5 TAKEAWAYS | State of the Nation

Jun 23, 2021

Joining this session was Wendy Hargreaves from Bread + Butter Media, Rod Fowler from Food Industry Foresight, Vince Crawley - CEO of Foodservice Suppliers Association Australia, and Wes Lambert - CEO of Restaurant & Catering Industry Association.

Hear what was discussed and more in our Hospitality Unites 2021 panel discussion. If you missed the session or would like a recap, check out our 5 takeaways below!

1. What’s influencing the foodservice industry today – an update from Rod Fowler from Food Industry Foresight

In the wake of the global pandemic in 2020 and the many lockdowns that followed, seemingly most weren’t interested in knowing the research behind foodservice, Rod tells us that most already knew it was lousy. Luckily, Food Industry Foresight was able to use job keeper and continue researching to unravel what was happening in the food industry.

Despite Australia being a country that typically enjoys eating out, figures last year were bizarre, to say the least. Although Rod has hope that people now have money to spend and will do so in the next 12 months, the food industry will continue to be presented with numerous challenges.

“Even if we do open the borders, it’ll be a while before everyone feels comfortable again. I’m afraid it’s going to be a long-haul”. Rod comments on the closure of international borders resulting in a lack of staff and he continueds by saying “we’ve lost a big source of casual staff for our sector, that won’t change for a while. This is an issue we need to work with and solve another way”.

Rod concludes with some optimism, stating that “65 billion dollars wasn’t spent on traveling last year. There’s a lot of unspent money. Hopefully, it can be used for domestic tourism and celebrating eating out.


2. What does the current market structure look like?

“The pandemic has forced us to do things quicker and faster. Some companies have done things for the first time that they’ve never done before”. Rod then welcomes us to take a look at the current market structure and acknowledges that many businesses have successfully pivoted over the last 12 months.

“There is an opportunity there to grab this momentum.” – Rod speaks a lot about jumping on the current momentum and thinking outside of the box. “It’s about working smarter and using more innovation’ Rod tells us, as he admires businesses that have changed their game.

Rod concludes by mentioning the latest major change in the industry, Woolworths move into the foodservice market, which Rod believes could pose both a threat and opportunity for others in the industry. “There are some interesting opportunities for foodservice operations to rethink their model”.


3. Who is FSAA (The Foodservice Suppliers Association Australia), and what is their take on the current landscape?

Vince Crawley from FSAA first introduces listeners to FSAA as the premier national body representing foodservice in the country. “We have industry breakfasts and lunches, across the country, and we invite key people who can talk with some authority on matters to do with the industry.

At the core, they provide industry insights, some of which Vince revealed during this session. Stating there was a 16% drop in business for most in 2020, some even up to 30%, and noting that the commercial market segment was the hardest hit.

Sadly Vince agrees with Rod that international travel isn’t in the near future. “They don’t believe international travel will reach pre covid levels until 2025, it’s going to be quite some time”. However, Vince explains that domestic tourism is far more prevalent, and on top of this, they have seen so many industries pivot. “It’s clear that covid has made companies rethink the way they do things, and in 2021 there’s a stronger sense of optimism”.

“Digital is no longer a consideration but a must. Technology is a must”. Vince stresses that those wanting to stay in business must be up with the latest and best technology.

It’s not all doom and gloom, Vince concludes by sharing the positive outcomes of the pandemic. “There is an increased awareness of hygiene and food safety standards. A stronger focus on business costs. A focus on innovation. And a heightened corporate responsibility to their employees and staff”.


4. A snapshot of the industry from a restaurant/cafe point of view, shared by Wes Lambert

Wes, The powerhouse behind The Restaurant & Catering Industry Association, shares some more insights into the industry. Wes admits that despite “40% revenue being back into businesses through takeaway”, most in hospitality are feeling burnt out by the constant snap lockdowns.

“We have had a snap lockdown, on average, every two weeks. We may have fewer cases compared to the UK, we are blessed to just have a few cases, but the main issue is that we haven’t learned how to live with COVID”. Wes stresses that he and his team are continuing to fight for the hospitality industry. “We will continue to lobby that borders don’t close and the restrictions are as least as possible”.

On a positive note, Wes shares that as of November 1st, 2021, wages in hospitality will go up. Wes is adamant that businesses should raise their prices and urges all businesses to do so immediately. “Don’t be afraid to do it, it’s certainly the time to do it”, he reassures listeners.

Agreeing with Rod and Vince that staffing remains a major problem for the hospitality industry, Wes reveals that it’s estimated they are down 600,000 people.


5. So what do we do about staffing? If and when borders do open again, will this impact Aussies in hospitality jobs again?

Rod put’s it quite simply – “No, there are so many job opportunities in the space. We need migration coming in to grow the economy”.

Wes goes on to explain the many reasons why hospitality isn’t the desired industry for Millenials but stresses that hospitality can be an incredible career. “Hospitality is a career, moving through positions can be very fulfilling”.

They all can agree that staffing is affecting the industry, but also note there are many things businesses can do to keep their businesses alive. “It’s important to ensure you’re keeping track of food and beverage costs”. Rod says they need to “look at how we can work together better to help businesses have better systems”.


  • Wendy Hargreaves, Founder – Bread & Butter Media
  • Wes Lambert, CEO – Restaurant & Catering Association
  • Vince Crawley, CEO – Foodservice Suppliers Association Australia
  • Rod Fowler, Director – Food Industry Foresight

A big thank you to our speakers for being a part of the inaugural HU event. If you would like to hear more insights, you can still register to catch up on the sessions you missed via our On Demand – find more info here.

  • Get articles delivered to your inbox
  • Subscribe
Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now