Revolutionising the Guest Experience: Coventry Building Society Arena's In-house Catering Success Story

Date: 4 Oct 2023

The catering operation at a leading Midlands venue for business, entertainment and sport is thriving and set for further investment – six months after being brought in-house

Coventry Building Society Arena, which has hosted 180 events since April, made the move to an entirely in-house catering team earlier this year.

It has seen significant changes to the catering offer across the venue, with visitors to conferences, exhibitions, meetings and football matches all experiencing significant improvements.

As part of the change, the Arena has expanded its in-house team and attracted 303 new casual workers to its database to support catering at its packed schedule of events, which is equivalent to a 32 per cent growth in staffing.

Staff retention since the decision to bring the operation in-house has been strong, with no employees leaving at the merger of operations or as a result of the merger, as the team has taken up the challenge of transforming the catering offer.

It has seen the venue move to work with more local suppliers, including Sparkenhoe Cheese Company, Owen Taylors Butchers and Direct Seafood, and invest into key sustainability initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of the venue’s catering operation.

This has included partnering with Notpla, Vegware and Event Cup Solutions on new packaging solutions, and seeking to work with new suppliers such as Fairfields Farm Crisps due to their sustainability credentials.

Coventry Building Society Arena has also been able to secure a major deal with Budweiser Brewing Group, while also making investment in new systems for staffing and procurement.

Quality improvements are being made across the venue, including on the concourse and in hospitality, to enhance the experience for visitors on a Coventry City matchday.

Plans are also in place for the venue to invest further in new software and technology in the concourse while also investing in new catering equipment.

It has increased its training and development programme for staff and committed to support the Step into Hospitality initiative, which aims to provide a pathway to kick-start a career in hospitality.

Coventry Building Society Arena has supported the flagship pre-employment training programme by signing up as one of the venues which graduates are guaranteed interviews with for a position after completing their training.

Mark O’Shea, Catering & Experience Director at Coventry Building Society Arena, has worked at the venue for 15 years and has overseen the transition to an in-house catering team.

He says that the move has enabled swift decision-making to support the delivery of events, opened up opportunities to work with new suppliers and is already having a positive impact for visitors to the venue.

Mark said: “We had a great relationship with our former catering and hospitality partner, but with the venue moving into a new era, it was the ideal opportunity to take the brave step and bring our catering in-house.

“Over the last six months, we have worked to ensure we have the expertise across the team to deliver an improvement in quality for visitors to the venue, which is our primary goal.

“We now have all the systems and processes in place which will give us the foundations to grow and expand our catering offer. The team has already been implementing changes across the venue and visitors can expect to see even more improvements in the coming months.

“The in-house catering team brings benefits to event organisers as the operation is entirely within the venue and means we are able to act quickly, deliver on shorter lead bookings and tailor our delivery to the needs of an event.”

Joe Elliott MBE, who attended three events at the venue in September, said: "While the result on the pitch for Coventry City wasn’t what we wanted, the hospitality food aspect of the evening was superb. This followed on from the Diamond Club and Coventry and Warwickshire Children's Charity ball where the food again was of excellent quality and taste.

"It is amazing how the team delivers such consistency in large numbers, and I would like to praise the chefs and teams that produced this quality of service."