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As Black Sabbath thrashed out their immortal anthem ‘Paranoid’ at Birmingham’s Genting Arena in February 2017, the band’s fans knew they were witnessing something special.
It was the metal legends’ final song of their last ever gig in the city, where the band had been formed nearly 50 years earlier.
But it was Kevin Watson, managing director of Amadeus, which runs the catering at the Genting Arena, part of NEC Group, who had the biggest smile of all on his face. That’s because thirsty Sabbath fans had just consumed more than £255,000 worth of beer and snacks, toppling the venue’s food and beverage record for an event.
It was the first of several records to follow in what was a stellar year for Amadeus. Its 2016/17 accounts show 20% turnover growth year-on-year and a 44% rise in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation in what the group says are the strongest results in its 40-year history.
When Watson joined Amadeus as managing director in 2012, his strategy was clear: to grow the business to £50m and transform its image from ‘NEC group caterer’ to a major player in retail and leisure catering. His strategy bore fruit in 2017, with more than £30m worth of new business wins from external venues in the past year, including Peterborough’s East of England Arena and Events Centre, Delapré Abbey in Northampton, and Compton Verney gallery in Warwickshire. They joined four new accounts in Northern Ireland, including Belfast Zoo and Belfast Castle.
As well as winning new business, Amadeus has continued to innovate in its Birmingham operation – which includes the National Exhibition Centre, International Convention Centre, Vox Conference Centre and Genting Arena, alongside 30 non-NEC venues, including Cadbury World and Dudley Zoo.
In April 2017, Amadeus completed a research and statistical analysis of NEC Group’s visitors and ticket buyers. The findings have allowed it to target its F&B offer at the typical behaviour patterns of different consumer groups. Deploying its new Pure healthy eating pop-up concept at events where healthier options are likely to be popular, for example, led to a 13% year-on-year uplift in spend per head.
Four new mobile concepts followed this summer, including a toasted sandwich offer for families and slow-cooked meat for foodies.
The group has invested £2m in an overhaul of its F&B. It has refurbished its catering units and developed new retail-focused dining concepts, such as the Evviva Restaurant brand.
Another £1m has been invested in technology to cut down queues and improve the customer experience. The Qjacker app, which lets customers pre-order food, was designed for Insomnia, a gaming festival held at the NEC. After generating an extra £30,000 in revenue across the three-day event, the app has been rolled out at other sites across the NEC.
With Amadeus turning over £47m in the 2017/18 financial year, that £50m target is well in sight for 2019. Anyone who’s met Watson, though, knows he won’t be stopping there.
What the judges said
“Solid financial performance, and what appears to be a very positive reposition of the brand. It’s expanding at a rate too.”
John Nugent, chief executive, Green & Fortune
“Congratulations to Amadeus for performing well in an increasingly competitive market and further developing a recognisable brand and style.”
Tim Axe, commercial director, Benugo
2017 Jockey Club Catering
2015 Levy Restaurants UK
2013 Green & Fortune