Meet Anthony Davies MIH, Head of Food & Drink at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Anthony tells us what a typical day will be like for him during The Championships at Wimbledon, Europe’s largest annual catering event, serving over half a million guests.
Tell us about your current role in hospitality.
I currently enjoy the excitement and privilege of being Head of Food and Drink at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which is home to The Championships, one of the four worldwide Tennis Grand Slam Tournaments.
I joined the organisation in 2015, and am now looking forward to my fifth Championships, which is nearly upon us. Initially the role was very much about devising a Food & Beverage strategy that matched the ambitions of the organisation for the short to medium term – of course that has now naturally morphed into implementing the associated roadmap to deliver and develop our strategy.
For many of our guests, a visit to SW19 really is a bucket list item. What’s really important to me is striving to ensure that those who are lucky enough to enjoy the Championships in person have a Food & Drink experience that helps create amazing memories that can be enjoyed for many years to come.
We are 100% focused on delivering the very best guest experience possible with continual improvement and attention to detail being a fundamental part of the organisation’s DNA and values. As an annual event, we are in a relatively unique and enviable position to be able to spend 50 weeks of the year forensically analysing our performance, detailed planning for the following year together with longer term Masterplan and CAPEX projects to ensure we continually develop and improve our proposition.
It doesn’t all stop after the Championships however, as we also operate as a Members’ club and Lawn Tennis Museum and tours. It’s as important to us that a visit to the All England Lawn Tennis Club is just as memorable throughout the year.
It’s time for Wimbledon 2019, describe what a typical day will be like you for over the next few weeks.
Unlike a lot of sporting events which have defined start and finish times, tennis is incredibly dynamic, and the variables from day to day are huge. Whether that is related to weather, dynamics of people flow around The Grounds or when courts break between matches, it guarantees that just as in most hospitality environments, no two days are ever the same.
The Championships is Europe’s largest annual catering event, serving over half a million guests over the fortnight. As you can imagine it is an extremely complex operation with a huge amount of moving parts.
Approximately 2,500 Food & Drink team members deliver over 140 different Food & Drink operations throughout The Grounds, which covers all sectors from simple Grab & Go offers through to Fine Dining in the Royal Box, and everything in between! In addition we serve approximately 25,000 players, broadcasters and support team members each day across Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner day parts. We deliver over 30,000 hospitality covers and served an incredible 38 tonnes of our famous strawberries in 2018.
If everything goes to plan, our focus within the fortnight is to review each and every offer through a guest’s eyes, searching for ways of improving and developing for the following year. This also applies to our logistics activities and processes, including an overnight shift to review the crucial goods in and distribution activity which is the backbone of our operation – it amazes me every single year, how our overnight team deliver such a complex operation with good humour and determination to ensure each of our operations have what they need for the coming day.
One thing is guaranteed – my Fitbit is kept very busy managing my step count across our 42 acre site.
How does it feel to work at such an iconic British venue and event and what do you love most about working there?
Wimbledon really is a British institution, that appeals to so many people, even those who are not strictly tennis fans. I feel extremely proud to play just a small part in bringing this iconic event to life each year. It is an extraordinary collective team effort across so many different specialist disciplines that makes Wimbledon so special.
One of the other enjoyable elements of working at Wimbledon is our ability to showcase top quality seasonal ingredients, supporting British growers and producers from across the UK. Whether it be strawberries from Marion in Kent, asparagus from John in Evesham, chocolate brownies from Kate on the Gower Peninsula to name a few, we are particularly proud of the personal relationships we hold with many of our ingredient suppliers. Creating and delivering simple and tasty summer dishes that celebrate the wonderful British harvest at this time of year.
When you were growing up did you always want to work in hospitality?
Not really, I left school after A-levels, and rather than choosing the university path, I was keen to get into the world of work. Initially I chose retail banking, spending 5 years at Midland Bank on their management development programme.
I was a little impatient in those days and hungry for speedy progression into a management role which resulted in me taking an exciting opportunity as a trainee manager within bingo. This was my first taste of a career in hospitality, and I must say that my time in bingo was an amazing learning platform for my future career within the hospitality industry, as well as great fun.
Clearly, I enjoyed it and the rest as they say is history!!
You joined the Institute of Hospitality a few months ago, why did you decide to join and which elements of membership will you utilise the most?
If I am honest, it is something I have been meaning to do for a while, but for some reason it always seemed to go on the back burner! Whilst in the run up to this year’s Championships I have not been able to take advantage of many of the benefits, I am looking forward to the networking, sharing of best practices and industry relevant material that I will now have access to.
You have previously worked for some incredible hospitality brands including De Vere, Harbour & Jones and Compass Group, tell us about your career highlight?
I have been extremely lucky to enjoy a very diverse career so far, covering so many different facets of the hospitality industry and learning the differences within them. There are so many career highlights whether related to team development, concept creation, financial delivery or transformation of businesses, it really is difficult to pick one out, however it was humbling to be recognised by industry experts and win the ALMR operations manager of the year award back in 2010.
What makes hospitality such a special industry to work in?
Based on my experience, I would say it’s the camaraderie and enjoyment that comes of working as part of a team. In hospitality, we don’t provide a tangible product as such, and therefore we all take pride in helping create memories. In my mind there is nothing better than seeing the enjoyment and happiness that can be created for a guest with a great team, great product and great environment.
At Wimbledon, pride plays a big part in our organisation’s values. We have an outstanding group of Food & Beverage operators, chefs and professionals, together with a large group of friendly and bubbly FOH & BOH team members from Compass Group who are all dedicated to delivering operational excellence in the Wimbledon way every single day. It’s incredibly relentless for the two weeks of the event, but I think that everyone feels that sense of pride and joy to be part of the team that delivered Wimbledon.
How do you think we can attract more people to see hospitality as a long-term career choice?
This is a real challenge for our industry right now, and probably more acute than ever before. There are of course ways that these challenges can be mitigated, which of course are all related to how you treat people within your team. Ensuring people are valued, well trained, properly rewarded and given a clear career path and development programme are so important. It is also important as an industry that we recognise the needs of our core workforce.
Millennials have different requirements and desires to those of previous generations, and its important that the industry recognises these differences and adapts to them. It’s important to realise that these are not just based on simple financial matters, with ideas such as the five year sabbatical that Nandos offer being a great example of thinking differently and allowing your longer term team members to do something meaningful that really suits them.