Nick Gratwick is senior operations manager at Compass Group-owned Keith Prowse, the corporate hospitality provider to the Wimbledon tennis tournament, which starts next Monday (22 June). He spoke to Chris Druce.
Caterer What's your role at Keith Prowse?
Nick Gratwick I work within the operations team, based at Compass UK and Ireland's offices in Uxbridge, and have been with the company for almost 10 years. There are currently 12 of us and we work on a range of different events throughout the year, providing corporate hospitality packages and event management. I'm the event manager for the UK Wimbledon contract and it means I oversee all event operations. As we speak, there are more than 40 people building the Gatsby Club at Wimbledon and there will be four articulated lorries arriving shortly with kit, including air-conditioning units, tenting, walling and lighting pods.
Caterer What's the scale of the operation during Wimbledon?
NG At Wimbledon we sell, package and manage the corporate hospitality packages on offer to clients and use FMC (also part of Compass) as our caterer. We can house up to 600 covers a day in the Gatsby Club, which includes a private area for 50 people, called the Speakeasy. We also run eight prestigious Skyview Suites (130 covers in total), clustered around Centre Court. The package includes butlers, chauffeur-driven cars and personal ushers (if you so wish), as well as the finest wine and food. As these suites are very close to the Centre Court seating they've proved very popular since we launched them last year and have enjoyed the quickest booking rate we've seen across the Keith Prowse group.
Caterer Will the addition of a retractable roof over Centre Court make a difference this year?
NG It does mean that Centre Court tickets have been in very high demand. However, the organisers have said they won't be putting matches on any later. Instead the roof will act as an insurance policy guaranteeing play [and hopefully no Cliff Richard singalong! - Caterer].
Caterer Any brushes with celebrities at the tournament over the years?
NG We've had many celebrities attend the championships during my time here including Dustin Hoffmann, Richard E Grant, Gillian Anderson, Boris Becker and Pat Cash, as well as heads of state. One year ex-heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis came to the tournament with four bodyguards, all of whom dwarfed even him. For the first time in my life I felt like a titch at 6ft 4in. Lewis was insistent that he spoke directly with his contact at Keith Prowse, whom he called "Brother Leigh". To this day my colleague is still "Brother Leigh".
Caterer What's next?
NG We have a range of events throughout the year - Henley Regatta, events at Twickenham stadium - but the next big one for me is putting together the numerous tour packages we will be offering for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.