HEAD TO HEAD WITH KEITH WARREN, DIRECTOR OF CESA
The Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA) is the authoritative voice of the catering equipment industry, representing over 190 companies who supply, service and maintain all types of commercial catering equipment - from utensils to full kitchen schemes.
Talk us through a typical day as Director at Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA)?
The sheer variety of the work is the most exciting and rewarding part of the role. Meetings are the lifeblood of a Trade Association director’s life, which may sound boring to some but the range of subjects that we cover, combined with the people we meet is fantastic. Whether it is a meeting with members, covering operational and strategic issues that affect their business lives, or one with policy makers in the UK and Europe, or liaising with colleagues internationally – there’s never a dull moment.
Supporting companies that exhibit with us at international and UK exhibitions is another key strand of our work. Meanwhile the CESA calendar of events, training and education programmes keeps us on our toes – especially the CFSP program and the Principles of Foodservice training scheme for new starters to the industry. Often days involve early starts and late finishes to meet a busy schedule and to follow up on the work created in all those meetings!
The theme of the 2018 CESA conference was ‘Evolving in a disruptive environment’, what do you think has been the most ‘disruptive’ innovation to emerge in the catering industry in the past five years?
There are many facets to this question. Undoubtedly sustainability is at the forefront of product development. Then there’s the space saving issue – operators are typically looking for 20% more output from 20% less space. That’s led to some amazing innovations from manufacturers. The digital agenda has developed rapidly – for example, CESA has overseen the development of BIM and we are working on the standardisation of equipment connectivity. It’s all helping the supply chain to become a value chain.
Then there’s Brexit. It’s an ongoing issue that has a major effect on product manufacturers – not an innovation in the eyes of many, but certainly disruptive!
How do you see CESA evolving to best support its members within the ever-changing industry environment?
We have restructured over the past year and introduced twelve committees whose prime task is to maintain contact with and help our nearly 200 members. Each committee covers a specific area, such as warewashing, refrigeration and so on. This, combined with transparent reporting into the CESA Council and the CESA Board, means that CESA is structurally well resourced to address the needs of the equipment industry – including manufacturers, distributors, resellers, designers or service organisations. We are continuing to develop our education services, which are raising professionalism by helping businesses have better trained and resourced staff.
You received the Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Catering Equipment Industry at the 2018 CESA conference (congratulations!), what is your proudest career achievement?
Receiving this award, along with many wonderful messages of support from the industry, has been amazing and somewhat overwhelming. My proudest achievements? Certainly building CESA from fewer than 100 to nearly 200 members, and developing the Association structure, services and events to ensure they are relevant and bring real benefits to the industry. I’m very proud of our team here at CESA – it’s set up to deliver on members’ needs and to make sure we are futureproofed to address the future needs of the industry.
And finally, you have been voted as one of the top 20 most influential people in catering (congratulations again!); who do you see as having the biggest influence on your career and driving your passion for the industry?
I am fortunate that the organisation puts me in daily touch with the best business leaders in our industry. Many have been very generous with their support for CESA and for me personally. It is a joint effort and it means that I am able to use the attributes of others in the work I do. The CESA chairmen over my time have been very significant in acting as mentors and supporting my role, and I am very grateful to them all for that.