Picture the scene: you’ve spent weeks organising a trip to the races with friends, and now the day has finally arrived you’re in your best outfit, reveling in the electric atmosphere and enjoying a flutter… But are the refreshments on the right track?
Top quality food and drink can elevate a good day out into a great one, and Sodexo Prestige Venues and Events are not prepared to gamble when it comes to giving visitors an unforgettable race day.
“We scrutinise the food and beverage concepts and concessions to make sure they embrace popular trends, complement customer profiles and highlight Sodexo as leader in racecourse retail, not a follower,” says Alex Lewis, head of food and beverage operations at Ascot Racecourse.
The Smokehouse, a casual dining venue in the Queen Anne Enclosure, came directly from Sodexo’s eye for current food trends. “Every six months we tour the restaurants creating a buzz in London and that’s where our inspiration for The Smokehouse came from,” says Alex Lewis. All food is freshly smoked on-site, and diners can choose from US-inspired dishes including Angus steak, crispy buttermilk chicken and smoked seafood linguine.
Responding well to crowd fluctuations is something Sodexo Prestige Venues & Events are well equipped to do. The 20-metre long Goldikova Bar made its debut at Royal Ascot 2016. “Previously we were building additional bars outside to cope with the big events,” explains Alex. “We suggested that a new permanent bar was needed, and Goldikova is the result. It was an instant hit and one of the highest grossing bars on site during Royal Ascot.”
HAMILTON PARK RACECOURSE
At Hamilton Park, Sodexo cater for crowds of anything up to 11,000. The Lanarkshire racing venue open their gates at noon for their Super Saturday events, allowing more time to create an exciting line up of entertainment for the crowd with live racing in the evening. Divisional Director David Trotter explains: “Race-goers can be on site for up to 11 hours and so not only will they want different food and drink options throughout the day, they need quick service as there’s usually just a half hour window between races.”
For David and the team, it’s all about the right brand for the customer, and that means that no two race-days offer the same. “For ladies day for example we will place the emphasis on lighter bites such as afternoon tea and lighter finger food over the traditional burgers, pizzas and chicken that we might focus on for a family day,” he says.
The team also builds branded bars for favorites, like Moet and Chandon. High-quality wines and spirits are also the focus of the newly-developed Red’s Wine Bar at Hamilton Park Racecourse. “Customer feedback highlighted the lack of a VIP or high-street bar facility at the racecourse,” says David. “We looked to create a venue that would encourage increased customer spend through longer stays but at reduced capacity as we felt it was important to include luxury seating.” It has certainly proved a winner, and sales have increased by up to 50%.
With racing enthusiasts regularly drawn to the 15 annual jump meetings at Perth Racecourse, food quality has to be consistently high.
“Regular race-goers want value for money. If a burger is tasty, filled with the best Highland Buccleuch beef, they’re happy to pay their well-earned money for it,” admits general manager, Tim du Pon. We are always on the lookout for the next innovation and new product to keep our customers engaged and coming back for more
When research at Perth revealed that customers wanted a new fast food option, Sodexo’s team saw an opportunity to create something bespoke. Step forward development chef Tom Beauchamp, a passionate advocate for quality Scottish produce. Tom created and named The Thoroughbread - a delicious combination of freshly-baked chargrilled sourdough, Hornigs haggis, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses and cajun mayonnaise; baked until golden.
“I used local ingredients that reflect the unique identity of Perth,” says Tom. “It was fun to develop and the feedback since the launch has been so positive.”
So whether it’s a total retail refresh, insightful selection of the best-fit brands and suppliers, rapid response to fluctuating crowd numbers or creation of a bespoke product for a location, Sodexo’s racecourse retail teams always design with the customer front of mind.