Excel London sets Compass to 10-year catering deal

Excel London has announced a new 10-year partnership with the Sports, Leisure and Hospitality sector of Compass Group UK & Ireland.

Compass Group, in becoming catering partner at Excel, is commiting to a new £15m project designed to enhance catering experience across the London venue.

Plans to transform Excel’s retail and hospitality environments were unveiled 26 February at the venue. The stated vision is “to establish food as an enabler of events”.

The on-site catering team will manage the catered for events, in-hall outlets and some of the retail units bespoke to Excel on the Boulevard. Other high street brands will also operate concessions in the venue.

The new partnership deal, Excel management said, was part of a wider programme to redefine every aspect of the visitors’ food and drink experience at the venue, from the overall environment and menu choices, to service offers, queue management and labelling.

Excel London CEO David Pegler said: “We have an ambitious plan to transform our retail and hospitality environments to help our organisers boost attendance, increase dwell time, create a great event experience, optimise opportunities to network and make new business contacts and inspire visitors to return to Excel London. Compass is an integral part of our plan; our partnership will set a benchmark for catering standards for the events industry to deliver the most positive event outcomes for visitors, delegates and exhibitors.”

Colin Bailey, Managing Director, Levy Restaurants UK, Sport, Leisure and Hospitality Sector of Compass Group UK & Ireland added: “We’re thrilled to be extending our partnership with Excel. We are really looking forward to building on this, creating a unique proposition for our market, reflecting Excel’s ambitious plans and delivering legendary experiences for our guests.”

In creating its new catering and hospitality strategy Excel had engaged with The Russell Partnership, the creators of the London 2012 food vision, to enhance understanding of market and consumer trends.

Key findings of the research

Recent trends that have changed consumer expectations include:

  • Truly authentic: After the global economic downturn, consumer values have shifted form overtly demonstrative luxury products to more authentic experiences
  • Hyper personalisation: Consumers today expect a more bespoke customised experience
  • Connectivity: Premium brands are linking technologies together to create more seamless experiences, delivering relevant information to their customers to enrich their lives.
  • Partnerships: Brands are joining up with other brands to create an exclusive and bespoke service that benefits their customers and enhances credibility
  • Pro-Britishness: The success of London 2012 has resulted in all things British becoming more important for any brand that can stress its British credentials
  • The world of work and leisure is changing with new approaches to a 9-5 day and fast and reliable wi-fi, more adaptable spaces, and the increase of digital presence in leisure activities. As a result we are eating less but more frequently during the day.

Food trends

  • Food on the move: More sophisticated consumers no longer accept traditional take away options. There is a notable increase in the quality and range of foods available from street food concepts from around the world and pop-up restaurants
  • Coffee culture: The coffee shop culture looks set to continue to grow. Growth in the independent specialist coffee and tea market means visitors will pay a premium price for the coffee brand experience.
  • Ethical eating and sustainability: Consumers increasingly expect their food to be ethically produced, the success of the Fairtrade brand being testament to this. There is also a growing interest in the provenance of ingredients, supporting the local community as well as a greater comprehension of the link between locally sourced goods and a reduced carbon footprint. 
  • Technology: The ubiquity of technology continues to drive the way in which consumers make food and food service choices. Online marketing and booking platforms play a key role in customer communications
  • Food to counter poor health: The percentage of supermarket shelf space dedicated to special diets is increasing along with coffee shops offering soya milk and sugar free alternatives and fast food providers adding healthy options to their menus
  • Innovations and creativity: The popularity of experimenting with combinations of flavours and textures shows the broadening appeal of an adventurous palate and creative and innovative dining experiences
  • Breakfast: Studies show the importance of breakfast for wellbeing and health. Greater awareness of diverse breakfast ingredients and their impact on maintaining blood sugar at a constant level ensure that breakfast is definitely back on the menu
  • Vouchers: In the UK more than 40 per cent of consumers rate vouchers as very or extremely important when deciding where to eat. The success of voucher schemes means they will remain an integral part of any food retailer’s marketing strategy.

Food product trends

  • Flavours: Growth in dedicated menus featuring new flavours from regional specialities such as tapas and sushi and cultures such as South East Asia and Central America
  • Smaller bites: Smaller bites/more frequent eating patterns are on the rise. Consumers are looking for mini-meals from more flexible menus with choices of appetizers and small plates and healthy snacking options
  • Sensory experience: Dining experiences that break the mould of traditional eating are coming to the fore. Visual, sound and touch aspects can all contribute to a unique presentation and atmosphere. Food is increasingly being shared with the virtual community on social media.


  • A review of how the most significant venues across Europe articulate catering and hospitality as part of the visitor experience demonstrated that there was a significant opportunity to take a leadership position and put food at the heart of the venue’s proposition.
  • A benchmark exercise was carried out to evaluate how best in class shopping centres and airports are promoting their eating options as a way to create a more attractive environment to increase dwell time.

Based on the research findings, a new ‘Vision’ was created based on:

  • Creating smart partnerships
  • Personalising the offer to visitors by being more flexible about the food offered for each event
  • Broadening the menus to take in to consideration nutritional value, as well as the increasing number of cultural, religious observance and allergen requirements
  • Harnessing technology to enhance and streamline opportunities to engage with visitors.
  • Redesigning the boulevard to increase seating and use the vertical space.

Excel London Director James Mark, who presented the vision, said the first changes would be evident on the Boulevard this summer, with a phased roll out of work to the end of 2016.

He told CN that new catering installations would follow inside the halls as well as on the Boulevard.

Pegler added that the £15m investment would probably be matched by other partners who were keen to buy into the vision.

“No other venue thinks about food as such an integral part of the business,” Pegler added.

Do you have news for CN? Email: Paul Colston

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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