Croydon-based IFSE has enabled the NEC exhibition centre in Birmingham to overhaul its catering facilities, working with Amadeus, the NEC’s catering arm.
In the existing space, the distributor initially created four separate branded catering areas, 30% more seating and a unique catering experience for exhibitors and visitors to dine, relax and close business deals.
As the NEC had grown in size and capacity, the existing restaurants and kitchens had become outdated and over-capacitated. This meant that the catering team could not cater for developing eating habits and ever expanding audiences.
After sanctioning an extensive piece of research to “get under the skin” of the NEC’s visitors and find out exactly what they thought of the current food offering, the exhibition centre found that visitors were looking for more variety and desired an environment where they could have a quality meal whilst ‘closing business deals’.
As a result, the management team at the NEC agreed that after 16 years since the last catering refurbishment, it was time to bring the catering venues in line with the standards their visitors were expecting.
IFSE was originally invited to be a part of the restaurant redevelopment in 2015 to design and build and fit out the NEC catering facilities. The initial work started with halls 1, 3 and 4 working over an intensive 10-week period to ensure minimal disruption to planned exhibitions.
The entire team at IFSE were involved from design to delivery. The catering refurbishment started with a major strip out of all the existing equipment, servery counters, partition walls, bars and existing flooring to create a blank canvas to start completely again.
The design team, together with the NEC and the catering team, studied the research and, as a result of the insight, four separate branded catering areas within the existing space to allow for more variety that the visitors were looking for. The four separate spaces would allow the catering team to enhance and expand the food offering available:
They comprised: the Oak Kitchen – offering traditional English cuisine; Butcher and Grill – offering freshly prepared food from the grill; MADE coffee shop – serving handcrafted cakes and grab and go products; and EvViva – the pizzeria and bar.
This was fresh style of operation for the catering team and was tested with the initial catering development. Thanks to the success of the trial, combined with the increase in footfall and quality of service, the style was rolled out to more halls across the centre.
Partition walls were erected to build the MADE coffee shops within the existing footprint. These facilities gave visitors the option for a quick ‘grab-and-go’ sandwich, snack or coffee if time was limited. An Atosa grill was added to allow for the freshly prepared paninis.
The main dining hall was updated and redesigned to feature two smaller, compact servery counters with the Oak Kitchen and the Butcher and Grill branding, meaning visitors could quickly browse the offering and go to the service point without queueing in one single long line.
Electrolux prime cooking equipment was utilised within the kitchen and bespoke counters were designed exclusively for the NEC with bright displays built in to highlight the freshly prepared meals. Williams and Electrolux refrigeration were used, said to be efficient and reduce operational electrical costs.
Third and finally, the EvViva bar and pizzeria were designed to add variety to the food offering. This was a totally new concept for the NEC, serving freshly prepared pizza and pasta dishes inside the exhibition halls.
The catering refurbishment project was said to be unique in the fact that the IFSE building teams were working in four entirely different areas yet they were identical in design.
Kathryn James, MD of NEC Group Exhibitions and Conferences, described the redevelopment as putting food and beverage “at the forefront of the NEC’s offering”. “The redevelopment allowed us to take a step forward in the way that we service and welcome our customers at the NEC.”
As a result of the hard work from all of the teams involved, the project was completed on time and “virtually snag free” according to Anne Peacock, the associate director dedicated of the project. 30% more seating was added as a result of the ‘sleeker’ and more compact servery counter set up.
“By prefabricating the counters, we were able to cut down the delivery time and ensure that we were ahead of schedule. While there was a risk to this, our team ensure that all units fitted perfectly and smoothly,” Peacock added.
Kevin Watson, MD of Amadeus, the catering team at the NEC, said: “Thanks to IFSE for helping us deliver this project on time and on budget, and the finished product looks great. The whole team have fed back how smooth the project went with the distributor’s ‘working with us’ approach.”