EN takes a trip to Hotelympia to check out the show and learn more about its rebrand to Hotel, Restaurant & Catering.
“We looked very carefully at what had come before. It’s been going for 83 years, you’ve got to be respectful of something like that,” Ross Carter, portfolio director at Fresh Montgomery, tells EN.
We’re chatting with Carter at the last ever Hotelympia, as the biennial show prepares for a name change to Hotel, Restaurant & Catering (HRC), and a reduction from four days to three, in 2020.
And the rebrand isn’t the only change afoot at the event. For 2018, Hotelympia has been split into four distinct shows: The Professional Kitchen Show, The Foodservice Show, the Hospitality Tech Show and the Interiors & Tableware Show.
“From the next exhibition that will be far clearer through kind of demarcation of space,” says Carter. “We’re not going to close any of the walls, but we’re probably going to drop in fabrics or devices to show the transition between shows.
“We have four compelling offers here and each one of the shows has its own unique buying groups. Some of them cross over and some don’t, so you’ve got to be really, really clear what the offer is. With the new name we take those four shows with us. So that will be the umbrella brands and the four shows are the four shows under the umbrella brand.”
As with all show rebrands, the team have been in close contact with their exhibitors for input and feedback.
“We had to be careful,” recalls Carter. “You can’t go out to the entire market and say, ‘do you think we should adopt this new name?’ because you don’t want to take away the surprise element and the benefits commercially can be damaged. So we went out to key clients and made sure that they felt it was the right move. It’s almost without exception been very well received.”
The show has also launched a £150,000 hosted buyer programme, in an attempt to put serious business front and centre at the show.
“I think it’s expected these days,” Carter says, referring to a hosted buyer scheme. “People are so time poor that they benefit from a degree of curation of their visit.
“If you can help them to pinpoint who the key clients are that they should be speaking to and then arrange for them to have that meeting, I think oftentimes they can be quite thankful for that. Going through a list of 500 businesses to bleed out precisely what is relevant to them can be quite an arduous process.
“The quality of service that we provide as an industry – the exhibition industry – to our exhibitors and to our visitors needs to be substantially improved.”
The hosted buyer programme represents a significant investment from the family-owned organiser and, alongside the expenses that come hand in hand with hosting, Fresh Montgomery has also invested in a new online visitor portal – created by tech company LiveBuzz – to manage the entire hosted buyer scheme.
One change that Carter and his colleagues haven’t made to the show is any alteration to the biennial format.
“It’s been mooted, but I just can’t see it,” he says. “The investment that some of the guys make, particularly in kitchen equipment, is substantial. So to ask them to make that kind of investment on an annual basis might be very difficult for them to achieve.”
EN asks Carter to talk a bit more about the decision to create four shows under the Hotelympia – and now HRC – brand.
“It was quite late in the campaign that we decided to do this,” he admits. “Until seven or eight months before the show they had slightly quirkier names. They were being introduced for the first time this year, and the feeling was that we needed show names where my sales colleagues could pick up the phone and say ‘I’m ringing from the Foodservice Show at Hotelympia’, and then the business on the other end of that phone line would know immediately that there’s relevance in the offer.
“We picked names that we felt would very clearly define what the offer was, and we then went out to probably 30 or 40 clients who were both in the show and who were thinking about it, put it past them, and without exception there was a great deal of support for the move.
“Again, it’s difficult to go out to the entire market with that question, because from a strategy point of view you need to hold something back. But we made sure that we consulted with all the key players, both visitors and exhibitors, before we decided to make a change.”
With the rebrand, reduction in days and introduction of four distinct shows and a hosted buyer programme, it’s clear that Fresh Montgomery has undergone a significant rethink of Hotelympia.
But, asks EN, is that all the change out of the way?
“I think so, for a few years!” laughs Carter. “I mean it’s a huge investment that’s going into the show and we are confident. We’ll need to get it right, and that’s not something that we’re going to do simply by making decisions on our own.
“It’s two years until the next show, we already are having lots of conversations with key associations, key exhibitors, and in the next two months we’re going to straight back out to talk to those associations about how we select these buyers, who they should be, what the offer should be, how do we make it as compelling as possible.
“We are utterly invested in getting it right for our market.”