Many in hospitality will have greeted New Year's Eve's midnight chimes not with Champagne and singalongs, but with an almighty sigh of relief. A decade that opened to the crackle of Millennium fireworks closed to the plaintive sound of operators thanking their lucky stars they'd so far managed to negotiate the worst recession in a generation.
The Noughties were hard on hospitality. Foot and mouth disease took a heavy toll at the start of the decade. The 11 September attacks on New York in 2001 and the London bombings four years later took the edge off appetites for foreign travel. Floods, fires and snow caused localised chaos. And then the recession hit. Thank God the decade is over.
This may be a new decade, but the issues facing hospitality have a familiar look. The work done by the likes of People 1st and Springboard to promote hospitality as a career of choice and improve service standards needs to continue, if we are to wring maximum value from the London 2012 Games and the plethora of other events set to turn the world's attention upon us in the coming years. The threat of terrorism has now become an uncomfortable fact of life - vigilance is a byword across the industry. The forthcoming general election will tell us exactly how seriously Whitehall takes the tourism industry (certainly, in recent years, the answer has been "not seriously enough"); and only the greatest optimist would believe we have seen the last casualties of the ongoing economic slump.
Elsewhere, a question mark hangs over future funding for school meals provision (expect imminent action on this from Caterer and the Local Authority Caterers Association). Meanwhile, research by the health charity Sustain, entitled A Decade of Hospital Food Failure, suggests there is work to be done to improve the quality of the food we serve to patients.
Clearly, challenges abound - it was ever thus. But operators can and must take strength from the resilience they showed to deal with all the obstacles of the past decade.
Here's wishing you and your business a very prosperous new year.
Mark Lewis, Editor, Caterer and Hotelkeeper
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