"Food fuels the business engine of all successful exhibitions; not just the foodie ones." javascript:__doPostBack('ctl00$body$save','')

Chef Andrew Walker shares his thoughts on food and exhibitions.

I remember holding my Dad’s hand and walking into the Great Hall at Olympia as if it were yesterday. How come so many people knew him other than me? After all, he was only a regional catering manager. For that day it was like being with the Prime Minister. I was only seven and I have been going to exhibitions, and always Hotel Olympia, ever since.

The exhibitions I attend as a chef provide the biggest belly busting banquets ever seen. Days of solid grazing and gorging at the International Food Exhibition, being dazzled by 1,000 dishwashers at Hotel Olympia, or watching the raw food and kale juicing revolution, street food pop ups and other trends take place before my very eyes.

For me, food fuels the business engine of all successful exhibitions; not just the foodie ones. The Food provides everyone from organisers, exhibitors and delegates, the chance to take a “Mini break”. I always look forward to what I might find with a curious sense of nervous anticipation. I believe food provides lubrication to conversations, a break from the show with its mildly abrasive painted smiles, and a rest bite from the intensity where competitors cross swords across carpeted aisles.

So, what makes a good exhibition into a great exhibition? As someone who works in the people business, I look out across an exhibition floor and see an array of clubs of people looking for different food experiences. The healthy ones looking for chia seeded protein snacks; the power dressers looking for a place to have a glass of prosecco and share business gossip; the families looking for something that fussy, little Johnny will pick at and those who want to be wined and dined by the finest of hospitality helping balance the tightrope of friendship and business. Napoleon once said, “ Une armée marche sur son ventre” (an army marches on its stomach). Well so does a delegate!

For me, a great exhibition space needs to be full of special clubs that understand the diversity of the audience they are welcoming. Offering hospitality and environments where people can feel calm, comfortable and well-looked after; where conversation comes to life, friendships are made and great deals are struck. The delegates’ stalls form the great market place. The food is all about aiding and supporting these great networking opportunities. Detail is everything whether inside or outside of the exhibition areas. Every space needs to support the creation of business. Food and service are paramount in creating opportunities for connections to be made and better business to be done.

My friends at Lime Venue Portfolio understand the importance of club culture in the exhibition world. Working closely with caterers and venues, they spend time, energy and expertise creating the most amazing array of clubs inside or outside the halls -  restaurants, bars, snack spots or cafes. Exhibitions always need to be more than just the gathering of corporate clans. Someone could be having their first big day out with their dad. Great exhibition is about creating clubs. A big club or a little club but it is never just a cardboard box.

Happy cooking!

Chef Andrew

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