Feeding the five thousand

Exhibition catering and bars have undergone a transformation in recent years, and it’s not over yet.

Twitter Facebook Google+ LinkedIn
Bar-image-new-resized.jpg

Feeding and watering a hoard of hungry visitors and exhibitors is not a task to be sniffed at.

 

Not only do most caterers and bar providers have to serve hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the course of a single day, they also have to serve people who might have been striding back and forth across a show floor for hours on end. In other words? People who might be a bit tired and grumpy.

 

It’s not surprising, therefore that when Olympia London worked with research agency Kantar TNS to discover what visitors value most in a caterer, they discovered that quality of service topped the list.

 

Kantar

After a long day exploring a show, a friendly face offering food is a welcome sight for visitors.

 

“Great food in a venue really matters; customers who eat well are likely to arrive earlier, stay longer, network effectively and be inspired to return,” agrees Julia Galbraith, marketing manager at ExCeL London. “Happy customers mean more successful events.”

 

Historically exhibition catering might not have had the best reputation – overpriced sandwiches and costly croissants come to mind – but many UK venues are making a concerted effort to consign that rep to the history books.

 

“Let’s face it, traditional perceptions of venue catering have in the past ranged from the uninspired to the downright depressing,” says Galbraith. “As a London venue we have the added pressure of having one of the world’s best culinary capitals on the doorstep. Our visitors expect and demand so much more.

 

“That’s why, over the last two years, we’ve invested over £15m to deliver a highly focused and large scale food and beverage offering, designed to enhance the experience of our customers and enable better event outcomes at ExCeL.”

 

Customer tastes, in both bars and catering, have diversified and arguably matured in recent years.

 

“Having cocktail bars always goes down very, very well,” says Alice de Haan, owner of Wonder Bars. “Cocktail bars are definitely wanted by the majority of our customers, but it always comes down to the client and the clientele.”

 

Additionally, there’s a trend towards bespoke spirits and beers, adds Ben Avigdori, founder of Barsmith Event Bars.

 

“The term ‘craft beer’ is now ubiquitous and local spirits are equally popular,” he tells EN. “We get asked regularly to do specific gin or whisky bars and when we come to selecting the menus with clients the choice is endless.”

 

Barsmith operated the main bar for Squaremeal’s Venues + Events Live 2016 and at Taste of London: Festive Edition, and Avigdori says one of the biggest challenges is predicting visitor numbers.

 

“While these events are incredibly good fun they are also logistically incredibly challenging and take months of planning,” he explains. “At an event like Taste, for example, we had no idea quite how many people would visit the bar, so preparing stock quantities was a challenge.

 

“With private events the planning is definitely easier. You know how many people, how many hours and it’s less challenging to operate a bar in those circumstances.”

 

At private events, bar providers and caterers may have some idea of the tastes of their audience, whereas at an exhibition there will always be an element of guesswork involved.

 

What this means, says Galbraith, is that venues like ExCeL have to be prepared for all visitor appetites.

 

“We welcome nearly four million visitors ever year from across the globe,” she says. “One week we might have a big fitness event where attendees are looking for protein and vitamin rich, healthy foods. The very next week we’ll have a motorcycle show, where visitors would prefer something that is more substantial (followed by a pint of craft ale).”

 

While food and drink used to be an afterthought at many shows, nowadays it’s vital, adds Galbraith.

 

“If you are spending a lot of time on the event circuit, you want to be able eat foods that make you feel well and give you energy to get the best out of your day,” she concludes. “When it comes to their stomachs, people expect more.”

Twitter Facebook Google+ LinkedIn

Related Stories

Going all out

Lee Moulson, regional head of sales at Cheltenham Racecourse and the South West region of The Jockey Club, says seeing a client’s beaming smile cannot be bettered.

Ireland’s leading Exhibition Organiser is looking for a new leader

SDL Exhibitions Ltd has been organising highly successful exhibitions in Europe’s fast growing economy for over 40 years and the proprietors wish to step back from the day to day running of the business.

UFI and Explori sign three-year partnership

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has signed a three-year research partnership deal with London based insight specialists, Explori.

Elsewhere on EN

UFI and Explori sign three-year partnership

UFI and Explori sign three-year partnership

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has signed a three-year research partnership deal with London based insight specialists, Explori.
Media 10 summer party gives back to the community

Media 10 summer party gives back to the community

On 30 June, local pensioners were invited to a morning of live entertainment and high tea put on by Media10, with a fundraising initiative supporting charity War Child and a rare Spitfire performance.
Major new event campus coming to Newcastle Gateshead

Major new event campus coming to Newcastle Gateshead

A new multi million pound, state-of-the-art entertainment arena, and conference and exhibition centre is set for the North East, as plans by Gateshead Council push forward.

Poken by GES

Most read Stories

Building emerald cities

Building emerald cities

From Malaria to Blenheim, through to UBM, Jane Risby-Rose – the 20-year story of her yellow brick road industry journey.
Come to Confex and be inspired

Come to Confex and be inspired

The exhibition and events industry is all about the power of face-to-face, the art of exhibiting and networking with old friends and new, which is why EN would like to personally invite you to attend International Confex to learn more.
5 top marketing tips from AEO Forums 2016

5 top marketing tips from AEO Forums 2016

Looking to the future and learning from the past at AEO Forums 2016.

Latest News

UFI and Explori sign three-year partnership

UFI and Explori sign three-year partnership

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has signed a three-year research partnership deal with London based insight specialists, Explori.
Media 10 summer party gives back to the community

Media 10 summer party gives back to the community

On 30 June, local pensioners were invited to a morning of live entertainment and high tea put on by Media10, with a fundraising initiative supporting charity War Child and a rare Spitfire performance.
Major new event campus coming to Newcastle Gateshead

Major new event campus coming to Newcastle Gateshead

A new multi million pound, state-of-the-art entertainment arena, and conference and exhibition centre is set for the North East, as plans by Gateshead Council push forward.

Latest Galleries

East of England Arena and Events Centre open day

East of England Arena and Events Centre open day

Following a refurbishment, rebrand and £4.4m investment, the East of England Arena and Events centre opened to event professionals on 21 June to explains developments at the venue and provide an insight into future plans. Guests were also treated to a once in a lifetime experience in various classic cars and more unusual vehicles.
London Dungeon Lates

London Dungeon Lates

The London Dungeons has launched a unique nighttime experience with the theme of the seven deadly sins. The adults only tour includes seven themed food offerings and a range of themed drinks.
This Morning Live

This Morning Live

Tens of thousands of fans descended on the NEC on 18-21 May for This Morning Live, to see talent from ITVs award-winning daytime programme arrive in style.

Latest Opinions

Going all out

Going all out

Lee Moulson, regional head of sales at Cheltenham Racecourse and the South West region of The Jockey Club, says seeing a client’s beaming smile cannot be bettered.
In any event...

In any event...

In his regular column, David Chalmers, Cvent ’s senior marketing director – Europe, speculates on the fate of the large trade show.
Ticking all the boxes

Ticking all the boxes

Paul Edwards, operations director at deckle edge, examines the minefield that is health and safety.