Friday 6 May welcomed a glimpse of summer and a brand new event to the Arena 2016 calendar, ‘Behind the Scenes’ with Doug Tetley, Managing Director, Delaware North UK, at Wembley Stadium connected by EE. Against the backdrop of a beautiful clear blue sky, Wembley Stadium and its world-famous arch looked magnificent. And, inside England’s national stadium, Arena guests enjoyed a fascinating and inspiring tour of the renowned stadium, an insight into the scale and challenges catering at the sports and events venue presents, courtesy of Doug Tetley, and a delicious three-course lunch thanks to Doug’s talented hospitality team.
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Friday 6 May welcomed a glimpse of summer and a brand new event to the Arena 2016 calendar, ‘Behind the Scenes’ with Doug Tetley, Managing Director, Delaware North UK, at Wembley Stadium connected by EE.
Against the backdrop of a beautiful clear blue sky, Wembley Stadium and its world-famous arch looked magnificent. And, inside England’s national stadium, Arena guests enjoyed a fascinating and inspiring tour of the renowned stadium, an insight into the scale and challenges catering at the sports and events venue presents, courtesy of Doug Tetley, and a delicious three-course lunch thanks to Doug’s talented hospitality team.
The glorious day kicked-off (please excuse the pun!) with the stadium tour. Attendees were taken on a path through the England dressing room, making the most of the selfie opportunities with the shirts of celebrated footballers such as Beckham, Rooney, Messi and Ronaldo; through the players tunnel as if running out onto the pitch; and finally ascending the terraces as if to claim the coveted FA cup!
Seated in the terraces, attendees tested the acoustics of the stadium and the tour guides shared fascinating facts and figures that would definitely impress in a pub quiz. For example, the new Wembley Stadium, which opened in 2007, cost £757million to build; with a capacity of 90,000, it is the largest seated covered stadium in the world; the arch spans 315m, making it the largest single roof structure in the world; Michael Jackson has performed the most times at Wembley Stadium since its music events started in the 1970s; and with 2,618 toilets, Wembley stadium boasts the title of most toilets in one building in the world!
Whether a football fan, music fan, or none of the above, the tour did not fail to excite every single attendee. This exuberance returned to the hospitality suite where lively interaction continued during the drinks reception as guests enjoyed an incredible view of the perfectly-green pitch.
After a mouth-watering lunch, which showcased the culinary skill of the Delaware North UK hospitality team, Doug Tetley took to the stage to address industry colleagues.
Originally from New Zealand, Doug described himself as an opportunist whose career reflects a strategy of where there have been opportunities to grab, he has taken them. Following a successful career that includes well-known names such as Browns, Mitchells & Butlers, Aramark and CEO of Searcys, Doug joined Delaware North UK in 2014. He has made it his mission to update concession catering so that sport can also become an experience in food and drink.
Delaware North is a $3billion US family business, owned by the Jacob family, that operates around the world in gaming, parks, resorts, restaurants and catering, speciality retail, travel hospitality, airports and sports. Delaware North UK is a £80million business with a target of £100million by the end of 2017. Doug aims to realise this ambition through the right long-term partnerships, employee engagement and empowerment, and training.
Wembley Stadium is “an incredible venue where incredible occasions happen”. It is home of the England football team, and it also hosts a massive band width of other events, from rugby, NFL and boxing through to music concerts and diplomatic occasions, such as an audience with the Indian Prime Minister in 2015 that attracted a 60,000-strong audience. Due to Brent Council regulations, only 32 full-stadia events (51000+ capacity) can be held per calendar year, with non-full-stadia events held in between.
Doug believes that the dynamism required to run the stadium events needs to be reflected in the food and drink available. Delaware North UK secured a 25-year term contract with Wembley in 2007 when the new stadium opened. The business operates three sections supported by 92 kitchens in total: Retail concessions; Hospitality; and Event Owner.
Concession catering at the venue presents its own unique set of challenges, including: the vastly differing kiosk to guest ratios between the Club Wembley level, which hosts 15,000 guests, and the standard levels (1 and 5) that can host up to 35,000 people per level; the sheer size of the venue, with Level 1 measuring 1km all the way round and having the same food footprint as Westfield shopping centre; how to change the football food paradigm from pie to street food; how to encourage football supporters to come to the stadium earlier to enjoy the hospitality experience, as they do in Rugby, rather than 5 minutes before kick-off; and, overcoming the ‘safety police’ who insist that beer is decanted from glass bottles to plastic glasses (but curiously not bottled soft drinks). This last point also throws up the dilemma of the absolute need for responsible alcohol management whilst minimising the associated barriers for retail.
As well as the challenges, Doug gave an insight into the profit potential that different events can achieve. Take boxing, for example. On the night that Carl Froch fought for the Middleweight Champion of the World title, Carlsberg lager was being poured at a rate of £4000 retail per minute! £1.4million in total was taken at that single event. In contrast, a One Direction concert, with a core audience of children and their parents, took only £350,000.
Staffing is also a challenge for stadia hospitality. 3,500 casual staff are required for a big event, and potentially 1,500 of these are on agency. Engaging energetic and reliable casual staff is a must. And, with security so understandably high at Wembley Stadium, casual staffing needs to be efficiently managed.
Delaware North UK is investing in technology to drive the business forward. A new £1.5million till system is enabling a move to contactless payment that will reduce the serious challenges that having too big a reliance on cash presents. It has also introduced a real time stock system that allows low stock on concessions to be immediately identified and acted upon. Looking forward, a move to pre-order and delivery to seats is not out of the question.
Service quality is top of the agenda and the ‘Guest Path’ continuous improvement programme empowers employees to deliver outstanding service, ‘creating special experiences, one guest at a time’. The programme underpins what service is and what is expected of staff. Mystery shoppers, for example, are engaged to assess service and good work is recognised immediately and retrospectively through the Arch Awards, with those going the extra mile celebrated at a special awards night.
Following Doug’s speech, the audience posed a variety of questions. On the matter of the potential for hawking at seat level, Doug replied he would like to do more of this for NFL but as a stadium built for football it is not designed for it, and the football audience would not welcome it. When asked about planning for events, Doug’s colleague, Daniel Clarke, director of catering at Wembley, compared an event day to a freight train. You can’t stop it so you need to keep laying the track to keep it going. This highlights the beauty of long-term contracts as experience and data enables optimum planning in order to meet demand and minimise waste.
“To operate in stadia you have to stay on your toes and approach each event with a chameleon nature.” Daniel Clarke
To close the event, a group of attendees had the privilege of taking a back-of-house tour to view the catering facilities within the venue.
As ever, Arena members and guests were most generous in support of our industry charities, Hospitality Action and Springboard, with £720 raised through the charity raffle.