LET Shines Light On Catering Innovation
By common consent the 2014 CESA Light Equipment and Tableware (LET) Forum was the best yet, with a record number of delegates and a host of innovative product launches. The excitement was underlined by the glitzy sound and light show that opened the event, but the Forum was, as usual, all about business: distributor sales staff getting to see the next ‘must have’ kitchen and front of house concepts, suppliers getting to show their latest ideas in a focused environment.
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Wood: what a comeback. Back in the ‘90s it was in danger of disappearing altogether, partly due to the attitudes of EHOs. These days it’s getting ever bigger, and the Forum saw a host of products, concepts and ideas on show. “It is really, really current,” said Peter Wakeling of SJH Row & Sons, while Nick Buttle of TG Woodware described the trend as “an explosion.”
Innovation: suppliers had gone to town with new ideas and the 2014 Forum underlined this trend with ‘feature tables’ to spotlight the most exciting products. “There are more innovations than ever,” said Rob Barnes of Brakes, who has been coming to the event for seven years. However, it’s not innovation for innovation’s sake: “I’m looking for what’s new,” said Richard Matthews of Bunzl Lockhart, “because that’s what my customers ask for. They say ‘show me something different.’ The Forum gives me the answers.”
Buffet display: a huge number of new ideas and concepts were on show, designed to enhance front of house foodservice, using both contemporary and traditional materials, from ceramics to melamine to metal to wood, and in a rainbow of colours.
Rustic grunge: front of house fashions for the pastoral and the industrial look set to continue, as exemplified by products such as rustic wooden boards, aluminium baking trays as burger platters and ceramic mugs to serve chips.
Cooperation: the whole event was marked by an ambience of working together, underling the fact that this year’s event was run in association with CEDA, the Catering Equipment Distributors Association. The importance that suppliers attach to their relationship with distributors was highlighted by the investment they have made in support through, for example, training programmes, publications and sales guides. There’s a growing understanding of each other’s problems and issues, too. “Distributors don’t want to hold product in stock, that’s our job,” says David Lee of Neville UK. “That’s why many of us moved next day ordering from early to late pm a while ago.”
LET Forum New Product Review
Buffing up the Buffet
Amongst Neville UK’s many new launches at the Forum was the Genware Buffet Display, with thirty lines including melamine platters and bowls, steel risers and wooden blocks. “New product development is a key driver in our relationship with distributors,” said David Lee.
Rosseto, from Gilberts, is a range of buffet display items that link together to create a multi-level presentation. Versatile, portable and adaptable, their clever slot design accepts shelves and a wide variety of units is available.
Wood: material of the moment
SJH Row & Sons make more bespoke products than standard these days, such as the guitar-shaped wooden tray for the Eat to the Beat restaurant chain. Their new ‘rustic’-looking wood, American Ash, is very on-trend.
T&G Woodware showed a variety of wooden boards and display products, made from a variety of different woods. New at the forum were pizza, cutting and sharing boards made from Acacia wood, which has a very attractive grain.
Presentation and tableware
Mini presentation was the name of the game on the Contacto stand, with products as small as a 5cm sauté pan, ideal for serving individual sauces. The copper range has a copper outer and stainless steel inner pressed together to create an attractive, practical pan.
DRH is most famous for the Camembert Baker, which some enterprising restaurateurs now sell to customers who have eaten their camembert from it! The company launched a range of soup mugs, attractively designed, with a wood platter to hold a sandwich or roll alongside the mug.
G.E.T. Melamine showed a range of easy-to-hold mugs and beakers for the healthcare sector.
Elia’s WBR tray takes the concept of ‘non-slip’ to a new level. Made of 18/10 stainless steel, it has ultra-non-slip silicon mats on the top and bottom, so crockery won’t slide off the tray and the tray won’t slide off waiters’ hands. It is available in 310mm or 450mm diameter.
Food Prep: the safety issue
The Edlund Arc, from Metcalfe, is a manual veg prep machine that avoids the bruising associated with electric models. The innovative fulcrum design makes it easy and safe to operate, so it saves effort as well as protecting the quality and longevity of the food being processed.
Testo says that monitoring and measuring equipment is in increasing demand, driven by legislation and food scares. The new Saveris temperature monitoring system has wireless probes that stream data back to a central unit to help with HACCP.
New products from Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM) included San Jamar’s ice cube scoop, with a guard to prevent ice from being contaminated by hands. Hamilton Beach has launched simplified versions of two of its most popular blenders, significantly reducing the list prices.
Cooking and cookware: best in show
Voted the product of the show by delegates, the new aluminium cookware range from I Grunwerg looks just like cast iron, but won’t chip, is very light and about one fifth the price. Meanwhile the company’s innovative vacuum kettle keeps water hot, to within 3°C, for up to four hours, saving energy as there’s no need to re-boil.
Dried food is increasingly popular. The Excalibur Dehydrator from Mitchell & Cooper keeps dried food ‘live’ by gently drying over a long period on stainless steel mesh trays. The nine trays are dishwash-safe and the stainless steel construction means the unit is robust and hygienic.
Food containers: carriers and carry-outs
The latest Kanga insulated food transport boxes from Catering Equipment Ltd are made using a thicker, denser material and come in a choice of colours, allowing operators to colour code or match their decor. “Colour has made a huge difference to sales,” says Anthony Prestage.
G.E.T. Melamine launched re-usable take-away containers, a big trend in the USA according to the company. They will be targeting university and workplace catering.
This year the annual LET Forum awards were presented by Nick Oryino, chair of CESA, and Steve Goodliff, chair of the CESA Light Equipment and Tableware Group.
The 2014 Sales Professional of the Year is Diane Kennet, national account manager at Bunzl Lockhart Catering Equipment. She says it was a particularly sweet triumph, as her husband was a winner in 2008. She received a bottle of bubbly, a place on the CFSP programme (worth £750) and a cheque for £500.
The annual Distributor Cup, awarded to the company deemed to have been most supportive of the light equipment and tableware industry during the past 12 months, was also awarded to Bunzl Lockhart Catering Equipment. Regional Sales Director Graham Knott was on hand to accept the award and accompanying champagne.
The 2014 New Product Award, voted for by delegates at the end of the Show, was won by I Grunwerg for its aluminium cookware range. Tom Basford accepted the award on behalf of the company.
“The Forum lets us talk to the people who really matter,” Georgina Cox, TG Woodware.
“This is my seventh time, each one gets better and better,” Rob Barnes, Brakes.
“It’s been spot-on. We’ve seen just the right people – business directors, sales people, key account managers, buyers... it’s priceless, you can’t do that kind of presentation to that many people at once by visiting company premises. It’s a really good event. I’m a big fan,” Anthony Petit, I Grunwerg.
“As a first timer I found it really informative. There’s a lot to take in, but I love the 20 minute time slots we get with each exhibitor company– it’s enough to really get a handle on things,” Stephanie Wright, Bunzl Lockhart.
“The Forum, like the overall market, is very positive. Increasingly customers are understanding the benefits of quality and longevity,” Adam Cridland, Elia.
“The new venue was excellent, it was great to have the extra space,” Richard Matthews, Bunzl Lockhart.
“It’s great to see so many new faces. This is a very targeted event, so we know we are meeting the right people,” Stephen Goodliff, Contacto.