Steven Saunders took over as chief executive of the newly created Silverstone Hospitality in January after eight years with the now-disbanded former caterer Aspire. He tells Hannah Thompson about pulling off the 2014 British Grand Prix and the company's new ambitions
Congratulations on such a momentous year. How have you found it as chief executive so far?
challenge I relish and understood when I acquired the business. My role has moved on to my vision, strategy and leadership. I love it.
You've just pulled off your first British Grand Prix under the new Silverstone Hospitality banner. How did it feel?
This was the eighth year for my core team, my operations director Elaine Huckson, and me, so we were well-versed in what was required. However, it was my first time as chief executive and I was nervous but terribly excited.
How important is F1 in your Silverstone events calendar?
F1 is one of the biggest and most prestigious events - not just in our calendar but globally. High attendance, high expectation, high pressure, high excitement.
We love the challenge.
What continuity, if any, is there between the Aspire days and now?
The Aspire days were fun, but we have moved on significantly and quickly in six months. We are far more structured and have more emphasis on service standards and fine dining. Both [executive chef] Lee Scott and I have worked in some of the best restaurants in the world; five-star hospitality is in our blood. We are meticulous and strive for perfection. I honestly believe it's the only way forward.
Tell us about the different hospitality offers
We set a very high benchmark for our clients, even at entry level. At the top end, we had theatrestyle hospitality with sushi conveyor belts, homemade ice-cream booths, cocktail bars, fromageries, oyster meisters and sommeliers.
Lee Scott, former head chef at the Savoy Grill, is your new executive chef director. How has he influenced the food offer?
Lee and I worked together years ago at some of my previous restaurants, like the Pink Geranium Cambridge, when it was open. Having Lee back with me is a relief and it releases me to think more creatively. Lee's influence ensures our ideas are applied, are technically brilliant and he never lets me down.
What have you introduced for the SSVIP dining services?
SSVIP [Steven Saunders VIP] is another tier of hospitality offering exclusive catering experiences. We offer clients VIP experiences, such as private helicopters, jets to Monaco and Barcelona and a collection service by Rolls-Royce.
What changes are planned?
Quality, consistency and continuity are key. We have recruited over £300,000 of managers and directors and invested more in training and development. The potential is huge to become a world-class venue with a diverse entertainment portfolio. It's very exciting!