Emily King probes venues and suppliers about their catering offerings
Catering is a huge consideration when organising and planning a conference or meeting and often poses many questions: What type of food should we offer? Do we need vegetarian or gluten-free options? How many people do we need to cater for?
As a result of this, many venues get outside catering suppliers in, or have in-house catering staff who cater for every and any event at the venue.
Jane Jones, director of project management, at drp, says: “Catering is vital – it is one of the most commented upon areas of any event.
“No matter how incredible the content is, delegates will always remember the catering.”
Many venues have catering contracts with a list of preferred suppliers who provide them with the service they need for delegates.
ExCeL London Hospitality is an example of a partnership between ExCeL and caterers Levy Restaurants UK. The exclusive relationship did not mean ExCeL London Hospitality could not flirt with celebrity chef, Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s, River Cottage Canteen to the Grand Designs Live show (30 April – 8 May).
Over the show the restaurant served dishes such as seaweed and cider cured salmon, cured meats, pickles and mackerel pate.
“Combining our catering team’s knowledge, expertise and experience at ExCeL London Hospitality with the prestigious River Cottage restaurant was a fantastic opportunity for us. We have really enjoyed working together with Hugh’s brigade,” commented Kevin Watson, director of catering at ExCeL London Hospitality.
30 Euston Square also benefits from a catering partnership. Four years ago catering collection, Searcys, was chosen by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to take on the management of the venue to enhance its catering and hospitality.
Searcys involvement with 30 Euston Square encompasses far more than just catering and includes front of house management, customer service and revenue management.
Jeremy Reed, executive director of development and managing director of RCGP Enterprises says: “When we commenced our search for a caterer, creative food was a bare minimum – we wanted significantly more from the relationship. They have taken us from a standing start to award winning.”
The ICC Birmingham has in-house caterers and general manager of catering, Craig Hancox, states that this “offer covers the needs of the audience and takes into account their energy levels dependent on activity.
“The style of event, whether delegates are sitting for a long period of time or moving about frequently, means our food offering needs to change in content and style of service.”
The ICC works with Amadeus who are also a part of the NEC Group and Hancox enthuses that an in-house caterer “brings big benefits for our client and organisers as when they are organising an event they have the benefit of only talking to one company – the NEC Group.”
Amadeus also caters for other venues.
The ‘flavour’ of the food scene 2016
Julian Saipe, managing director of caterers, Zafferano, claims that “healthy and energising food with a street food twist” is leading the way in requests from organsiers in 2016.
“Brain food is also a must for conference organisers – fish, lean meats, complex carbs, combo salads, and colours provide energy and sustenance, and keep us feeling good,” adds Saipe.
Jones states that a lot of clients’ budget will go on catering, noting “the quality of the catering does depend on the event, venue and client.”
Hancox agrees that costs can vary with each event, dependent upon the client needs and demands.
Whether venues have in-house caterers or contracts with catering companies, the clients’ catering requests and needs must be at the forefront of the organiser’s mind.