You’ve been to one of our hospitality experiences. You’ve walked into a beautifully decorated room, had a lovely hostess take you to your seats. You’ve eaten a meal so delicious it makes your mouth water just thinking about it. You might have noticed a few special details that have made you stop and smile. You’ve watched an incredible sporting event and thoroughly enjoyed your day.
At some points during the day, you might have stopped to consider how it all works – who comes up with the ideas? How exactly do you bring a hospitality package to life?
At Keith Prowse, we’re hugely passionate about giving our guests the best experience possible. In innovating and taking your experience to the next level. And part of that is having an incredible team behind the events.
And we want to introduce them to you.
Mike is the head of Wimbledon sales. Fresh from the Championships, Mike sat down with us to talk Wimbledon and all things hospitality.
Tell me a little bit about Wimbledon hospitality?
The majority of our packages are housed within the Gatsby Club, which has been the lead brand of our facility since the 80’s. It was based on the concept of the movie The Great Gatsby, and that’s the way that the restaurant was originally set out. Think feather boas and pearls. It has come on a long way since then, it’s much more contemporary and modern fine-dining.
The majority of our hospitality takes place in there. We have groups of all sizes from individual’s right up to larger groups that are up to anything over 100 people on any given day. On the whole, the majority have the fine-dining, à la carte Gatsby experience.
And then we have some slight variations to that within the facility. We have a private area called the Speakeasy that is the exclusive area for larger groups for up to 60 people. We also have the Player’s Tables, which are a slightly upgraded version of the standard Gatsby Club package. You get an extra course, upgraded wines, and a butler service – some nice finer touches. And then – as the name suggests – the key to the package is a former champion, the likes of Lindsay Davinport, Virginia Wade, Goran Ivanišević, Greg Rusedski will come and visit the guests during lunch service.
You call it the Gatsby experience, which sounds like quite a unique selling point, what do you think makes it so special?
The experience has really come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years. I think that’s due to the work we do directly with the Club itself (The All England Lawn Tennis Club). We’ve really tried to understand their brand and the direction they’re trying to go. Their theme is tennis in an English garden, which is quite challenging to try and translate in a hospitality experience, as it can mean a lot of different things to different people. I certainly feel that we’ve adopted that theme into the Gatsby Club and you can see that through various different touch points. From the leafy exterior surrounding the outside, right through to the hostesses’ dresses and the garden feel that flows through all the areas of the facility. I think the Gatsby Club is now much more on brand with the All England Tennis Club. Given that we’re an offsite structure, we’ve tried to remain very much within the Wimbledon family, and a part of the Wimbledon experience in general.
It sounds like a lot of work goes into the finer details – how long does it take to plan?
It takes all year to plan and all year to market. It’s a never-ending cycle with The Championships, Wimbledon. I think one of the things that we always try and do is improve and innovate and that’s a really important part of our business. So absolutely, Wimbledon ended on Sunday and as of Monday morning we were straight back in with new ideas and plans for the 2017 Championships.
You must be quite passionate about it all – it seems more like an act of love than anything?
Absolutely, I’m sad enough to admit that I almost never stop thinking about Wimbledon.
What is your favourite thing about Wimbledon then?
It’s a really tough question, there are so many things to love. I think that, for me, it’s around the sense of occasion. I’ve been working on it for four years consecutively and it never fails to achieve that sense when you walk around the first Monday morning of the Championships. You know that you’re in for something special. Couple that with the history and tradition and style – it makes for a perfect event.
You’ve worked at Wimbledon for 4 years, how long have you worked in the sports hospitality industry?
I have worked in the industry for 17 years now. The first ever event I was involved in was the Cricket World Cup in 1999.
And what’s made you stay in the industry for so long?
That’s a good question. Personally, I’m a massive sports fan but that’s not the sole reason. We’re not in the business of sport as such; we’re in the business of delivering hospitality as a business tool to our customers. And it just so happens that the majority of our products take place in sporting events.
But I think the industry, certainly over the course of the years has changed significantly. Changes in the economy amongst other things has always presented new and different challenges over the course of those 17 years. It makes you adapt and evolve. That’s what’s kept me busy and kept me interested over the years.
You say hospitality is used as a business tool for your clients. Just how important do you think hospitality is in the business world?
I think it’s extremely important, hospitality is a long-standing industry and you just have to look at our customer profiles and the nature of the businesses we work with to see the scope. Our customer list is pretty varied; from the biggest multi-nationals in the world right through to very small sized businesses, who might have a limited budget but are still looking to use hospitality as a business tool.
I think hospitality creates the environment in which to engage with important people, be they stakeholders or customers. For me personally, no matter what industry you’re in, I think a huge amount of business is based around developing and establishing good relationships and that’s what hospitality helps to provide.
You’ve seen the development of business into the digital age – do you think the importance of hospitality has changed because of it?
That’s a good question, I think it hasn’t made hospitality any less important. I think people communicate in a different way, there’s no doubt about that. But there’s a requirement and attraction towards having that face-to-face value time; the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere that hospitality in sport – or any kind of hospitality – provides. I think it has remained as a strong business tool to most industries.
You get a diverse range of guests to the Gatsby club. But hospitality can sometimes be known as a corporate product – is that something you agree with? Or do you think it’s moved into more of a sociable event?
I absolutely would say that it’s moved more into a sociable event and a consumer product just as much as a corporate. There’s no doubt that the ratio is heavily split in favourite of corporate. However, that percentage has levelled out considerably over the last two years, we get a considerable number of tables for two people – guests taking family or friends out as a gift. And we see the consumer side as an area that will continue to grow in the future.
You’ve worked in the industry for 17 years, how long has that been at Keith Prowse?
This is actually a second stint. On the whole, if you add the two together – I’ve worked at Keith Prowse for 12 years in total.
The majority of your career then? Why have you chosen to stay at Keith Prowse for so long?
I think, in the industry that we work with, Keith Prowse are without a doubt the market leader. And that’s for a number of reasons. First and foremost what everyone will point towards is our portfolio – it’s something that we as a business have continued to develop since its creation. We’ve forged relationships with some of the most prestigious and influential venues in the UK.
In addition to that, without a question, its’ the people. I look across our business and can see the number of people who are passionate and committed towards continuing growing and innovating our products. The emphasis on being market leaders, rather than followers, for me is something that’s really important and special.
The guests at the Gatsby Club obviously have tickets and go over to Wimbledon and come back. Do you find that ‘Wimbledon’ atmosphere filters over throughout the day?
Absolutely, I mean it’s a high-value premium product so people will have first-class tickets to watch the tennis. What you often find is that, if you’ve bought a No.1 Court ticket but your tennis idol is playing on centre Court; you might come back over to the facility and watch it on the big screen. It creates an amazing atmosphere in the Gatsby Club.
If you could define the hospitality experience at Wimbledon in three words, what would they be?
The first three words that came to my mind were ‘best in class’. But, if you want three adjectives, then I’d say Wimbledon at the Gatsby Club is unforgettable, premium, and exciting.