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As one of the highlights of the British summer social season, Royal Ascot is a glamorous occasion where the food and drink play a vital part. Sodexo, according to the judges, successfully pushed the boundaries of culinary excellence for the 2017 event to ensure that the catering had equal billing to the racing.
Royal Ascot is the showpiece occasion catered for by the Sodexo Sports & Leisure team, alongside a further 21 Ascot race days, the Chelsea Flower Show, the Henley Regatta and the Hampton Court Flower Show.
Gemma Amor heads the team as executive chef and, during the five days of Royal Ascot, she oversees the production of more than 50,000 fine dining covers, including 220 private boxes, 20 restaurants, six private London clubs and 51 retail outlets. The team of 350 chefs cook everything from sausages to lobsters, which in 2017 translated to a revenue of £15m – a significant proportion of Sodexo Sports & Leisure’s annual turnover of £25m.
One of the specific successes of the 2017 season was the redevelopment of the fish and chip shop, which took more than £100,000 across the week.
To improve the bottom line, all external aspects of the operation have been taken in-house. Significant capital was invested in new mobile concepts, allowing the team to offer a varied selection of products, dependent on the needs of each event. Royal Ascot saw an increase in the number of picnics being served, resulting in a growth in revenue of £50,000, along with the introduction of casual dining experiences in place of grab-and-go.
Amor has played a significant role in the success of the Sodexo team. Since her appointment in 2015, she has exceeded all expectations of her employer. In particular, she has produced outstanding financial results, managed her expense and stock line, improved the customer experience and developed the chefs within her team to work more efficiently to produce the highest-calibre catering offer.
Amanda Skinner, director of Private Cellar, the wine merchant working at Ascot for a major annual charity race day, said: “More than 850 guests enjoy the fruits of her and her superb team’s labours. We get an enormous amount of complimentary feedback on the very high standard and brilliance of her food.”
Chef Phil Howard added: “Gemma operates with a sense of purpose, understanding and professionalism that is not often seen.”
The judges of the Event Caterer of the Year agreed that Amor and her team produce brilliant results in a sector that demands constant change and progression.
What the judges said
“It is evident that Gemma is the driving force of this business… A real personality.”
Michael Clark, operations director, the Ivy Collection
“Working across a diverse range of businesses, displaying an incredible level of passion, Gemma and her team strive to achieve every day.”
Marc Rust, operations director, Restaurant Associates
“This team has shown depth and commitment, which has been supported with solid and senior references.”
Matthew Thomas, managing director, Searcys
“Gemma has made a real difference to a very large and difficult operation. Her personal touch with her team, chefs and food really comes through.”
Bill Toner, chief executive, CH&Co
Green & Fortune
2017 Tapenade, Eventist Group
2016 ExCel London
2015 Global Infusion Group
2014 Kings Place Events
2013 Absolute Taste