What exhibitions can give to the hospitality industry

22/06/2009 - 00:00
Paul MacDonald, event director of the Speciality & Fine Food Fair, reveals how the pub, hotel and restaurant industry can all benefit from visiting exhibitions.

I was recently asked what I would change in the food industry given the chance. It's a tough question and one, which I mulled over for quite some time. Of course, there are the obvious answers which most people would come up with but if it was up to me, I would encourage everyone to visit a live industry event at least once, to really understand for themselves just how powerful a tool it can be in helping them to grow their business. Exhibitions are worth their salt for many reasons and never more so than when times are tough. Of course it's not only during a recession, but when budgets are tight and time is precious, they do offer a unique and unrivalled pathway to doing business from both an exhibitor and also visitor point of view. Take the number of exhibitors for example. At Speciality & Fine Food Fair last year, 560 companies chose to participate showcasing the very best, high quality regional, local, speciality and artisan food and drink produce. And this year, in addition to there being more exhibitors overall, there look set to be more brand new, first time companies than ever before, offering a previously unseen and exclusive insight into their business. Such a large number of companies in one place offers a real time-saver for visitors, especially from a research point of view. There is no better opportunity to see as many potential suppliers in one place, in one year as at a live event. From a research point of view, it means valuable time spent reviewing magazines, trawling the internet to source products and costly supplier visits can be significantly reduced, because everything you need can be seen in one day, in one place. In fact, I would go as far as to say that in my opinion, no other medium delivers such a large number of potentially 'business-making' contacts to one place at one time as an exhibition. Linked to this is the notion of cost-efficiency, particularly relevant in today's economic climate. With such a large, relevant and keen audience in one place, it is almost impossible to get as good a return on investment anywhere else. Of course, it doesn't always work like that, but if the event is chosen carefully it can be extremely effective for visitors. But it's not just the numbers that make the argument so powerful. Exhibitions are all about human interaction. Of course, a great deal of business is done online these days, but it is essential from a food buyer's point of view, to have that direct face-to-face communication that plays so strongly on the body's senses. Being able to taste, touch and smell a product is unique to a food and drink show –trying is key to buying, afterall. But seeing it in all its shelf-ready glory complete with packaging and labelling is also key too. Of course, all of this information can be communicated through other forms of marketing, but the most important element is the fact that the event is 'live', and this is what will, in the end, lead to a more lucrative deal being done. Networking is also a big factor in the foodservice industry. Exhibitions offer a great opportunity for visitors to mingle with and cement relationships with peers and colleagues as well as forging partnerships with new contacts, researching and familiarising themselves with the latest products on offer that could add that all-important point of difference to their business. Networking will also form a large part of the features at the show, giving visitors even more to take away from just one day out of the office. At Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2009 there will be a 'business clinic' offering free one-on-one tailored advisory sessions from industry experts on how visitors can make their business run more efficiently and profitably. In addition, demonstrations by leading chefs at the Fine Food Forum will give foodservice insiders a really practical and trends-led insight into key industry drivers and how these can be incorporated into their businesses. Speciality and Fine Food Fair is all

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