The coveted Catey awardA few bleary eyes in the Caterer office this morning, the day after the Cateys.

This year’s Cateys night marked a milestone for the industry¹s most prestigious awards, with the British hospitality industry gathering in London for the 25th time to recognise and celebrate its highest achievers.

In the generation that has gone by since the first Cateys in 1984, the UK hospitality, leisure and tourism industry has been transformed almost beyond recognition and now delivers an unprecedented range of products and services, to ever higher quality standards, and in all parts of our life ­ airport, department store, office, garden centre, hospital, oilrig, university campus.

Last night’s dinner was a celebration of where the industry is going, but also of where it has come from. Today’s operators build their business success on the solid foundations established by those who came before them, and the make-up of our audience reflected this, with today’s hotshots rubbing shoulders with industry heavyweights such as Richard Shepherd, Ramón Pajares, Roy Ackerman, Bob Cotton, and Silver Catey winners Michel and Albert Roux.

The lifetime of the Cateys hasn¹t been without its problems. The recession of the early 1990s, foot-and-mouth, floods, 9/11 and the 2005 London bombings have all taken their toll. But it takes a lot to knock this industry to the canvas. Whenever it has faced a crisis, it has drawn on its reserves of strength and got back up to fight another day.

In the coming months, as food inflation drives up prices and squeezes margins, and the credit crunch forces consumers to reassess out-of-home spend, the industry will once again need to display courage, vision and a steady nerve. I have no doubt it will rise to this latest challenge ­ because it is full of exactly the sorts of people the Cateys were created to recognise.

In difficult times, we need exemplars we can draw inspiration from, people who embody standards today others can aspire to tomorrow. And that¹s where the Cateys come in. Our awards recognise and applaud exceptional individuals, companies and organisations from every sector of the industry.

See Caterersearch for a full list of winners