in a minute”

HAS HEALTHCARE CHANGED FOR EVER, BECAUSE OUR LIFESTYLES HAVE CHANGED FOR EVER?

We chat with HIMSS Global Clinical Director, Charles Alessi, about where healthcare is going for all of us, and what will be the key changes. It’s a wide ranging discussion…

It’s an obvious question with no obvious answer, because our original assessments of just 10 months ago, may well be incorrect.

Charles Alessi looks intently at me across the screen, we are on FaceTime, – he is dressed casually in a pastel coloured polo shirt, sitting in his relaxed lounge area of his home in south west London, there are rows of books behind, a sort of academic university professor ambience and it reminds me of my own one/one sessions all those years ago. As a former Chair of the UK’s National Association of Primary Care, and as an advisor to WHO – Charles is well placed to be talking about the problems of our time.

And COVID per se, may not be one of them. “There have always been pandemics,” he says. This particular COVID-19 is really a child of the 21st century, perfectly suited to our super connected societies where global travel between dense population centres  is as common as a daily commute” Charles is more referring to our personal ability to survive and manage ourselves in lockdown, or rather – survive the absence of face/face proper contact, and the distance management that is the glue that holds us all together and allows us to cope.

“Starting the day at 08.00am, from my living room, with a call to Tokyo – and then a 10.00 call to Berlin – with London time zone calls in between – and then the 17.00 call with California – all whilst sitting in my own arm chair and not having moved an inch – is not what our bodies and brains are designed for. We as humans, need the travel time, to adjust, to refocus, to wind down between sessions, so to say.”

So no – our Lifestyles have not changed for ever. We will inevitably return to the travel to meetings, as soon as it is safe to so do – because we are becoming disorientated without doing so.

Healthcare on the other hand, has indeed changed, and we cannot put the genie back in the bottle. It is obvious that telehealth, or telemedicine, and the remote monitoring of our conditions by clinicians, makes sense, and reduces costs. And where all of us are moving towards a single version of truth of our own health. And yet, this democratising of healthcare – Charles argues – has not happened. And so we have systems and processes designed to fix individual instances, but where in times of a pandemic, are forcing whole decades of instances into just a few months or even weeks. How can we possibly cope?

The key to where our health processes should be going, is at the beginning, where we stop being a binary society, – assuming we are all “well” – until we flick the switch one random day and find we are sick, we have a lump, a pain, whatever. And then we go to places called hospitals to fix the issue.

Our focus now should be the age of precision early management of our individual health. At a time when you and I as individuals already know from the data on our wrist, what is wrong with us even before the doctor ever speaks to us, we are now in a position to manage where our own health data and symptoms, and what Charles calls “non communicable diseases” , can take us, for our own good.

I was expecting somehow a medical discussion and yet this was not it. This was a look at where society is going, and what are we doing as society. But you and I as individuals, are society.

I always remember being late substantially for a meeting. I called ahead, as if my excuse – “I am in traffic!” – was good enough.

“But you are the traffic”, was the response.

COVID; Analysis of Key Commercial Benchmarks

We look at the past twelve months and ask – if everything has gone wrong, was that simply because of COVID, or were the downsides always there, it’s  just that Covid was the excuse  of choice? Or are there new trends and behaviours come to the surface that we never considered until now?

Looking at the obvious – you can  say that 2020 was the death knell of Events and Conferences. Major companies globally are in trouble and have not been able to rediscover a new secret sauce as to why you and should even  bother to attend an online event. As long as COVID continues, it is doubtful whether many will still be around with their current offering, thru to the end of 2021. In our discussions with vendors, we have yet to find any vendor that is satisfied that being part of a virtual event has has offered them any benefit at all. Criticisms range from “ this is a scam”, to the more polite “ it’s not the fault of the organiser, they are doing their best”  etc.

It is made doubly worse  by the lack of interest from so many delegates.  Worst in our discussions, were anything to do with the UK NHS. Even those that attend workshops have almost nil interest in pursuing a discussion after they have gone offline and  in almost all cases there is no way for a vendor to progress a discussion. Much better are the Financial events; there is a clear monetary and commercial objective  – but even then – online workshops that we looked at – were sparsely attended, the vendors themselves outnumbering the delegates.

This situation is made worse alas by the naivety and astonishing optimism of the conference organisers themselves, who routinely do not bother to answer emails from apparent interested parties, preferring to have a voicemail, saying “we are working from home”.  Or those who publish and write to us with sentences such as:”We bring people together and excite them with truly life-changing experiences. Creating the ideal environment for doing business, learning about new trends and innovations, and cementing relationships. Discover our unique mission, vision and values.”

This is not what people are saying to us.

At least some organisers are trying tho. This one in Liverpool, sent us a nice paragraph:

It is all down to simplicity and not trying to recreate a inperson conference. It is impossible to recreate an inperson event so why not shake things up and cater for what you have in hand. By having more focused sessions and pre arranged 1-2-1’s rather than a networking area sponsors, delegates and speakers have a much more comprehensive experience’
The trouble is – this  is alas not our experience, as well intentioned as it may be.
In short – the market exists on two levels; established vendors who just want to support their brand. They are not so dependent on  people coming to see them. Or at a deeper level – the vendor who has something new to say – in which case, the conference has work to do to keep the delegate focussed and  on-message. One thing is clear; the lack of face to face contact will continue for longer than we care to admit.
Looking  at our work habits, what is clear is that we all accept, employers and employees, that work is a thing we do, rather than a place we go. The problem is, that the novelty has worn off. What started as a great experiment, working from home – an increasing number of people have told us that six months in, they are much less focussed, and that work expands to fill the entire day. There is no “me” time.  We frequently receive emails at 23.00, from companies and even prospects, wanting our attention.  This is damaging to both our work performance and our personal health.
The good people at the property rental specialists Knotel company in London, who we have spoken to,  tell  us that corporates are looking in increasing numbers for short term flexible packages and locations.
All of which is good, for them, but we expect to see as the vaccine kicks in, a gradual return to the heady days of returning to an office to work. It has to be like this, for reasons of sharper contact with one’s colleagues, as well as the dependence on infrastructure, theatres, social gathering, that we all need as human beings. The only question is one of size; just how many people will indeed retreat from corporate values, and decide they actually like to earn less but are happier in themselves.
Moving on…..as of today (at time of writing I have just received a News Item that we have a Brexit deal, that will deliver us more or less half of what we already had anyway – clearly good news….) – this is a good moment to take stock and see which markets are now relevant, or have changed.
Talking to my colleagues in La Rochelle and Toulouse, and Paris, France; this is not a market that is worth exploring for the time being. The South West France in particular is in deep depression. The empty streets, the 20.00 curfew, has demoralised the french psyche.
Similarly, the failure of COVID free expression in Sweden, has created a sense of uncertainty among an increasing number of areas of Sweden, particularly around the Goteborg area. There are no such hesitations from the south of Sweden, or Norway.
Two things are of interest; there is a new vigour in the UK, to going and doing things. What was unmitigated disaster some nine months ago, has now manifested into something more positive. Similarly, my colleagues in Switzerland are saying “2020 was our best year”, from technology services to  consumer drinks. However – this growth has all been domestic. We would like to see more outreach from Swiss companies internationally.
Ultimately, it will in both  the consumer/delegate, as well as vendor and organiser, to increase their appetite for being serious and implemting change. That thread is the common denominator  of both avenues.  It will be interesting to see in twelve months time, which industries and geo areas have risen to the challenge.,

 

 

Coronavirus in Hull.

At a time when the North East city of Hull has become one of the highest rate of COVID in the Uk, – Amelia Grace, leading young blogger in East Yorks in the UK, gives a first hand assessment of where it is going wrong – and where does that leave the uk?

Coronavirus has been a common part of life for close to a year now. It’s plastered all over the news, it’s a massive topic of conversation and it’s all anyone seems to talk about. What do you think about the pandemic? Has the government handled it in the right way? When will we have a vaccine and will it have an impact? Will life ever be normal again?

These are some of the things I’ve discussed with people and I have wondered since March and the first lockdown.

More recently, the government has tackled the situation with a tiered approach, categorising places into medium, high or very high in terms of covid alert level. I’m a resident of Hull, a city in Yorkshire which started off in tier 1 and entered tier 2 just before the whole country was thrust into a lockdown on 5 November. Now, we have the most cases out of the whole of the UK and are set to enter tier 3 once we are released from lockdown. What went wrong in Hull?

Complacency. In my opinion, that is how Hull’s cases have suddenly projected so high. Starting off in tier 1, many of us were holding our breath, waiting and expecting to be moved up to tier 2 because our number of covid cases were closer to that of towns and cities in tier 2. Since tier 1 has the least amount of restrictions, people could still meet up in groups of 6 indoors and outdoors, visit cafes, restaurants and shops and basically live their lives in a fairly normal fashion. The fact Hull spent so long in tier 1 meant some of its people became more relaxed as you would if you were in the bottom tier and abandoned their more cautious attitude towards the virus. From my perspective, I typified this stereotype, spending much of my time in September and October, meeting up with my friends and family in a mixture of indoor and outdoor settings. Towards the end of October, I did start to get more anxious about having to isolate or catching the virus but it didn’t stop me from carrying on with life as normal.

Then all of a sudden, we were in tier 2. But it wasn’t all of a sudden. The truth was Hull had needed to be in the middle of the three tiers for a while. The citizens of Hull turned to outdoor gatherings as opposed to indoor ones and had their Halloween and Bonfire night parties before the 31st October when we were still under tier 1 rules. Was it a little too late though? The cases were already rising and had been ever since September. Alas, we will never know because the day that we moved into tier 2 was the day Boris Johnson announced a lockdown for the whole country. We spent less than a week enduring those tighter restrictions trying to get everything done for Christmas before we were locked back up in our homes.

Could the problem even be tracked back to March? Evidence shows that the first wave of the virus didn’t hit people in Hull nearly as badly as it did in other places. After the first lockdown, I could only name people who I had a very distant social connection to who had contracted the virus. Now, in November, I can name many. My teacher. My classmate. A member of my church. The personal connection to the virus that wasn’t there previously is now in full effect and it’s frightening to know that people you’ve seen recently have experienced the virus. It causes you to worry for your friends and family in a way you didn’t in the first wave and it proves it’s authenticity. It’s real. And it’s not going away.

The virus has affected me in a personal way as I am now isolating for two weeks after being in contact with someone at college who has contracted the virus. All things considered, it may be a blessing in disguise with the rapidly growing amount of cases in Hull. Even before our year group was sent home for this reason, some of my friends were already isolating due to being in contact with the virus. It has been spreading for a while and the hope of the city is that this lockdown will serve to break the chain in terms of infections and stop more people from overwhelming the NHS and ultimately dying from it.

Some positivity that has shone through all the bleakness is the way that the local media have handled the second wave as of recent times. Look North, our local news for East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire, have covered stories where they have spoken to people with the virus and hospital staff. Their aim is to spread awareness about the virus and the effects it can have and it is so refreshing to see this sector of the media using their influence for good. Instead of scaremongering or downplaying the virus, they have presented it as it is and are trying their best to help with the worsening situation.

Can Hull turn it around? Only time will tell. With this current lockdown and the tightened tier 3 measures this city could potentially face in December, it looks achievable. However, after the cases in Hull fall again, another area will assume the top spot of the most covid cases in England list. This cycle will continue over and over again until one day we beat the virus. Hopefully, that day will come soon.