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What are the key challenges facing HoReCa in 2023?

Last week I chaired 25 sessions over 5 days at the HoReCa Academy, part of Ambiente, one of the largest consumer goods trade fairs in the world. Attracting nearly 140,000 visitors from all around the world, the Messe Frankfurt area was buzzing after a two-year physical break.

The HoReCa Academy, surrounded by tableware manufacturers for our industry, took place for the second time after its inaugural launch in 2020. Reflecting on the content, the discourse over the pandemic break has radically shifted from merely mentioning sustainability as trend to really digging deeper to the circular economy and what that really means for our sector.

The title of this article alludes to the research carried out by Sinae Kim from South Korea – she is currently developing a range of stunning colour palettes for tableware that strongly challenge our concept of urine that contains so many valuable components. This example was part of many more interesting ones in the most eye-opening session for me - Circular Materials for Future Dining by Hon. Prof. Dr. Sascha Peters, Founder and Owner of the material and technology agency HAUTE INNOVATION in Berlin. How waste can be turned into such innovative glazes and products for HoReCa was just astounding.

This session was further complemented by Jan Patzer, Co-Founder CEO of Crafting Future, with his insights on how to marry sustainability and convenience in the take-away sector. His own company has had major success in Germany by becoming the supplier of the largest and most established reusable deposit system in the country.

Hanni Rützler of Futurefoodstudio presented her incredibly complex and fascinating Food Trend Map highlighting things like precision fermentation and the beginnings of sustainable retail. Her use of the adaptive loop framework for the social system was inspired.

Alluding back to his Nordic roots, Jesper Efferbach of Jeff&Co Group was a passionate advocate for the suppliers and manufacturers he works with on various projects in Denmark. The world’s first circular brewery, BRØL, turns surplus bread, fruit porridge and fruit collected from hotels and restaurants into craft beer. “Waste is your free resource, you just pay for the manhours,” echoed Efferbach.

The wider theme of green was also explored by David Tarsh of The Energy & Environment Alliance (EEA), who provided some really compelling evidence of governments’ greenwashing agenda and expertly demonstrated what are the valid arguments for hotel owners and investors to pursue a green strategy. Access to green finance, complying with upcoming regulation and avoiding assets being “stranded” and avoiding potentially exploitative government greenwash were the top three.

It was great to see both Pierre Nierhaus and Valda Goodfellow return to the Ambiente stage. Nierhaus’ hospitality trends talk was yet again full of incredible examples from around the world and Goodfellow’s take on what the changing travel landscape means for tableware manufacturers was as well spot on. “Respect the culture and cuisine, do not just follow the trend” and “there is a huge opportunity to create tableware for wellness, having a fancy glass jar and a green plate are no longer cutting it” where the two main resonating takeaways.

Jan-Peter Wulf of Nomyblog tackled the talent crisis in hospitality with some incredible examples from operators in Germany. “Include a page on your website saying what it is exactly that you offer your staff, what are the benefits and what is the pay – be transparent. It costs nothing but builds trust and loyalty,” explained Wulf. The Nordsee Kollektiv example was incredible – in a fairly secluded coastal location three hoteliers and restaurateurs pooled their resources to offer a cool combination of life, job & community. Look them up!

One of the most memorably quotes of the five days came from the second to last presenter, James Ardinast at IMA Clique. “We create collective joy – community has to be lived”. I will take this as a motto for the rest of 2023 for our industry.

I hope that the HoReCa Academy returns next year with an equally compelling line-up of thought leaders and industry specialists. “Happiness is the virus we want,” as very accurately said by Dimitris 'Dimi' Leivadas, Founder & CEO of Delta Lambda Hospitality.


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