Company of Cooks scoops £20m National Portrait Gallery deal from Searcys

Company of Cooks scoops £20m National Portrait Gallery deal from Searcys

Company of Cooks has scooped a £20m catering deal at the National Portrait Gallery from long-term operator Searcys.

The five-year contract, which has an option to extend by mutual agreement, is set to start on 18 September. It will see Company of Cooks take over the delivery of all food and drink offers at the London visitor attraction.

The deal covers the Portrait café and the Portrait restaurant, both of which will undergo a physical revamp in around 12 to 15 months' time.

A third trading space, in the form of a café, is in the pipeline. The plan is to open it on the ground floor to meet the demands of the gallery, which boasts visitor numbers of around two million a year.

Commenting on his growth plans for the contract, Company of Cooks founder Mike Lucy told Caterer and Hotelkeeper that the Portrait restaurant, which was recognised under Searcys in the 2011 and 2012 Michelin guides, is already a well-subscribed restaurant business at lunchtime and some evenings.

He added: "However, the National Portrait Gallery is particularly keen to develop its relationship with families and young people. In order to help achieve that, while at the same time recognising that we can't be all things to all people, we're instigating two new threads of activity.

"One is we'll have a calendar of family events, the spine of which will be a family Saturday brunch that has a menu, a price point and appeal to encourage families to visit the gallery and have lunch on a Saturday.

"The second is a further programme of events such as food-related and seasonal lunches and dinners associated with new exhibitions as a means of varying what's on offer."

Other areas of focus will include an effort to maximise the all-day dining potential of the restaurant, especially the pre-lunch brunch market and post-lunch afternoon tea opportunities. Pastry chef Claire Clark, a consultant for the caterer, will be helping to develop the afternoon tea propositions.

Company of Cooks will also look to develop its relationship with BP, which began last year when it looked after the oil company's Olympic hospitality at the Royal Opera House. BP is the sponsor of the BP Portrait Award in partnership with the gallery.

There is inevitable disappointment at the contract loss in the Searcys camp, which had held the contract for 14 years.

The last 12 months have been particularly successful, with Searcys having overseen the gallery's best ever year in terms of catering income. It achieved a 13% increase in like for like sales despite a small reduction in visitor figures for its regular exhibitions.

Doug Tetley, chief executive of Searcys, admitted that the end of his company's association with the gallery had left him with mixed emotions.

"Value for money and good service for the guest has always been paramount in Searcys's eyes. In addition it has always supported its partners by providing the maximum income stream."

Tetley added that Searcys has three new restaurants opening pre-Christmas but declined to offer further details.

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