Cantillon: Food Summit leaves unpleasant taste

This year’s attendees discover that vouchers for food now cost €20 a day or €50 for three days

Web Summit co-founder Paddy Cosgrave. The real reason the summit is leaving Dublin is the determination of the organisers to double its size every year

Web Summit co-founder Paddy Cosgrave. The real reason the summit is leaving Dublin is the determination of the organisers to double its size every year

 

Paddy Cosgrave and the Web Summit team have been rather emphatic about the damaging effect of what they describe as price-gouging by hotels that have inflated their prices when 30,000 or so technology entrepreneurs arrive in Dublin to attend the three-day event.

It was one of the main reasons, they insist, for moving the event to Lisbon from next year.

But there were many attendees left with the sense of being, well, gouged when they tried to attend the Food Summit – the large marquees in the middle of Dublin 4’s Herbert Park that serve lunch.

In previous years, lunch at the Food Summit was included with the ticket price – but this year attendees discovered that vouchers for food now cost €20 a day or €50 for three days. That voucher is supposed to include a snack, lunch, dessert and drink from a number of Irish food producers, but more than a few attendees expressed the opinion that the range on offer felt nothing like €20 worth of food, even amid the pricey lunchtime options in leafy Ballsbridge.

But quite apart from the quantity or the quality on offer at the Food Summit, it is hard to see how the two positions are compatible: either the Web Summit team is worried about excessive costs imposed on attendees who are already spending a lot of money, or they feel okay adding a significant extra cost for lunch.

The whiff of acrimony hanging over the whole venture since the move to Lisbon was announced has tarnished what is undoubtedly a valuable event. Its role in bolstering Dublin’s position as a significant technology hub is not to be underestimated.

But the real reason the summit is leaving Dublin is the determination of the organisers to double its size every year, a strategy that does not necessarily serve their attendees well.

And charging extra for food that was once included in the ticket price adds to the sense that, for all the talk about price-gouging, the Web Summit team is concerned only in so far as it makes it difficult for them to sell tickets, rather than for the wellbeing of their customers.

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