28th November 2019

Food That Works 2019 Summit Highlights

Food That Works Summit 2019

That’s a wrap on the 2019 Food That Works Summit, sponsored by Pallas Foods. Ireland’s premier workplace catering event has drawn to a close and what a day it was!

Over 500 professionals made their way through the doors of Dublin’s Aviva Stadium to witness a medley of inspirational speakers and artisan exhibitors.  

There were tears as inspirational speaker Gerry Hussey shone a light on taking back control of our mental and physical wellness. Then, fits of laughter as Dynamic duo Dave and Stephen Flynn, owners of plant-based powerhouse ‘The Happy Pear company’ unleashed their infectious energy into the room. 

Experts in sustainability, health & wellness, technology and more converged to lead the education on the hot topics driving the foodservice agenda heading into 2020.

Let’s recap on an unforgettable day at the Aviva…

Setting the tone

As the crowd took to their seats, Chris Chidley, Managing Director of Compass Group Ireland, opened the Summit, making it clear that the day was about taking action. 

“Amidst rising industry and economic pressures, it’s not our burden, but our duty to take action on sustainability and health & wellness.”

The challenge was set:

“Don’t simply observe: Be part of the change.”

It was a message that echoed throughout the day. The Summit wasn’t merely about raising awareness of trends and challenges, but equipping each and every attendee with the insight and knowledge to do something about them.

He paid tribute to an engaged, devoted and passionate industry, drawing particular attention to the influence it has on attracting, sustaining and retaining talent in the workplace. 

Chris promised debate, discovery and discussion and that there would be no hiding from the weighty issues. 

Sustainability was up first…

“Pledge, Measure, Reduce, Report”

That was mnemonic of Odile Le Bolloch, Food Waste Prevention Manager at the Environmental Protection Agency to kick-start the war on food waste. 

It’s estimated that 25-30% of food is wasted globally, with around 1 million tons wasted per year in Ireland alone. To bring the issue closer to home, in the commercial sector, that’s 78g per cover (!) 

The answer to combatting the problem was clear: “We need to inform the consumer, and we need to take a pledge!”. It was a reminder that the ownness rests on everyone’s shoulders, and that awareness is the first step.

For more information on taking your pledge: head to http://foodwastecharter.ie

Don’t Demonise Plastics

Yes, you read that correctly. 

Celena Fernandez, Head of Environment for Compass Group UK&I, made no qualms of dispelling some of the common myths misguiding customers and suppliers alike. 

The Plastics Debate had begun. 

“Packaging is out of control, and the big problem is single-use”. 

Attendees were guided through a landscape of plastic, learning the surprising reality behind the hype of biodegradable and compostable plastics:

“People neglect the carbon impact of these types of products. Producing them is causing significant environmental damage. Let’s move the conversation to buying recycled. Look at PETE, wood, paper & card over bioplastics.”

Her message to suppliers? 

“Challenge business as usual. Take ownership.”

Empowering and educating people to make the right decisions was the major takeaway. But the insight didn’t end there…

Bring in the panel!

The conversation continued with the introduction of the day’s crack-shot environmental panel. Celena was joined on-stage by Louise Sullivan, Group Director, World Without Waste, Coca-Cola HBC and Panda Waste representative Liam Dunne, who put plastics firmly in the spotlight. 

No stone was left unturned. Questions were direct and considered:

  • Who’s responsible for reducing the use of harmful plastics?
  • How do you stop it?
  • Where are you witnessing good practice?
  • What will be the conversation in ten years? 

Taxation, changes in legislation and mass-education were all earmarked as drivers for positive change. Deposit and return systems received unanimous backing, with stadia and festivals proving the success of these types of initiatives. 

Just think about it: How much do you really know about the different types of plastics; the good, the bad and the downright indefensible? 

To clients, suppliers and customers; “we need the momentum to continue, and we need people to take responsibility – now.”

The Need For Speed

What do you get when you interview over 2000 people across the UK & Ireland about their eating habits and preferences?  Maureen Gahan, Food Service Specialist at Bord Bia was on-hand to give us the answers.

The atrium crowd was gifted a glimpse into the future, as Maureen traversed the food and beverage landscape, underlining the key trends shaping consumers’ lives over the next three to five years.

The big takeaway was…drumroll…


The report highlighted a sea-change in customer needs: with speedy, casual dining experiences dominating the feedback. This means big things for the food-to-go market, with forecasted compound growth rates of 4.2% over the next three years. 

Technology will play a part in leading the change, with advances in augmented reality helping to inform consumer choices and even automated liquid consumption tracking tech built into bottle lids making their way into the mass-market. 

It was an eye-opening keynote, designed to help those in attendance recognise and capitalise on the evolution of the consumer dining experience. You can find out more about the 2019 Lifestyle Trends report here https://www.bordbiaconsumerlifestyletrends.ie/

Awakening Your Consciousness

As the Summit midway point approached, it was down to Gerry Hussey, performance psychology consultant to the corporate and Olympic elite to keep the energy levels high. 

Gerry rewarded a capacity crowd to his inspirational vision of igniting human potential…

“Hands up who applies what they know about happiness into their everyday lives?”

Not a single limb budged. It was a stark but powerful reminder to remember why you do what you do.

Gerry proceeded to artfully blend thought-provoking anecdotes with scientific evidence, much to the awe of a captivated audience. 

If food for thought was the expectation, it was delivered by the bucket load. It was a touching speech that will undoubtedly stay with those lucky enough to hear it for a long time.

In short: you had to be there.

An intensive, content-packed morning drew to a close, and the doors were thrown open to the downstairs exhibitor hall and keynote auditorium. But not before an exciting announcement was made…

The Happiest Of Pears

In a move reflective of Compass Group Ireland’s intentions to innovate and meet evolving consumer demands, a new concession-based partnership was announced with The Happy Pear!

Wicklow duo Dave & Stephen Flynn have seen their humble fruit and vegetable shop blossom into a business that boasts café’s, best-selling cookbooks, a considerable social media following and no less than 19 awards. Their aim: to create a community built around health and happiness. 

Guests were given an exclusive taste of the new partnership, being treated to a plant-based feast, alongside Compass’s new ‘Food Liberation’ concept, built around minimising food waste one dish at a time by deploying stem-to-tip recipes that use every part of the vegetable.

Caviar to Kombucha 

It was time to head downstairs into the exhibitor village and a chance for Compass Group Ireland’s extensive local supplier network to showcase their passion, produce and services to an eager and engaged audience.  

Over 65 suppliers were in attendance and the diversity was striking: where else will you find mature compressed caviar and 3D food printing opposite a local artisan butcher? 

Those who’d made the error of filling up on lunch had undoubtedly underestimated the volume of samples and tasters on offer! 

The exhibition wasn’t just limited to food either, with recruiters, heavy equipment, beverage and packaging suppliers joining the party. 

One stand deserves a special mention; that of Children’s hospice – LauraLynn – who’s efforts are becoming the focus of Compass’s charitable efforts. A particularly lovely initiative, the brainchild of Head Chef Eoin Murtagh, aims to raise funds through selling freshly prepared festive macarons, cakes and cookies on behalf of the Hospice.

As the exhibition came into full swing, the first of the afternoon’s auditorium keynotes began. First up to the podium, Technology Evangelist, Claire Dillon.

Innovation in our changing world

Amidst the buzz of the exhibition, Claire took to the auditorium stage, quoting Laura Bacall to set the tone of her exploration into technology and innovation:

“Standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world.”

The keynote explored the depths of what she coined “uber trends” – five undeniable trends making waves within the industry before wrapping up with a look to the future: drones, medical food and robotics anyone? 

It was a fascinating snapshot of things to come, even if Flippi, the burger flipping robot isn’t quite speedy enough to join the kitchen brigade anytime soon!

Getting healthy at work 

The late afternoon slots were reserved to pay special attention to one of the most pressing issues in the workplace today: Health & Wellbeing. 

Niamh Quinn, Nutritionist, Compass Group delivered a statistic studded speech spanning three crucial areas, after offering shocking insight into the state of the nation.

In Ireland alone, 62% of people are either overweight or obese, 1 in 4 will experience a mental health difficulty, and most worryingly, heart disease and stroke account for approximately 29% of deaths. Yet, a massive 80% would be preventable through lifestyle changes?

It was a sobering glimpse into why health & wellbeing should be at the top of everyone’s agenda.

Niamh was promptly followed by Jim Kirwan, Employee Well Being & Inactivity expert whose motto carried a simple but effective message:

“You don’t have to be fit and healthy to start, but you do have to start to be fit and healthy.”

Jim, no stranger to an acronym, set attendees the challenge to pursue their very own BHAG’s ( Big Hairy Audacious Goals!) whilst following the six simple steps behind his trademark mnemonic: FITCEO. 

All You Need Is Love!

Dave & Steve Flynn, founders of The Happy Pear, had the honour of delivering the closing keynote. They wasted no time in drawing upon their inspirational journey to enlighten the audience to five top tips to thrive at work. 

The undeniably entertaining duo bounded about the stage, recalling the pivotal moments in their rise to prominence. ‘Engagement’ was the order of the day, and what better way to hammer home the power of community than by having the audience seek out ten hugs from the strangers around them!

It was a refreshing moment that beautifully captured the mood of the day, as attendees leapt out of their chairs without hesitation to share the love!

It was a fitting end to a jam-packed day of thoughtful discussion, networking, dining and discovery. 

Awards & After Party

The final act, before the evening’s festivities commenced, saw Managing Director Chris Chidley personally pay homage to some of the superstars within the Irish business. 

No less than twelve honours were handed out to employees and suppliers, recognising unsung heroes, business champions and rising stars.

As a newly transformed atrium filled with street food pop-ups, yet even more of Compass’s culinary creations were showcased. There was no let-up in the celebrations. Tropical beats came courtesy of Bongo Steve and a live roving band kept spirits high.

Unarguably the biggest highlight; a surprise one man and his guitar set from none other than multi-talented contract Head Chef, Eoin Murtagh, to raise further awareness of the Laura Lynn Children’s Hospice. 

He can tick leading a singalong at the Aviva Stadium off his bucket list. All in a day’s work at Compass Group Ireland. 

On To The Next One

That’s all folks! 

We want to thank all who attended the Food That Works 2019 Summit and give an extra special thank you to those who helped make it a roaring success. 

Remember: Be the first to any updates by following the Compass Group Ireland LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram pages. 

Keep your eyes peeled for photos from the day and exclusive news on next year’s Summit, we can’t wait to see you there!