The injection of one million pounds of Scottish Government money into food and drink firms has been welcomed by hospitality industry bodies and businesses as the nation gears up for a series of showcase events in 2014.
The cash supports the implementation of the Food and Drink 2014 Action Plan, which is designed to ensure producers and businesses are ready to grasp the opportunities offered that year by the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and the second Year of Homecoming.
The British Hospitality Association’s executive director in Scotland, Willie Macleod, believes the money has the potential to heighten the profile of Scottish food and drink ahead of these major events.
“This is a golden opportunity,” Macleod told BigHospitality. "It gives us the chance to really educate hospitality businesses on what’s available, making sure that hospitality businesses are aware of sources of supply so that they can access it regularly; encouraging them to feature Scottish products on their menu and encouraging businesses to work with suppliers.
“It will also help businesses weather the financial storm and better prepare themselves for a hopeful recovery in the economy and in consumer spending pattern. It gives us a tremendous opportunity to be positioned for and benefit from a greater awareness of Scotland and a propensity to visit.”
Hotelier John Keating, who recently became the managing director at Cameron House hotel in Loch Lomond, echoes the view that the money should be spent on encouraging more cooperative activity between food producers, wholesalers and the hospitality businesses across Scotland.
“This is really great news,” he said. “The produce here is fantastic - we’ve got some of the best seafood in Europe; oysters, langoustine, lobsters, really beautiful fish. Spending some money on showcasing the produce that Scotland has available can only do us good.”
Keating, who’s hotel includes the Michelin-starred Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond restaurant as well as a range of other restaurants and bars, went on to state that the quality of food, drink and service across Scotland is continuing to rise, along with tourism levels.
“Scotland’s hospitality business are moving on at a fast pace, things have really improved. There’s been a great increase in high-end restaurants in Scotland as well - Edinburgh actually has more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in the UK.
“On my property alone, I’ve seen Russian, Brazilian, Italian, German and Argentinian travellers. South American visitors are up, American visitors are up and we’re getting more visitors from India, China - all of these numbers have gone up year-on-year over the past two years.”
Building on the Olympics
“It might have had something to do with the Olympics because there were many people who decided not to go to London this summer. Looking at how London 2012 went down, if Scotland can do half the job they did in terms of the hospitality, I think it will really put Scotland on the map again. It’s a great year for Scotland and it will showcase Scotland.”
The Food and Drink 2014 Action Plan was created by a partnership between the Government, enterprise agencies, Event Scotland and industry body Scotland Food and Drink.
Scotland Food and Drink chief executive James Withers said: "This funding from Scottish Government is a pivotal step towards achieving our ambitions for 2014.
"Our showcasing of Scottish food and drink at the Olympics last month was an insight into what we can achieve. However, the hard work for 2014 starts now. With less than 700 days until the opening ceremony in Glasgow, we are developing a programme of work with food and drink businesses of all sizes so they can seize the opportunities over the next two years.
"Scotland is a land of food and drink and this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to showcase that."