Foodservice Cateys 2016: Event Caterer of the Year

20 October 2016
Foodservice Cateys 2016: Event Caterer of the Year

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ExCeL London

Working with more than 300 events and welcoming over 3.6 million visitors every year in a venue the size of 12 football pitches, ExCeL London caters for a diverse portfolio, ranging from World Travel Market and Grand Designs Live to MCM London Comic Con and Street Food Live. At its busiest times, more than 1,000 catering staff work across its operations. For one of its more logistically complex events, chefs served over 200,000 portions of food in 12 consecutive days with different menus each day.

ExCeL has also gone through a redesign and upgrade as part of a £15m retail catering redevelopment. Most recently it added in-house bakery E16, the Bridge restaurant, Spice and Blend, and the Pyramid sports bar.

The venue also brought Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage to life at Grand Designs Live. The River Cottage Canteen provided more than 3,000 visitors with the chance to experience the food integrity and the use of local, seasonal produce that the Devon restaurant is renowned for.

Meanwhile, at the Adobe Summit EMEA 2016, there was a 120-cover, pop-up version of Tom's Kitchen, with dishes prepared on site by chef Tom Aikens. The restaurant was custom-built to recreate the informal style of Tom's Kitchen, with the menu featuring ingredients grown by local producers. To enhance the retail offer on the central boulevard, ExCeL has also introduced a booking widget in its flagship Bridge restaurant to enable visitors to secure a table in advance and support organisers in their bid to improve event conversion.

In May 2016, ExCeL and Levy Restaurants UK launched a new catering marquee as part of a recently extended collaboration, branded ExCeL London Hospitality, to focus on visitors' dining experience. Since signing a 10-year contract extension in 2014, which saw ExCeL London Hospitality operate all in-hall retail outlets as well as 50% of the retail outlets situated on the central boulevard, it has seen turnover increase by 30%, while also seeing a higher return rate with clients and their delegates.

Recent research has shown that between 2015 and 2016, European cities' convention centres are down between 10% and 12% on average delegate spend per head. ExCeL London's figures have remained stable. Initiatives such as a loyalty card for the venue's E16 bakery, which was handed out to 1,000 delegates at the Adobe Summit EMEA 2016, allowed visitors to receive a free coffee, encouraging brand loyalty and repeat business.

Under the leadership of executive chef James Buckley ExCeL is raising the bar in terms of quality of food and service. At any one time, Buckley can head up a brigade of 60-plus chefs and is responsible for controlling all costs, menu development, standards and production for the site.

What the judges said

"An innovative approach to event catering that inspires and pushes boundaries."

Stephanie Hamilton, ISS Facility Services UK

"Industry leaders in change and innovation. Financial results support the success of the service, which has improved the customer experience."

Kate Evans, Manchester Fayre, Manchester City Council


  • Ampersand Events
  • ExCeL London
  • Hickory Food

Past winners

  • 2015 Global Infusion Group
  • 2014 Kings Place Events
  • 2013 Absolute Taste

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