- Lengthy wait time to be served inside the ground – insufficient staff
- Poor choice of food
- Expensive pricing
A: Richard was keen to contextualise by explaining that public catering had long been an after-thought at sporting events and that, in older stadiums such as WHL, any caterers were extremely limited by poor facilities, lack of power supply, extraction and ventilation problems. These were issues that wouldn’t be resolved until we moved into the new stadium. However, the new stadium gives an opportunity for state of the art facilities to be designed and built in.
Paul explained that out of the 34 kiosks within WHL, only 3 offered the ability to actually cook food. These were in N1, S5 and S6. Some do not even have access to water. More have water which isn’t drinkable owing to the tank system. Before the stadium is opened to the fans on match days, production areas are set up in concourses with portable ovens wheeled out.
Paul said that Levy Restaurants aim to deliver a quality product, at speed.
They have changed a lot of suppliers since they took over in the summer. New pie, hot dog and burger suppliers had been sourced. Paul wants to make sure of the quality of the product at the sales point, not just in the kitchen.
Q. The food choice is better, given the restrictions within certain stands at WHL. But the stock levels are poorly judged with reports of hot food regularly running out. Why is this?
A. Paul explained how they weren’t blessed with electronic tills at WHL so they had to work from a past history of sales when assessing volume. Electronic tills in the new stadium will allow them to move food between outlets if necessary. Of the 4 games they’d catered before the City match, none had been at the same kick off time. Patterns of behaviour varied greatly on a Saturday to a Sunday and on a day time to an evening kick off. This makes a huge difference to sales figures.
Paul elaborated on how his company also runs catering at Twickenham, the Millennium Stadium. Leicester City FC, Cardiff City, Swansea City, Reading and Chelsea FC. They are vastly experienced in stadium catering, which is good to hear.
Paul and Richard explained how they’ve introduced a Guest Hot Dog of the month, a Guest Pie of the month etc.
Q: We have a tradition of bagels at Tottenham. Can we get these back on the menu, please?
A. Kat and Jonathan recalled previous conversations with Centerplate around bringing bagels back onto the menu. They had not sold well – only 200 or so per game. However, it was acknowledged that these were not prominently publicised. We felt that this was a product that could be sold anywhere, regardless of oven and water supply. Kat suggested that the way to do this was to have them for sale on stand-alone karts or on mobile sellers rather than behind the kiosks. Levy Restaurants to explore the possibility of mobile bagel sellers. Bagels were still available in the West stand and the East Upper.
Q: Beer tokens – how are these working in practice?
A. Paul reported that the Beer tokens were working really well. The idea was to enhance the service and, from that point of view, they were a success so far. They’d had to stop offering them in the West Stand as there wasn’t the space in the concourses to manage separate queues but tokens are available in all other stands now.
Q: The wine is like paint stripper. Any chance this can be changed?
A. Paul explained how a lot of suppliers had been changed when Levy Restaurants took over the contract at WHL and they’d swapped the wine so it came in a plastic glass rather than in a bottle that had to be poured into a plastic pint glass. THST explained it wasn’t the shape of the glass the wine was being drunk out of that was a problem. It was the wine itself! Paul agreed to revisit and potentially switch suppliers.
Q: Some of the pricing is extortionate. £2.30 for a bottle of water is very high. Is there any movement here?
A. Richard explained that Levy Restaurants had inherited a lot of the pricing from last season and had only changed price when they’d changed supplier on the whole. Kat said if that pricing was too high then that wasn’t an excuse. Water should be a lot cheaper. It’s a basic. Bearing in mind that every ground has to provide free tap water for fans upon request (although not all of the 34 kiosks at WHL actually have taps or drinking water!). Would be looking at £1.50 a bottle maximum.
Richard explained that when they moved in the new stadium, there was the opportunity to source their own water, which would hugely reduce the costs.
Paul agreed to look at the charge for bottled water in the interim.
Q: Why do the staff look surprised every half time? Why is the service so slow?
A: Paul explained how the catering staff work 4.5 hours at a time across 19 league matches per season. And out of those 4.5 hours, they are only busy for 45 minutes each shift. That’s the 15 minutes at half time and the 30 minutes before the match.
Access to these people is limited. It’s not like hospitality, when shifts are 8 hours long and you can really get to know them.
Levy Restaurant’s contract commenced on 1 July so, therefore, timings were limited to recruit the required numbers and they have had to rely on an element of agency staff.
In terms of training their teams, each member of catering staff is put through a 3 step induction covering work history, customer service and catering skills. They are trained at an assessment centre where they learn more about Levy Restaurants and more about the culture and history of THFC. They then move onto skills training and need to achieve 75% in an e-learning test before being accepted onto the books of Levy Restaurants.
At present, there are 200 staff employed.
They are currently at about 30% of where they’d like to be relating to overall service provision (not base recruitment numbers).
Paul acknowledges they need a larger team but is pleased with how it’s going so far. Each new member of staff is brought in one hour early on a match day for a session focussed on one aspect of training.
Their mantra is “Quality at speed”.
Paul said they recruit based on personality not skills – as you can teach skills. They recruit a lot of their staff from Universities.
There are secret shoppers on match days, too. Jonathan confirmed that Spurs consistently rank mid table in Visit Britain polls based on cost, quality and service. There was an acceptance of that position given the age of the stadium and the extremely limited food preparation and cooking areas available.
Q: THST backs the Living Wage campaign and urges THFC and all third party suppliers to do similar. Do you pay your staff the Living Wage?
A: Paul confirmed that Compass (Levy Restaurants’ holding company) have set rates across all of the stadiums they operate in London. This is well above the national minimum wage. It’s just under £8 an hour for entry level staff, £8.50 for trained staff and £10 for supervisors. Their top people are north of £20 an hour.
They are not currently paying the London Living Wage but are moving towards that for when it becomes ‘law’ in 2020. They currently operate a two tier pay structure. However, they do pay in excess of the National Living Wage.
Q: We will continue to survey members and fans on the catering at WHL but is there any way you can offer an opportunity for more instantaneous feedback? How can fans contact you?
A: Richard agreed to consider postcards on the kiosks or other ways of quickly getting fan comments moving forward.