1935: And so it begins...
We begin our story in 1935. Founded by Trade & Technical Exhibitions Ltd in association with Hotel Review and Caterer & Hotelkeeper and launched as ‘Hotel, Restaurant & Catering Exhibition', at Olympia.
Hotel, Restaurant & Catering Exhibition attracted 30,000 people across six days and gained high accolades, being dubbed ‘the greatest exhibition in the history of catering’ by Caterer and Hotelkeeper.
1939-1945: The War Years
Although the Hotel, Restaurant & Catering Exhibition received record numbers of visitors in 1937, the show took a hiatus during The Second World War.
1948: A Rapturous Reception
1948 was a big year for the Hotel, Restaurant & Catering Exhibition. The show was opened by Harold Wilson, then president of the Board of Trade, and was received with a rapturous reception, with over 70,000 attendees visiting the nine day event.
As well as the record number of visitors, the show also attracted 220 exhibitors, meaning that, for the first time, the gallery level of Olympia was required.
1952: Hotelympia is Born
In 1952 Hotelympia was officially born, the name change was prompted as the show had become so firmly established in its location, Olympia London.
1972: The Dark Side
During the mining strikes of the early 1970s, the show got quite a bit darker (literally), as it had to run without any lighting on the stands, due to the scarcity of energy at the time. “The only illumination we had was from the main lights within the hall, which were on the dim side to say the least,” explained event veteran Peter Sayer.
1980: Mr Brown
At the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s, the show felt the actions of the IRA. Bomb threats were not uncommon, with the tannoy announcement, “would Mr Brown please report to the organisers’ office” sending the entire hall into a flurry of activity.
1988: The Queen Mother Pays a Visit
In 1988 Hotelympia was graced with a visit from Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who took particular interest in the Salon Culinaire competitions. Salon Director at the time, Peter Griffiths, recalled her visit, "The salon timetable, to which we try and stick rigidly, was thrown into chaos as the Queen Mother walked the aisles".
1990: Princess Diana & Weather Woes
The second royal visit happened at the show in 1990 with an appearance from Princess Diana, who came to watch the final of 'School Meals Cook of the Year'.
1990 was also the year of extreme weather conditions. A storm caused significant damage to the roof of Olympia. Part of the roof actually collapsed, causing a large number of stands to be unusable for the rest of the show. The indomitable spirit of the show persevered however, with the simple solution to the weather woes being to head to the pub opposite. "There’s a rumour that, for some, the roof hadn’t actually hit the floor before people were enjoying their first pint," stated Steve Laughton.
1992: National Chef of the Year
Chef Gordon Ramsay wins the title of National Chef of the Year at Hotelympia, where the final was hosted.
1994: A Move to Earls Court
In 1994 Hotelympia moved to the Earls Court Exhibition Centre. After 59 years at Olympia, there were a few confused attendees. Coaches were deployed to make the trip from Olympia to its new location.
2004: ExCeL Calling...
The show’s continual growth then facilitated a move to the ExCeL Centre, a brand-new state of the exhibition centre with easier access for stand building and no pillars(!), where it is still held today. The development of the area around ExCeL with improved transport links and new hotels and restaurants has played a part in helping Hotelympia to continue, going from strength to strength.
2016: Exciting Addition to Salon Culinaire...
One of the cornerstones of the event over the years has been the highly prestigious Salon Culinare and the 2016 event saw the introduction of a brand new Skills Theatre. Aimed at students and apprentices at the early stage of their career it ‘does what it says on the tin’ as they show their skills in a competition setting in classes such as “Butcher a Whole Chicken for Sauté”, “Lemon Sole Filleting” and “Flambé Work”.
In March 2018, Hotelympia returned with four brand new shows, providing a platform for restaurants, hotels, pubs, casual dining and contract caterers to meet, review and source from the finest suppliers available in the market.
2020: Hotelympia returns to it's roots
Hotelympia has retuned to its orginal name HRC – Hotel, Restaurant and Catering and took place at ExCeL London from 3-5 March 2020. The event brought together four shows covering everything from food, drink, catering equipment, interiors, technology alongside talks, masterclasses, panel debates and much more.