Teams do better when everyone knows what to do and what to expect from the rest of the team. That’s true of the catering team as well as the football team. Rob Smith, a former Assistant Dean at University College Birmingham, has been reviewing Birmingham City’s catering and suggesting ways that it could be improved. He started by looking at corporate hospitality and found that they were using a lot of agency staff who weren’t familiar with the area in which they were working. He introduced a system of recruitment and training that has improved the staff retention rate and is helping the club move away from a reliance on agency staff.
Rob is now looking at concourse catering and how that can be improved. The first occasion on which he observed it was at the Bolton game, at which the free pie and pint offer was in operation, and there were a lot of lessons to be learned from the problems that evening. The biggest problem is that not everyone can get served at half time. There are long queues in crowded areas and the food runs out.
He has plans to improve the catering by recruiting and training staff so that they will be familiar with the areas where they are working and able to give better service. He will increase the number of places where food and drink can be purchased by employing beer hawkers to sell in areas out of sight of the pitch and pie and confectionary sellers around the ground. He is committed to ensuring that kiosks don’t run out of food before the end of half time and this will require over stocking at first. He is also planning to improve the standard of food on offer and try out new dishes. Providing shelves on which to put food and drink is also under consideration. Various changes will be introduced on a small scale to find out what works and what doesn’t.
I go to St Andrew’s to watch the game not to stand in a queue so don’t try to buy food at half time. I didn’t expect Rob to change my mind about that before he gave a presentation on his plans at the Supporters Forum meeting. I hadn’t reckoned on his passion for the club and for high standards in food service. He convinced me that he can make a difference to match-day catering for the ordinary fans.
David Boston’s minutes of the Supporters Forum meeting are here. Apologies for the delay in publishing these; we’ve been having some technical issues on our site.