With The Championships at Wimbledon less than a month away we caught up with Nick Gratwick, head of events and development at Keith Prowse, as shares what to expect from the hospitality at the famous tennis tournament this year…
What new services, dining options, venues or concept updates are there in the hospitality areas?
The Championships is recognised as one of the world’s premier tennis tournaments, this headline positioning means that we continually strive to better our guests experience every single year and building on this success we are looking forward to an exciting refresh in 2019.
For this year’s tournament we are again developing upon our successes which in 2017 saw un-precedented guest feedback and a net promoter score of 83.9% (up from 83.1% in 2016). These results were underlined with a Gold award in 2017 for corporate hospitality experience of the year at the Sports & Leisure Catering Awards and a new five-year partnership with The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) which sees us as the exclusive official hospitality provider at The Championships from 2019.
Every enhancement we make is designed to address guest feedback and to move in line with our wider market insights trends in dining-out and the emerging face of tomorrow’s premium guest.
The Gatsby Club, our exclusive hospitality venue, will serve almost 8,000 guests during The Championships. We have created packages that are tiered to meet differing budget ranges. This is an important step as it helps attract private clients as well as encouraging new sectors of business to use hospitality and face to face as part of their marketing mix.
Gatsby Club packages include: The Wimbledon Experience which is focussed on the overseas guest; The Player’s Table which gives guests access to world-class tennis talent; and The Speakeasy which offers the ultimate discretion.
All packages offer access to Centre Court or Court No1, giving the budget holder more choice on their levels of spend. Each package ensures subtle décor, world-class food, paired wines and un-obtrusive service levels.
Recognising our reliance on mobile devices, we have created a digital e-ticketing solution which is easier for guests and hosts and from our perspective allows us to spend more time interacting with our guests on arrival. Most significantly our e-ticketing solution will help reduce paper in the long term and fits in with our wider desire to reduce waste.
Our exemplary concierge service means that guests can relax and fully enjoy their networking and the on-court play safe in the knowledge that their onward transport or evening dinner reservations have been made. The concierge team bring a touch of the private members club to our offering and has been widely appreciated.
We have acknowledged the trend for mixology, artisan suppliers and individually built drinks and we’ve created a stunning feature bar. With a notable list of individual malt and aged whiskies, the bar is manned by some of the capital’s best bartenders; drinks are mixed with flare and include cocktails and non-alcoholic coolers for our guest to enjoy on arrival, and for some, later in to the evening.
A three-course lunch has been designed by the supremely talented Roux family with the menu headlining a Fruits de Mer platter. Made up of lobster, crab, mussels and prawns, Fruits de Mer is accompanied with Albert Roux OBE’s famous Bois Boudran sauce and offers guests a true taste of the summer. The dish has become synonymous with The Gatsby Club.
Another new addition to the menu is our collaboration with experiential food connoisseurs, Lick Me I’m Delicious, who have created a distinctive Pimm’s flavoured sorbet.
The spacious and light Gatsby Club is styled around an English Garden with an enchanting alfresco area for conversation and celebration. Dressed with silver birch trees and stylish furniture, giant screens also ensure that no play is missed and guests can kick back and cool their feet in the purpose built brook. Musicians add to the atmosphere and cabanas give privacy for small groups.
The outdoor space is also a stunning setting for the guests to round off their day with a cigar and one of our aged whiskies.
Centre Court’s Skyview Suites are private spaces for more intimate numbers of 10 to 20 guests. The upscale suites all have panoramic balconies with fantastic vantage points above the crowds. Vintage Champagne and canapés mark the start of the occasion which is catered for by the talented and innovative Restaurant Associates chefs, including a four-course a la carte menu to enjoy before the tennis action starts just a few steps away.
Will Wimbledon work with renowned chefs again this year? If so, who?
We are privileged to once again partner with the Roux family; Albert Roux OBE, Michel Roux Jr and Emily Roux.
These highly regarded chefs are onsite every day overseeing delivery and execution of their three-course designed a la carte menu and will also be on hand throughout the tournament meeting and greeting The Gatsby Club guests.
The family consult on the menu from the very start through to preparation and delivery, ensuring that their chefs create plates of food they are proud to put their names to. Their meticulous attention to detail ensures that guests receive the very best quality whether you are the first dish out of the kitchen or the last.
Having three generations of Roux in one kitchen, and in a purpose-built structure, delivering great food and great service on such a large scale is a unique challenge. The customers particularly enjoy seeing them working together and interacting with guests as they wander through the space is a very enjoyable experience for everyone and lends to a heightened energy about the day.
The Roux’s are hugely committed to the menu design and guest feedback; as soon as the event is finished they are thinking about the following year’s menu.
Why is it important to keep things fresh/ reinvent the hospitality spaces at Wimbledon?
Hospitality is a highly competitive market with new forms of sport vying for the premium seat market and a raft of different types of events that are now also creating hospitality experiences. Conversely, there is also a huge demand from twenty somethings to be part of a VIP experience. This new guest type is one of the reasons why we have created tiered pricing points.
The eating out market is also incredibly sophisticated and buoyant and it’s imperative that we keep abreast of what our guests want. Our guests, along with insights, drive our offering and we know they are requesting more choice, ranging from informal through to the more formal, with multiple price points and food and drink options.
Keeping elements of surprise for guests on the day is also very important, hence we focus on attention to detail and wow factors, from cigar and drink pairings, to a dedicated concierge service and private tennis clinics with former Wimbledon champions.
We are experience experts and as such surround ourselves with a team of innovators who are passionate about pushing boundaries, to improve the overall experience year on year.
Are there any F&B trends that the catering will be adhering to this year?
Everything is much more health conscious, including drinks. Cocktails in The Gatsby Club will have lower ABV, featuring healthier and more refreshing options with nutrient rich ingredients such as cold pressed pineapple juice or coconut.
Every year the team looks to incorporate more contemporary dishes. These vary in The Gatsby Club from spelt risotto to strawberry tiramisu, while the gastronomic menus in the Skyview Suites include globally inspired dishes like miso, wasabi and yuzu lobster salad.
One dish that won’t be changing is our Fruits de Mer platter, it’s a hugely popular menu choice, guests love it and ask for it every year without fail.
Is there a tiered approach to hospitality this year with different price points to allow more guests from different backgrounds?
There are many different reasons to entertain guests with hospitality, be it a staff reward and recognition programme, building relationships with customers and prospects or celebrating a special personal occasion. Each of these groups have different drivers to purchase hospitality at Wimbledon. Some may favour ticket location and are all about the on-court action, whilst objectives for others may be face-to-face engagement, meaning it’s about quality time and the overall experience. To have a singular product doesn’t make sense.
Before setting the tiering levels, much research is conducted, customer feedback gleaned, and internal brainstorms carried out. Giving guests choice allows them to make an informed and logical choice based on their preferences.