Blanket coverage of frozen food conference

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

As industry ‘comebacks’ go, mine certainly did not get off to the most promising start…

After seven months out of the industry spotlight due to my illness, I made it to The Moodie Report’s inaugural Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Conference & Awards on 23-25 January.

It was a close-run thing. I only finished my last dose of chemotherapy the previous Wednesday and I was in apprehensive mood as well as physically shaky as I approached Manchester Airport (the FAB venue) for this inaugural event.

However, as so often has happened in recent months, my wonderful team at The Moodie Report simply took over, virtually cajoling me to take a back-seat role.

Deputy Publisher Dermot Davitt (below right with HMSHost’s superbly erudite CEO Elie Maalouf) again did a magnificent job of moderating most of the proceedings, helping to drive a highly successful first-up event.

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However, not everything went smoothly at the beginning…

The Manchester Airport Conference Concorde Centre is a magnificent spectacle, dominated as it is by the presence of the mighty British Airways Concorde (below). To attend a conference and a gala dinner under the fuselage of such a wonderful construction is a very special treat indeed.

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But the centre is a former hangar, and January is a very cold month in Manchester…

So… when the heating in the Centre broke down shortly after my opening speech, we had a problem.

In fact I was the first to notice it. One of the side effects of chemotherapy is that one feels cold all the time and that feeling suddenly began to become overwhelming during the course of the morning. Was I having a relapse? Why were my knees knocking?

And then came the word. The heating had broken down and was blowing out cold air rather than hot. The delegates were freezing! And this was January in the north of England. Oh dear… a conference organiser’s nightmare.

In such circumstances one has no option but to front up and at least try to communicate candidly and rest assure one’s audience that you are doing all you can. My return to public speaking was turning out to be somewhat different than I had planned.

The fine team at the Concorde Conference Centre did their best.  The problem turned out to be a busted generator, rather than heating system, and all hands were called on deck to fix the problem while also ordering in extra temporary heaters.

That left the late morning session to get through though, while the engineers worked on the problem. Given the serious risk that delegates would turn into icicles, there was only one available solution – airline blankets (as worn stylishly by two delegates below).

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Yes it’s true. For the first and perhaps only time at an industry conference, delegates were wrapped in comforting airline blankets while listening to some excellent presentations.

Food & beverage executives are a hardy lot. No-one grizzled once they knew the problem was being addressed, and no-one left. And by the afternoon the problem was solved, paving the way for a marvellous, magnificently atmospheric, SSP-sponsored Gala Dinner that night when the first-ever FAB Awards were given out.

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I’m pictured below with my fellow FAB judges, David King and Patricia Ryan at the Gala Dinner. I look relaxed enough. But a few hours earlier, I was chilled out in a very different fashion. Never will The Moodie Report promise blanket coverage of an industry event again.

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