What’s next in glasses?  The answer is shots.  What’s next in cutlery?  Matte.  Next up for kitchens?  Purees.  How about bars?  Outlandish glassware justifying premium prices for drinks.  And left field, how about a humane way to dispatch crustaceans?  Just some of the ideas that had delegates buzzing at the 2018 CESA LET Forum, held at the Whittlebury Hall Hotel, May 22-23. 

CESA’s Light Equipment and Tableware Forum saw representatives from 19 distributors, both national and regional, getting hands-on experience of new products from 20 exhibitors.

While many agreed that business had been tough recently, the positive atmosphere reflected a market on the rise.  Amongst the visitors was ENSE’s Robin McKnight who commented, “This year’s Forum is another roaring success.”

Stephen Goodliff, chair of the CESA LET Group, said, “The number of exhibitors and distributors reflects the fact that the Forum goes from strength to strength.  It’s the best place to get the inside skinny on what’s happening now in the catering industry – and what’s going to be happening next year.

Awards runners and riders

The annual Forum Awards dinner saw Alliance Disposables Limited pick up the Distributor Cup, for the second year in a row.  Mike Deakin of KCCJ was named Sales Professional of the Year.  The CESA Donald Bird Award, which recognises outstanding contribution to the industry, went to Patrick Gardner, managing director of T&G.  He was presented with the award by Donald’s son, Mike.  The after dinner night-at-the-races show raised over £1,000 for St John Ambulance.

On trend at the LET Forum 2018….

Front of house:

Colours: the big trend, in all their variety.  While matte is having a huge impact, from crockery to metalware to buffet displays, the Forum was awash with eye-popping hues, whether solid primaries or vivid patterns, in just about every area, including wooden chopping boards and stoppered bottles for serving water.

Sustainability: even more in evidence than in previous years.  Recycled glass, wood and paper, straws made of paper or stainless steel and even a natural, long lasting and washable alternative to clingfilm.

Shots: great designs for shot and tasting glasses were everywhere, along with some unusual ideas on presentation.

Gin and it: has gin had its day?  Judging by the number of new gin globes, the answer is a solid no.  But look out for others making a bid for fame, especially dark spirits like spiced rum.

Copper: still so, so popular, with products including cookware, pepper mills and cafetières.  But is it subtly morphing into rose gold?

Alt. metal: alongside the ubiquitous copper, there were plenty of gold, silver and titanium ideas.  Plus lots of hammered metal.  It’s practical as well as attractive: drop a hammered bowl and you won’t notice the dent!

Ice cream: loads of ideas for making, serving and presenting premium and signature gelatos and other iced desserts.

Barware: bartenders are chefs in the bar and, like chefs, mixologists need the tools of their trade.  The Forum saw lots of fresh ideas for creating and serving stylish drinks – including using induction to create a better cocktail.

Vintage: call it vintage, call it retro, call it rustic – it’s in.  Distressed patterns matching the matte colour trend are typical of the way manufacturers are feeding our love of retro.

Bowls: so many bowls in so many shapes, sizes and colours.  Will sales outstrip the traditional dinner plate?

In the kitchen

Cute: back of house is the new front of house.  With so many open and theatre style kitchens, prep equipment needs to look good.  From chopping boards to copper cookware (induction ready, of course) suppliers have a host of ideas to add ‘cute’ to the kitchen.

Temperature control: technologies to help make chef’s life easier include internet-enabled fridge monitors and infrared systems to automatically monitor and adjust cooking temperatures.

Food: small plates, Fusion, Asian, vegan, Street – and pate en croute.  Whatever the food trend, there’s equipment to help chefs make it happen in their kitchens.

Potato peelers: operators want fresh ingredients and, rather than buying expensive ready-prepped vegetables, are buying equipment that will prepare it for them.

Supplier product news


British manufacturer Clifton Food Range was pushing the sous vide message with its range of water baths and immersion circulators.

Product: The latest Sauce Bottlewarmer holds ten 1 litre bottles in a 28 litre tank.  It’s ideal for holding sauces, gels and purees at the perfect temperature.

Trend: watch out for sous vide in the bar as mixologists use the technology to infuse alcohol and aromatics.


Loads of new products ranging from champagne buckets to baking mats.  New presentation glassware ideas from Weck will add style to buffet and table.

Product: Another copper creative, this time with extensions to the copper range of cookware.

Trend: open kitchens are helping to fuel the copper cookware craze, as they look so good.


A million ways with melamine including buffet displays, matte hues, organic shapes and interesting textures.

Product: possibly the brightest display of the Forum was the Casablanca range of melamine bowls and plates in vivid reds, blues, oranges, including a new six litre bowl.

Trend: organic shapes and neutral colours.


A first time exhibitor, Denby is investing heavily in moving back into the foodservice market.

Product: the Halo range is Denby’s most popular.  However, all the brand’s colours and designs can be mixed and matched to great effect.

Trend: Bowls.  It used to be that we all ate off dinner plates.  Now bowls are almost as popular.


The classic toaster took centre stage – the 4-slot and 6-slot versions are the best sellers in hospitality.

Product: The Café Pro – a capsule coffee maker that looks like a conventional two-head espresso barista machine, with hot water and steam maker.  It’s smart, easy to use and competitively priced.

Trend: quality.  Operators don’t want to replace every few months, so they’re buying equipment to last.


The company focused on sustainable products – a highlight being Beeswrap, a natural and reusable alternative to clingfilm.

Product: the new Barware range has double-walled wine coolers, including one for up to six bottles, and a clever iced shot bucket, which holds and chills a bottle of spirit and six shot glasses.

Trend: A mix of rustic, going back to basics and colours – operators are looking to lighten the mood with colour.


Showing upmarket tableware, glassware and flatware including the Viola design, one of several new ideas that have a curve on the handle of some pieces, allowing them to be stacked.

Product: the Elia Fine Crystal glassware is handmade from one piece, with no joins, and is light, elegant and beautiful.

Trend: operators with serious wine lists are increasingly using different glasses for different grapes, to enhance the taste and the customer experience.


Foodservice Equipment Marketing showed several new products, including the latest additions to its award-winning Cubic buffet display range.

Product: Hamilton Beach’s latest model is the Quantum, a blender that operates very quietly thanks to its brushless motor, which has a seven year warranty.

Trend: the number of operators making freshly blended drinks such as juices and smoothies is still growing, with many looking to offer signature recipes.

I Grunwerg

Modern cutlery and flatware tends to be simpler and less fancy – the nickel content in stainless steel, such as 18/10, adds to the quality, sheen and stain resistance.

Product: Yin and Yang cutlery combines quality stainless steel with strong, scratch-resistant PBT plastic handles in black or white for a stylish look.

Trend: natural materials are in fashion – the company is working on a range of kitchen knives with wooden handles.


An eclectic range, including wood, ceramics and glass, having a focus on versatility, with single pieces offering multiple uses in the kitchen, table of bar.

Product: Spirit is a new ice cream and dessert dish from La Rochere glassware, made of recycled glass and shaped like a tornado.

Trend: presenting food and drink in stylish tableware commands a premium price.  If you’re selling ice cream in an ordinary bowl at £4.50, present it in a fancy design and your customers will be happy to pay £5.50 or more.


2018 sees the launch of several new equipment lines from Metcalfe, including Simple Line Slicers and Ceado Blenders.

Product: Also new for the company is the Hallde range of food processing equipment, including Combi Cutters that have attachments for both veg prep and processing.

Trend: a big demand from care homes for processors for pureed food, plus a general rise in sales of products like potato peelers – possibly reflecting an increasing number of central production kitchens.

Mitchell & Cooper

Mixologists, chefs and animal lovers were all catered for on the M&C stand.  Popular new lines ranged from a multifunctional protective kitchen glove to clever barware ideas, including stylish roll bags for mixologists’ tools.

Product: the brand new Crustastun allows chefs to humanely kill crustaceans before cooking.  It’s not only kinder, creating less stress, but also makes the meat taste better.

Trend: signature gelatos, ice cream, sorbets and frozen yoghurts.  Customers are using equipment like M&C’s Nemox line to create their own recipes.


Focusing on front of house, Nevilles’ latest ideas from the Gemware brand extend from washable, reusable paper bags/bowls for display to bright yellow enamel pieces.

Product: Antigo ceramic stoneware has an on-trend matte finish that looks great on the table and can be used in the oven, microwave and freezer.  It’s the company’s biggest ever launch.

Trend: consumers want more experience for their money.  Point of difference tableware can help supply it.


Pro Foodservice Reps showed new products from the company’s manufacturers, including barware and chefs’ knives from the USA and ultra-stylish porcelain tableware from France.

Product: Mealplak is an innovative range of designer table and buffet ware created using Nacryl, a translucent, silky resin-based material.

Trend: operators are increasingly looking for front of house products that are hard wearing as well as unusual.


Not strictly light equipment, the first time exhibitor showed a selection from its range of table top induction equipment.

Product: for critical temperature control, the company has an induction hob with an infrared system that monitors the temperature of the food in the pan, automatically adjusting it for any fluctuations.

Trend: more and more kitchens are using stand-alone self-extraction systems.

Row & Sons

The British manufacturer of food cutting, chopping and serving boards has seen a big rise in demand for personalised and bespoke designs.

Product: the Apex range uses synthetic rubberised plastic to create high-end chopping boards and work surfaces.  A key USP is that the surface is self-healing, resealing any cuts.

Trend: colours – including a big demand for coloured wooden chopping boards.

Signature FSE

A wide range of cooking, preparation, display and service equipment from European manufacturers.  The latest addition is Chasseur cast iron oven to tableware.

Product: New from Pinti Inox is the Caleido range of buffet display units featuring powder-coated stainless steel in four colours.  Ten base options can be combined to create customised displays.

Trend: a rise in matte finishes on cutlery, to match matte finishes and glazes on tableware.  Meanwhile, watch out of pate en croute!


The explosion in demand for wooden presentation products shows no sign of diminishing.  T&G showed its new personalisation service, which can add logos and images to one, ten or a thousand pieces.

Product: Drift is a new range of stylish wooden buffet display equipment that features matte colours.

Trend: buffet display is very, very strong, with lots of operators mixing materials such as wood, slate and ceramics.  Distressed wood in displays is in demand.


Meeting HACCP requirements is no easy task – Testo’s advanced measuring equipment helps operators store, prepare and cook food safely.

Product: The Saveris 2 automatically monitors fridges and freezers, uploading data to the cloud, sending instant alerts if there’s an issue, and making HACCP reporting easy.

Trend: more operators are going paperless for HACCP.  Automated systems keep all the data in one place and there’s no risk of someone not taking measurements or manipulating results.

The DRH Collection

Another colourful display of ceramic and glass tableware including Mirage, which combines plain glass and multi-coloured patterns on one piece.

Product: Gastronoirme is a brand new, stylish range of black oven to tableware made of vitrified porcelain.

Trends: imaginative glassware that make people say ‘wow’.  In tableware, there’s lots of demand for blue stripes and reactive glazes.

From the Forum floor:

“It’s really good, really informative.  This is our first time and we’re meeting with some suppliers we’ve not dealt with in the past.  The Forum is time well spent.”

Anil Gandhi, General Catering Supplies

“It’s good to meet so many suppliers at once, and to rejuvenate relationships.  Unlike big exhibitions, the Forum is personal. You’re not going to get interrupted.  I hope more suppliers do it.”

Andrea Shearn-Wood, Parsley in Time 

“I love coming to the Forum.  It’s great for new ideas.  It’s also a good networking event, to catch up with what suppliers are doing and what’s coming up.  I’ve been four times and it gets better year on year.”

Tina Carter, Brakes Catering Equipment

“The feedback from both suppliers and distributors is extremely positive – once again the Forum is a roaring success.”

Robin McKnight, ENSE

“It’s great to talk to so many distributors in one day, in one place.  And it’s good to get to let your hair down with them in the evening!”

Gabriella O’Sullivan, Dalebrook

“This is our first Forum.  We’ve found it very positive, very friendly, very commercial and very good.  We’ll be back!”

Jason Maughan, Denby Pottery Company

“Very positive.  The Forum’s a great place to show new products.”

Richard Gilbert, Eddingtons

“This is my first time.  Being able to pick the product up really brings it to life for our distributors.”

Matt Daws, Rowe & Sons

The Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA) is the authoritative voice of the catering equipment industry,representing over 190 companies who supply, service and maintain all types of commercial catering equipment – from utensils to full kitchen schemes.  For more information on CESA visit www.cesa.org.uk