One of Scotland’s leading events caterers – Saltire Hospitality – is celebrating its 20th year in business.

As official catering partner for The E Awards on June 4, the company, which has embraced provenance and sustainability as part of its core offer, is looking forward to a bright future.

We caught up with the firm, based at Edinburgh’s Loanhead, to discuss how catering has evolved in the last two decades to keep up with conscientious and increasingly nutritionally aware consumers.

But first, congratulations, you must be delighted to reach this milestone?

David Peters, Managing Director, Saltire Hospitality

We are humbled and honoured to reach this huge milestone. Over 20 years ago, I started a journey that was full of challenges and not always easy, but at the same time this journey gave us a great deal of opportunity and satisfaction on a professional and personal level to build relationships and work with some outstanding clients. We believe 20 years in business really is recognition of our hard work and commitment to keeping our customers happy and with any company in the hospitality industry that’s all you can really ask for.

Tell us a little bit about how you got here?

David: It is a well- rehearsed saying that staff are the largest cost factor in the hospitality industry. 

While staff do represent a major cost they are also our biggest asset and recognising and supporting this is the key to our success.     

I do want to highlight through our performance we are in a position to continue to invest in our internal customers (our staff) and infrastructure of our businesses which in turn can support going forward in providing good food and the rest that goes with it!! 

I am very honoured and privileged to have such a strong committed team working with me within the Saltire family, not least my daughter Rebecca, and son Robbie along with my wife Vanessa playing key roles in the company’s success and development.

And what does the future hold?

David: This coming year has seen us continue to further evolve.

  • We celebrate 3 years in our new Central Production Unit and we welcome our sister company, Saltire Patisserie, as our new next-door neighbours in a purpose built bespoke 7,000 sq. ft facility.
  • Our retail café division has continued to expand with the opening of the new 95 seater café at the Edinburgh Technopole called ‘The Hub Café’, we continue to develop our environmentally friendly ethos in our cafés and with the majority of foods either produced on site or provided by local businesses we continue to reduce our carbon footprint.
  • We are committed to continuing to develop and strengthen our strong working relationship with our clients. I personally have been involved in over 30 years of hospitality management at some of the most prestigious venues in Edinburgh. I am honoured and privileged to have continued to provide hospitality over this time and been involved in new exciting ventures at our venues.

Bran Jankovic, Culinary Director, Saltire Hospitality

I think the decision and drive to became more sustainable and a self-sufficient hospitality provider sparked the idea to open and run our own bakery and patisserie back in 2006. Seeing this side of our operation grow and establish itself within the baking industry as a firm favorite not only by our clients but also favorite with a wide range of other local catering and hospitality operators, makes us extremely proud.

Bran also adds: ‘Being able to offer bespoke, flavoursome products to our clients is a massive advantage.  Being bespoke and unique is what sets us apart and if we can do this with minimum impact on the environment then even better. For example, we don’t purchase anything from large mass produced suppliers that transport their stock up and down the country or from overseas as this ensures our carbon footprint will be considerably smaller in comparison to other catering suppliers.

He said: ‘Saltire Hospitality moved to its current premises at Loanhead two years ago. We are delighted to say that Saltire Patisserie, which had remained at our old site in Ingliston, will move to be alongside us with expanded bakery capacity later this year, further reducing our carbon footprint as we link up deliveries between the two businesses.

Both David and Bran share their experience of memorable events which have proved to be catering career highlights.

David: One of our standout successes was when we won the catering rights for Scone Game Fair in 2014. 

This annual event epitomises the diversity of Saltire Hospitality’s overall catering offer, covering:

  • Corporate hospitality 
  • Retail hospitality 
  • Our Lunch to You delivery service
  • Pop-up themed bars and food offers 

While we had researched the show we were unaware of the prospective revenue from each area and built in contingencies which allowed us to reach break-even and provide a return for GWCT (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust). Planning is crucial as we are working from a blank canvas (a green field as a site) to create a variety of hospitality areas. In 2014, our first Game Fair started 5 days after our largest 4 day calendar event, The Royal Highland Show, and our logistics delivery was key to a successful event.

Pre-show planning includes everything from developing the infrastructure in marquees and utility provision as there are no services on site. Our logistics team despatch all manner of catering supplies four our events including buggies, drink and equipment containers, artic size refrigeration units and not least a beer lorry located on-site, through to arranging live music and staff accommodation. 

In catering in greenfield sites there is always a need to adapt to conditions. In 2018 the heatwave was creating many thirsty traders and visitors. In order to ensure we maintained our draught beer facility in the hot weather conditions, we created an ice pool out of a paddling pool to keep the kegs cool and the beer chilling. Lola, our company and show mascot, made use of this post show to chill out, as you can see!

Kirsten Mackay, Sales and Business Development Manager, adds: “The Royal Highland Show is an event of significant scale. It has grown over the years with the numbers of those attending increasing year-on-year.  In 2019, more than 200,000 people attended. In our debut year as the executive caterer for the show, approximately 145,000 guests attended. Our involvement has therefore evolved over the years. We have retained this contract for 20 years now and 2020 will be our 19th show. RHASS (Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland) is delighted with the service we are providing and the long relationship demonstrates they have a significant amount of confidence in us as a catering supplier.  

Bran: When it comes to an event itself there has been many over the last twenty years that we have loved being involved in. Most recently we catered for the biggest Burns supper for a Guinness World Record held at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange where we are the exclusive catering partner.

How have food trends evolved in 20 years? Veganism and gluten-free were not all that common as options in 2000.

Bran: Using local, seasonal and fresh produce whenever possible was always part of our food ethos and this has never changed. But how we prepare, cook and present these ingredients has changed dramatically over the last twenty years. The fusion of different cuisines, styles and flavours with quality seasonal local ingredients has brought more variety and exciting food from across Europe and the rest of the world. Most recently, over the past few years we have seen a shift away from the stereotypical approach to plant-based eating. Thanks to the influences from overseas and the accessible food from outwith the British Isles we are able to create menus that those with dietary requirements can not only eat but truly enjoy. These special dietary requirements are not so special these days, they are considered the norm.

David: Food crazes and trends come and go from the cupcake craze and the end of super-sizing to phenomenal growth in organic produce and sustainability, together with successful initiatives like ‘get your grains’ which will develop and be of continued interest. New trends such as low sugar chocolate, communal dining halls, street food and the continued rise of plant-based food, local and sustainable, digestive wellness among others will all continue to evolve and shape the food industry.

The launch of COP 26 – a global gathering of world leaders in Glasgow later this year – begins a Year of Climate Action. As a Scottish events caterer, what are you doing to minimise your environmental impact and promote the adoption of sustainable consumption habits?

David: We fitted solar panels at our base in Saltire House last year and our new bakery will also have that technology as we strive to reduce the company’s carbon foot print. 

We have embraced initiatives such as the circular economy and we have encouraged those principles by recycling all our glass bottles to sand; the sand has a multiple of uses including soil drainage, irrigation and use in the building industry. For details see here.

Bran: We recognise the significant impacts that catering operations can have on the environment.  

Within the company we have adopted a number of sustainable practices such as:

  • The promotion of healthy and sustainable practices in all aspects of our food sourcing, production, transport and service;
  • Continual improvement by periodically reviewing sustainability targets, measuring performance against them, and reporting findings to the company’s green team;
  • Make procurement decisions that take into account social, ethical and environmental factors whilst achieving best value for money, by selecting and engaging with suppliers – both directly and via our purchasing partners;
  • Provide meat, poultry, dairy and free range Lion Brand eggs from sources using practices that conform to high environmental, social and animal welfare standards;
  • Use fish from sustainable stocks, promoting fish recommended by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS);
  • Use non-Genetically Modified food products;
  • Provide locally sourced and seasonal fruit and vegetables wherever possible;
  • Promote Fairtrade products and increase the provision of Fairtrade goods where possible;
  • Minimise energy and water consumption through efficient administration, equipment selection, usage and disposal, food storage, preparation, cooking and transport.
What is the future of events catering? What direction do you think the industry is headed in next?

Bran: A personalised and bespoke approach to each event and client is something that we are very much on board with. Attendees are screaming out for personalisation at every stage of the event experience, and for us this includes food with an increasingly important and continued focus on sustainability. This focus has been a growing trend for a number of years now and all within our industry are collectively responsible for the impact our events have on the earth. As a catering company we are always thinking about what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and minimise environmental impacts through the banning of single-use plastics to offering more plant-based catering.

David: The new Business Visits & Events Partnership (BVEP) has confirmed that the events industry in the UK is worth £39.1bn.

From the report it notes an increase of £3bn from 2010, and business conference and events account for almost 2/3 of the total turnover.

The 2020 Event Trends Report confirms that only:
• 4% of companies will hold fewer events in 2020 than in previous years;
• 69% are taking steps to improve their environmental sustainability positon;
• And 55% are taking steps to improve diversity at events.

The report exemplifies both customer and events positioning on these issues and pushing to the forefront of event development.

Current statistics echo the future with continued growth of the events industry, embracing the rapid technological growth both available and demanded by empowerment of the individual through such trends as festivalisation.

It is difficult to predict the future with many wild card events even currently in play such as the coronavirus and the continued unknown effect of Brexit and impact on food costs. Future worldwide events will have an impact on the development of the hospitality industry within the UK and of course Scotland.

Consumer spend is expected to continue to grow for event experiences as opposed to more traditional spend. The “human factor” is expected to develop a leading role in events with the empowerment of the individual, this can already be seen by the developments of blogs and social media influencers.

Thank you, David and Bran, for what has been a very comprehensive review of the business’s achievements over the last 20 years. We wish you every success for the years ahead and look forward to enjoying your catering at The E Awards in June.

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