The Faces behind the Events – Edgbaston

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.

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Meet Nick.

Nick is the Head of Edgbaston Sales. Fresh from the 3rd Investec Test Match, Nick sat down with us to talk Edgbaston and all things hospitality.

Tell me a little bit about the hospitality options that Keith Prowse offer at Edgbaston?

There’s three different levels of hospitality. The premium formal level is our à la carte dining experience, either within a private box or a shared restaurant. It’s that extra special experience, with padded seats for example – it’s an all-encompassing top level package.

The middle level is premium hospitality, which still has those high notes on the catering, we’ve just placed more of an informal note to it. For example, you’ll have a plated starter and dessert but the main course is something you can collect from an interactive chef’s table. That level also has boxes that are slightly smaller, they’re 12–16 seaters.

The third tier is an informal package, which is the Edgbaston Experience Club. It is essentially a package that encompasses anyone who’s looking to entertain guests who want a relaxing and informal environment. Essentially it’s a facility of 500 cricket fans that are there for the atmosphere and the occasion.

So the tiers have nothing to do with the quality of the package, but more about what suits you and your guests?

Completely, Edgbaston as a venue has changed their brand in the last 12 months and part of that was their food identity. We’ve recently won an award for the Best Venue at the Birmingham Food, Drink and Hospitality Awards. It doesn’t matter if you’re making a sandwich or a fillet steak, if you’ve got that passion, then the quality will always be there.

And what do you think makes Edgbaston unique and special?

Edg Eng v Ind ODI 2014 377The one thing that stands out to any cricket fan is the atmosphere. This is proven when you look at the ECB atmosphere scorings, we received 9.5/10 for the last Ashes Test Match – that’s the highest score that’s ever been given to a venue. There are many factors that contribute to this, but I feel the biggest is that our fans travel from far and wide to enjoy a day of friendly fun. We also have the barmy army who are regulars at Edgbaston and just add to that electric atmosphere.

It doesn’t matter where you sit in the stadium, you’re guaranteed a good time!

It sounds like you’ve done a lot of work to adapt to your guests’ requirements and the catering  is a great example of that. How much work goes into creating that hospitality experience? How long does it take to plan?

We started planning way over a year ago. Part of that is assessing what you want to create and how to get there. This year we focused on the Edgbaston Experience Club, planning how an entire banqueting suite of 500 would be used. Our operations team looked at the style of the facility – how to dress a banqueting suite to make it warm and welcoming.

BJC_Birmingham-00370We plan the menu over 12 months in advance. One of the best days is the menu food tasting. We try out 6 meat, 6 fish, 6 veggie starters; 6 mains and 6 desserts. Followed by sandwiches and afternoon tea.

The food is prepared as it would be on match day – it is plated exactly how it will look in each of the different hospitality facilities. Giving you a feel for how it looks, how it tastes, and how each guests will consume it.

Because we’re based at the stadium we’re constantly assessing things and making improvements. It’s an ongoing process, there is no stop-and-start – it’s an evolution and we’re always looking for feedback to improve and adapt our experiences.

Hospitality is normally connected to the corporate environment. Do you get social customers as well? Are there people buying hospitality for their parents and families?

Very much so. We get a lot of individuals buying for their sons, daughters, mums and dads. People buying experiences for special occasions tend to get more formal packages; for example the 1882 or Warwickshire Suite holds more of the big birthday celebrations.

Despite that B2B is still our main market. Birmingham has massively grown as a business centre so the corporate part of hospitality has naturally grown.

With that in mind, how important do you think hospitality is within the corporate world

If used correctly, it’s probably one of the key tools used in relationship building. You have to remember that the key client you’re spending time with is your competitor’s next target.

Nowadays we’re so busy; we’re always on our phone or laptops, we’re always talking – I mean when do we ever stop working? To get an afternoon where you’re fundamentally having lunch, drinks and watching some sport with a client. You have the time to talk – not necessarily about work – but about them, about you. You get the time to build a relationship.

I think where companies miss out is that they don’t do it on all levels. I wouldn’t just cement that relationship with my client, I’ll want my boss to have a relationship with their boss and so on. So whatever happens, whatever the movements within the market place, there are always connections that are strong on all levels.

I understand that clients can get into the worry of accepting and offering hospitality, but I think if you use it correctly and smartly it’s more than worth it.

You’ve been at Keith Prowse for three years, what do you think sets them apart from other hospitality providers?

When I talk to the clients, I would tell them that there’s around 8–15 top agencies in the UK for hospitality. Not those who are just buying and selling on tickets – that’s a sales house. I mean top agencies as the ones that are looking at how they drive hospitality forward – how they improve food, service etc. – they’re adding to what the client experience is.

If you go to the same event year on year and see nothing has changed but they charge you more, you’d be disappointed. But in the nine years I’ve been in the industry, Keith Prowse has continuously grown. They innovate; they understand the technology in the market place; they interact with the client brands – it’s what sets them apart. Keith Prose is essentially lifting the industry up and that’s massively important.

People might think we’re this huge corporation and would rather deal with a local agent but that’s the wrong way to look at it. All of our clients are looked after, whether you’re two people at the Edgbaston Experience Club or 50 places in the men’s final at Wimbledon. You’re just as important to the company. So the nature of Keith Prowse is that they look after everyone and they’re never satisfied – we’re constantly pushing to do better and drive the market forward.

So they’re like a family-run business with big business options?

RES WyattYeah, ultimately we interact around the joint ventures with these big venues. As an industry leader, it’s our job to help all the venues push their hospitality to the next level and share the knowledge that we’ve learnt along the way.

Essentially, if you want two places at Edgbaston, you’re better off booking with Keith Prowse over a smaller agency, simply because we are official and can offer that security. If you’re a small business and you’re investing a large amount of money into hospitality, you’d be far happier putting it in a FTSE 100 company than you are any old agency that’s just buying and selling stock.

And finally, if you could describe the experience at Edgbaston in 3 words, what would they be?

Atmosphere, Personable, Quality.

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