Venue caterer Kudos has been given the freedom to create a wide-ranging food offer at Manchester's National Football Museum. Janie Manzoori-Stamford reports on a winning partnership between client and caterer
Great Britain might be in the throes of Olympic fever right now, but give it a few weeks and football will once again dominate headlines on the back pages. The front pages, too, if the players keep making media waves off the pitch, which no doubt they will.
So it's little surprise that the new National Football Museum (NFM) in Manchester has opened just in time to capture the school holiday crowd ahead of the new season's kick-off on 18 August.
The Urbis building - which opened in 2002 as part of the multimillion-pound regeneration of Manchester following the 1996 IRA bombing in the city centre - had gone through a number of incarnations, but two years ago the trustees of the NFM decided to make it the museum's new home.
It opened last month with promises to wow football enthusiasts with a stunning collection of memorabilia, technology and interactivity, including the 1966 World Cup Final ball and a virtual penalty shootout.
Food and venue management provider Kudos was tasked with the job of delivering a food and drink offer to match. The caterer, part of the Crown Group, was signed by the NFM in October 2011 for a four-year deal estimated to be worth £12m and wasted no time in getting to work. Kudos invested close to £300,000 in the facilities at the museum, which was slightly more than it was contracted to do, but it was essential to make sure the changes worked. But first it needed to nail down exactly what food offer it would deliver.
"There were three elements to consider," explains Charles Beer, managing partner of the Crown Group. "Firstly, the café needed to fit in with the feel of the museum and target demographic. Then there's the events business, which operates in the space after the museum closes and needs to be marketed in a separate way. And then there's the restaurant, Kaleido."
The restaurant, in many ways, required the longest consideration. Open to museum visitors in the day, Kaleido also has its own direct access from street level.
Beer explains: "We spent many hours planning the restaurant. We didn't want daytime museum visitors to feel intimidated, but in the evening, with the spectacular city views, we want it to be the place to be for people going out in Manchester."
The decision was that to make Kaleido a commercial success Kudos first had to get it right as a destination venue. After that, it worked on making sure there is an additional price point during the day aimed at museum visitors.
Meanwhile, the remaining two elements of the Kudos offer are branded as the National Football Museum café and National Football Museum Hospitality, something that the client was very clear it wanted from the start. There was to be no high-street brand here.
Freedom to tweak
A strong relationship with the client means that Kudos is given the freedom it needs to control the product and tweak its offer according to customers' needs.
"We really enjoyed working with the museum team," says Beer. "We almost became part of their project team in the sense that we integrated as the catering team of National Football Museum rather than an external contractor."
This integration began as soon as the contract was won and, according to Beer, it all starts with the relationship that is formed in the tender process.
"When I go into a presentation with our tender document, I don't believe ours is necessarily going to be any better than anybody else's. They're all going to be similar in what they're saying and the financial aspects. In my experience, the client's decision is usually based on the people that they meet," he says.
"It's about honesty. It's not just about presenting what you're going to do but also knowing in your heart that you can actually deliver."
The next step is to ensure there is the team in place to do so. With the museum closed for some time ahead of its Manchester relaunch, there were no existing staff to TUPE across to Kudos and it had to start from scratch.
Former Kudos employee Franco Caroleo came on board as general manager, experienced chef Paul Riley was appointed executive head chef, and local girl Laurie Graham joined the team as sales executive.
"When we'd got those three in place we knew that they would recruit the right teams to work with. I always find that A-class managers recruit A-class people," says Beer. "Get the people at the top right and the rest follows."
National Football Museum café seats 150
National Football Museum Hospitality formal dining for 250, receptions for 500
Kaleido restaurant and bar seats 80
A flexible offer - From meat pies to fine dining
Frank Bordoni, Kudos food director, reveals the ethos behind the food offer at the National Football Museum
"Our client gave us the autonomy to be flexible, so we created an offer that is fluid in its delivery, allowing us to change as we deem fit. It is not a traditional museum, so we needed to reflect that in our food. It needed to be fresh and modern without alienating people.
"We were told that levels five and six of the NFM building were for us to express ourselves freely, so we came up with the Kaleido concept. We created a standalone restaurant that aims to compete with Manchester's restaurant scene for business lunches, evening dinners and family trade. As the name suggests, there is lots of colour on our menus.
"We wanted to make the most out of our brilliant British produce, whilst giving it a unique and colourful twist. Dishes such as Dingley Dell pork belly with apple and thyme, or Lancashire hotpot with salt-baked vegetables have gone down really well with diners.
"Naturally, the rest of the food offer needed to be more aligned to the customer base at NFM. Parts of our café menu are borne out of the terraces, such as meat pies and our hugely popular sausage rolls.
"The versatile nature of the venue as an events space means that it is likely to be used in a number of ways by very different clients. Knowing this, we are able to offer simple dinner buffets right the way through to our Michelin-experience food. It's this flexibility that sets it apart from most venues."