New FEA chair delivers ambitious agenda

Steve Hobbs has become the new chair of the Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA) and has set an ambitious agenda as the Association looks to meet the twin challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit.

Hobbs, who is director of Grande Cuisine, has spent the last two years as vice chair and takes over the chair’s role from John Whitehouse, managing director of First Choice Group.

Hobbs said, “FEA has done important work over the past few months in helping both members and the foodservice industry as a whole deal with the ramifications of the pandemic.

'We need to push on with that work to help our sector survive and recover in the coming months. On Brexit, we have to keep up the pressure on government in areas such as staying aligned to EU standards.”

However, Hobbs is keen to develop and strengthen FEA’s influence and involvement in other areas, too. He said, “FEA has pushed the sustainability programme for many years, but I want to see us become even greener. I’m looking to promote more initiatives like Trees for Cities with our members.”

The pandemic has led to many more people becoming familiar with digital technologies and Hobbs believes FEA will grasp the opportunity to develop its activities online. “We are in the process of planning a series of virtual events that will offer a forum where operators can meet suppliers to find out about the latest advances and advice in areas such as FOG (Fats Oil and Grease) and connectivity. “

Indeed, FEA’s role in training and education will remain a focus, with the continuing development and expansion of the CFSP (Certified Food Service Professional) programme. Hobbs is a big supporter of initiatives such as the Principles of Foodservice scheme, which offers newcomers to foodservice a grounding in the basics they need to know.

He said, “It’s vital that we encourage and invest in the next generation of people coming into our industry,” he says. Hobbs expects a key change in emphasis will be FEA’s development of more online versions of these training programmes.

Closer to home, Hobbs is advocating the broadening of the base of the FEA council membership. “I’ll be delighted if, under my two years as chair, we achieve a better mix of gender, more BAME presence, and are able to encourage more younger members to step up to the plate,” he says.

Simon Lohse, managing director of Rational UK, takes over Steve Hobbs’ previous role as vice chair of FEA.