Stadium Experience is a marketing consortium of over 40 major football and rugby stadia venues. Their aim is to help promote these unique venues for the conference, event and hospitality industries. As part of this work, the association recently organised the 12th annual Stadium Events & Hospitality Awards, held at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. The event, sponsored by Heineken, welcomed over 370 hospitality industry guests, and saw 71 football and rugby clubs nominated for awards, with 20 different stadium venues scooping at least one of 33 gongs (across 11 categories).
Two award categories concentrated on the hospitality offering at stadium venues across the country, the Chef Team of the Year Award, and the Matchday Hospitality Awards.
The Chef Team of the Year Award was co-ordinated by Cora Strachan at Fresh Montgomery at the Hospitality Show in London. She commented: “Any team competing in this competition really has to raise their game as they are cooking in a kitchen with equipment that is unfamiliar to them in front of a live audience – not to mention some well-respected chef judges, and make sure they deliver a meal that matches the competition brief. They really have to keep their wits about them as they have to deliver two courses within an hour (any team running over will be penalised in the marking).”
“There were a maximum of 100 marks available split over 4 different categories – Preparation/Hygiene = 20 marks, Workmanship =20 marks, Presentation = 20 marks plus Taste and Flavour = 40 marks. After judging has been completed all the marks are added together and then an award is made appropriate to the level achieved – 65 – 74 = Bronze. 75 – 89 = Silver and 90+ = Gold. All 9 stadium teams competing this year achieved at least a bronze award, with the top two receiving silver – (Everton and Southampton). This was a tremendous achievement for all teams involved – many were competing for the first time.”
Debbie Slee from Everton Football Club who won the top award, added: “This is a reflection of the high standards that are served at all Everton Football Club’s Match Day Hospitality Lounges. The dedication of our team of Chef’s was reflected in the performance that we saw from Antony & Darren under the pressurised circumstances of the competition, however it is not too different to the timescales experienced on Match Days where a first class meal is always served.”
The Matchday Hospitality Award category continues to gain momentum each and every year, with a record-breaking 28 UK stadia participating in 2016. This demonstrates the growing importance of this key part of a stadium business. In this category, clubs welcomed a Salon Culinaire chef judge to experience the whole matchday experience from parking, food, service, entertainment and of course the match itself.
The category is firstly divided into small, medium and large depending on the number of matchday hospitality seats each stadium can provide for, competing against similar sized stadia. The final award is the Overall Matchday Hospitality Award, where all 28 clubs compete against each other, regardless of size. The overall top three for 2016 were Hull City Tigers (Winner), Morecambe FC (Silver) and Manchester City FC (Bronze).
Chef Judge, Ian Sneddon, who attended the Hull match, commented: “This was the best event I have attended for years. The service and food was outstanding, there would be many Michelin star restaurants who could learn from the standard provided for a total guest experience for all that attended.”
Dan Coulson, Catering Manager from the stadium, added: “To win Best in Category & Overall Winner for the 2nd year running is an amazing achievement. The huge amount of dedication & work from the catering team through menu planning, recruitment and training that is carried out throughout the season and the planning alongside the club to deliver the best standards that as a stadium we can; have all contributed to winning the awards. Having the flexibility that working for Venue Catering Partner & the Stadium Management Company has given us, has allowed us to work extremely close with the club and hand pick the best local suppliers and local produce as well as invest in the staff and management to deliver a really top class service and meal. I am extremely proud of what has been achieved over the past two/three years and the team that we have to deliver the highest standards in Stadia Catering.”
Morecambe Football Club did exceptionally well too, against much bigger competition. Commenting on the news General Manager Mark Dixon said; “Yet another great accolade for Morecambe Football Club. To win our category, ahead of much larger operations, is a fabulous achievement in itself. To then split the big boys in the Overall Category is pretty mind-blowing, when you put into context the relative resources of the top 3 Clubs. We have always prided ourselves in making the best of what we have to offer our Hospitality and Corporate guests. The fact that the judging is on the day’s experience overall gives us all huge confidence in every aspect of what we deliver each and every match day. We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of the respective winners and look forward to welcoming the judges to the Club during next season to see if we can’t wrestle the overall category from Hull City Tigers.”
For more information about the Stadium Events & Hospitality Awards, click here
By Debbie Rigney of Stadium Experience