You’ve been to one of our hospitality experiences. You’ve walked into a beautifully decorated room, had a lovely hostess take you to your seats. You’ve eaten a meal so delicious it makes your mouth water just thinking about it. You might have noticed a few special details that have made you stop and smile. You’ve watched an incredible sporting event and thoroughly enjoyed your day.
At some points during the day, you might have stopped to consider how it all works – who comes up with the ideas? How exactly do you bring a hospitality package to life?
At Keith Prowse, we’re hugely passionate about giving our guests the best experience possible. In innovating and taking your experience to the next level. And part of that is having an incredible team behind the events.
And we want to introduce them to you.
Sarah is the Head of the Cheltenham Festival and Investec Derby Sales. Sarah sat down with us to talk about the horse racing packages we offer and all things hospitality.
Tell me about the different hospitality packages available at the Investec Derby Festival and at The Cheltenham Festival?
The Investec Derby Festival is the greatest Flat race in the world and we offer lots of different types of hospitality there – ranging from entry level packages in the Tattenham Straight marquee all the way up to the exclusive packages in the Derby suite.
We’ve also got our newest package, The Winning Post, which is an innovative hospitality experience on the inside of the racecourse. This year we had all three Roux’s (Albert Roux OBE, Michel Roux Jr, and his daughter, Emily Roux) catering in the Chex Roux @ Blue Riband restaurant. There are also private boxes and the Downs View suite, which is a more traditional package overlooking the racecourse from a level three balcony.
And for Cheltenham Festival, we offer Front Runner’s hospitality on the final furlong of the racecourse. There’s draft Guinness – which the guests love – and guest jockeys giving tips throughout the day.
You talked about innovation at the Winning Post at the Investec Derby Festival – could you expand on that?
At Epsom, hospitality has always been very traditional and located outside of the track in either the Queen’s or the Duchess’s stand. The Winning Post offers a completely different experience. This year we had a small pool, which proved hugely popular despite the weather. There are lots of different features that guests don’t often expect to see from traditional hospitality – it’s not just a three-course sit-down meal and complimentary drinks.
The Winning Post also has an after party, so when most guests would leave around half-six; those in the Winning Post get a DJ. This year saw DJ Judge Jules take to the decks.
What do you think makes the hospitality that little bit more special at the Cheltenham Festival?
The location of Front Runner’s is particularly great for Cheltenham; you’re looking over the final furlong of the racecourse, which not all of the facilities can offer. It’s just a really great day out and you can see that in our rebooking rate. Year on year guests tell us how great the food is, how lovely the staff are – I think it just has a really warm, friendly, relaxed atmosphere that you don’t see at other racing events.
It sounds like a lot of work to get everything ready – how long does it take to plan one of these events?
Pretty much the second we finish! At Cheltenham this year, we had a day’s break but were straight back in the next week getting our ideas together for next year. It’s the same at the Investec Derby Festival. All the different teams – events, sales, finance, marketing – work together throughout the year to get everything perfect and ready in time.
We also work really hard on getting all of the feedback from the comment cards into next year’s packages. The customer’s feedback is really important to us, so a huge part of our time is spent creating packages with their feedback in mind.
And what is it about the horse racing that makes it such a popular event?
I think horse racing is an event for everyone. For the women, it’s a chance to dress up – to put on a nice dress and a hat and feel extra special. But at the same time, there’s the thrill of the race itself, and it’s a very prestigious event.
There’s also lots of different types of racing; the Investec Derby Festival is a Flat race, whereas Cheltenham is a Jump race. They bring in two different types of customer but everyone seems to love it and tends to come back again each year.
You seem to get a diverse range of guests at the racing. But hospitality can sometimes be known as a corporate product – is that something you agree with? Or do you think it’s moved into more of a sociable event?
In terms of the Cheltenham Festival, it’s still quite a corporate event, just because they’ll always tend to re-book each year. Lots of our tables are booked straight after the Festival by companies who want the same experience the following year.
Saying that, there has definitely been an increase in the number of individuals booking for the Festival too. You get people coming with their families and friends – it’s an affordable option to go to, particularly the Tuesday and the Wednesday.
With the Investec Derby Festival, particularly in the Winning Post, you can see an increase in individuals coming to have a nice day out. A lot of guests don’t want the hassle of organising every detail and prefer to have everything catered for them. With hospitality, they don’t have to worry about a single thing once they’re inside as they know they’re going to be looked after.
You say a lot of your corporate customers rebook year on year. How important do you think hospitality is in a business environment?
I think it’s hugely important, particularly with the feedback I get from them. A lot of guests will book a hospitality experience with us for the first time and have never looked back – simply because it works so well.
Hospitality allows for valuable interaction time with your clients – you get to spend up to eight hours with them. That might sound intense, but you’ve got a sport to break up the day – whether it’s racing or rugby – and it’s a memory that you can continue talking about for a long time. You’ll find your clients are much more likely to pick up the phone to you because you’ll have developed a much better relationship with them by the end of the day.
How long have you worked in sports hospitality and why Keith Prowse?
I’ve been at Keith Prowse for two and a half years now. It was my first position coming out of university. I’ve always wanted to get into an event sales manager position and Keith Prowse gave me the opportunity to progress. We’re also in the unique position that we work with so many different events, everything from tennis to rugby and horse racing to cricket – there’s so much to offer to our customers.
Keith Prowse prides itself on being the market leader in hospitality – what do you think gives them that name?
I think it’s the level of innovation that goes into each and every event. The events team are constantly coming up with ideas for how to make the hospitality packages that extra special. So much work is put into every single aspect of a customer’s experience and how it can be made a little easier, from e-ticketing to world-class catering from the Roux dynasty.
We’re not satisfied with just a three-course lunch and complimentary bar – anyone can offer that. We strive to go above and beyond to make our customer's experience that much more special. And you can see it works, we have a huge re-booking rate for all the events that we do.
So it seems that, though Keith Prowse is a big company in itself, it has a family-run, personable feel to it?
Definitely, you notice it when you go to the events, but especially if you take a look behind-the-scenes. Everyone pulls in together, there’s staff there weeks before the event building the facilities. We all pitch in loading the vans up before going to any of the events. If you look at the people in the office, we aren’t the biggest company and it’s amazing what we can pull off for all of our events.
And finally, how would you describe the Cheltenham Festival and Investec Derby Festival in three words?
For Cheltenham, I would say: The roar, the atmosphere, Guinness
And, for The Investec Derby Festival at Epsom: Prestige, innovation, time-honoured