By Lisa Hatswell, managing director, Unique Venues of London
Recently, our members gathered at Trinity House to discuss the various catering options available across the association.
The meat of the matter was to uncover which models work best for a specific venue, their advantages and how they influence the location’s offering to event organisers.
We invited Milan Thakrar of Historic Royal Palaces, Rachel Bellon of Two Temple Place, Nicky Pratt of Seasoned Events—an accredited caterer at both Gibson Hall and Tower Bridge—and Andrea Larotella of ArcelorMittal Orbit for an interactive panel discussion.
Proceedings kicked-off with the topic of using one in-house caterer versus a selection. When it comes to heritage venues, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all option for catering, as the decision taken ultimately depends on a variety of factors including the age of the building and its capacity.
Milan explained that Historic Royal Palaces work with caterers that are familiar with the operational needs of unique spaces, and are aware that clientele seek the expertise, reassurance and flexibility that come from having a list of approved suppliers.
Similarly, Rachel explained that Two Temple Place believes in having a diverse list of trusted caterers (11 in total) to offer clients greater choice. Partneringwith suppliers who are experienced with historic and landmark venues helps to protect these spaces from damage. Additionally, there is consistency when it comes to quality and delivery, providing overall peace of mind for both the venue and the client.
Gibson Hall is managed and operated by Seasoned Events. Nicky explained that they are able to provide clients with a variety of catering options; when it comes to events that, for example, require Asian cultural experience, Gibson Hall partner with an expert caterer in this field.
Tower Bridge is on the same page and works solely with Seasoned Events for its catering needs. As the landmark venue is a visitor attraction and has a quick turnaround time, it relies on a supplier that has the required knowledge to operate in such an environment. According to Nicky, who also works with this venue, the advantage of having one team in charge is that the people working together share the same goals and are better able to look after the client from start to finish.
Conversely, ArcelorMittal Orbit has its own caterer, Boulevard Events. Andrea noted that working with a single, verified supplier is beneficial for the quoting process and a fully comprehensive event proposal can be sent to the client within minutes.
Dedication to education
Milan stated that caterers are continuously learning and emphasised that palaces in particular have dedicated staff for such a venue. He further noted that, in order to make sure approved caterers maintain excellence in standards at Historic Royal Palaces, there is a performance review every six months.
Rachel added that choosing a supplier that is knowledgeable in unique venue catering helps to keep clientele happy and any unforeseen obstacles at a minimum.
Nicky noted that smooth operations and customer safety are essential, but customer feedback is a challenge, while Andrea mentioned a need for conservation protocols and hitting sustainability KPIs. These days, there is a greater demand for caterers who have worked in the industry for many years or who have been fully trained in how to deliver quality service while remaining environmentally-conscious.
What was made clear by the panel discussion is that heritage and landmark venues require individual, highly advanced catering options.
These destinations need to carefully consider all their options and develop a model which works for their particular venue and their customers. This ranges from the number of caterers they work with, to the particular challenges they may face. In all, there is one aspect in which all unusual locations are the same, and that is the importance of delivering exceptional service while maintaining the history and beauty of the location for present visitors and future generations.