Cateys 2020: Foodservice Caterer Award – Kevin Watson, Amadeus

22 November 2020
Cateys 2020: Foodservice Caterer Award – Kevin Watson, Amadeus

Sponsored by Diversey and Zenith Hygiene

Kevin Watson, managing director of contract caterer Amadeus, is behind a raft of new contract wins. In the last 12 months, under his leadership, the company has secured deals with Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre, an agreement worth more than £12m, and with Edgbaston Priory Club, worth more than £7m.

Existing business has remained strong, too: every one of the company's events contracts were retained, including the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and Scottish Open.

Over the past five years Watson has led an ambitious growth strategy, which has doubled turnover and tripled profits. His strategy was simple but effective: to achieve more transactions and an increased spend per head across venues such as the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and the International Convention Centre (ICC).

He has supported the food and beverage team in innovating and exploring industry trends, such as street food and vegan offerings, which saw the company launch Str(EAT) Kitchen at the NEC. Committed to reducing food miles, carbon footprint and emissions, Watson introduced a policy that stated 80% of the company's food and beverage suppliers must be from within a 30-mile radius. Amadeus has also become a ‘zero waste to landfill' business, with an average recycle rate of 80%, and it has banned single-use plastics across all of its premises.

Watson also spearheaded a long-term technological overhaul worth more than £4m and a £600,000 capital investment project that transformed the way the business engages with customers at its arena venues. He launched a project that saw more than 150 LED digital screens installed across both venues, achieving a 10% uplift in spend.

Under Watson's stewardship a strong selling culture has been developed, for example, through the ‘Service that Sells' scheme, which increased spend per head and delivered 7% year-on-year growth. He also introduced greater cost control on food and beverage labour, along with reducing food costs by 10%, without compromising on quality. Conference catering conversion rate has also improved, recognising catering spend as a percentage of rental revenue.

Watson believes that Amadeus is only as good as the people it employs, and he is known for his approachability and the introduction of unorthodox ideas, such as ‘Walk and Talk Fridays', when emails are banned. More conventional methods have included nominating staff for the Living Leader initiative, a personal leadership programme designed to develop highly motivated and engaged leaders within the business.

The company also partnered with University College Birmingham and Solihull College to offer apprenticeships to 200 people, many of whom have taken up permanent positions at Amadeus.

What the judges said

"Amadeus has been on an upwards trajectory every year under Kevin's guidance, leadership and strategy, and recent results prove that the business has no intention of standing still any time soon." – Fiona Boyd-Thorpe

"It's brilliant to have a unanimous vote for Kevin this year. He's been pipped in the past but his record is impressive on every count, with him now heading a transformed, dynamic and meaningful business. A really worthy winner." – Chris Stern

The shortlist

  • Bonnie May, managing director, Global Infusion Group
  • Allister Richards, chief operating officer, CH&Co
  • Matthew Thomas, managing director, Searcys
  • Kevin Watson, managing director, Amadeus
  • Andrew Wilson and Carolyne Vale, co-founders, Wilson Vale

The judges

  • Fiona Boyd-Thorpe, director, Boyd-Thorpe Associates
  • Chris Durant, senior consultant, the Litmus Partnership
  • Hannah Horler, managing director, Cartwheel Recruitment
  • Chris Stern, managing director, Stern Consultancy
  • Wendy Sutherland, managing director, Ramsay Todd
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