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4 July 2013

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Cooking up a storm: The Hatters go in-house

With the arrival of seven new signings John Still’s been a busy man this summer as he pieces together a squad fit for promotion next season.

Often the manager’s close season business is the only visible work seen by those outside of the Club but, as we will reveal over the coming weeks, there’s more to life at Kenilworth Road during the summer months than new signings and a lick of paint here and there.

In a series of reports, will be giving you a behind-the-scenes insight into what’s happened and how it happens around the ground as the Club prepares for the 2013/14 season.

From goalkeeper shirts and grass seed, pots of paint and pies, we’ll unveil the exciting changes and projects that have been undertaken around Kenilworth Road – and the reasons for them.

This week: catering.

Part Two: Catering.

They say an army marches on its stomach and, with 4,200 season tickets sold already, there is sure to plenty of hungry Hatters fans inside Kenilworth Road throughout the 2013/14 campaign.

Like many areas of the business this summer, changes are afoot, and catering is no different. “Why?” you ask. Well, for the first time in almost a decade the Club have taken the step to bring all catering at Kenilworth Road in-house. 

So what effects will the change have on the food? And what new products will supporters be able to feast on? We caught up with the Hatters’ newly-appointed Catering Manager David Romans.

Official website: David, tell us a little bit about you.

David Romans: I was appointed on the 1st May, having previously been the General Manager at Stockwood Park. I have been involved in catering since leaving the Army in 1992, firstly working and learning the trade with Trust House Forte, Britannia Hotels and Greene King.

OS: What was your first job at Kenilworth Road?

DR: My first task was to fully understand the strategy of how the Club wanted to be positioned with our food and drink offering which lead us to look at all the areas where we currently offer food, drinks and alcohol, along with our commercial and corporate hospitality market areas. I’ve been looking at ways to improve what is offered to our customers.

OS: Can you tell us about some of the changes?

DR: On 1st July we were delighted to appoint Joanna Foster as Head Chef. She has previously worked at Moonbucks, a community cafe in Farley Hill, and acts as a training venue for people with learning disabilities. Prior to that project she was Head Chef at Stockwood Park Golf Club. 

Since Joanna has been on board we have been busy piecing together a variety of seasonal menu options to offer supporters who will be dining with us in our corporate suites on a matchday, as well as looking at how to improve service.

However, it’s not just personnel change. We have also been busy giving the bars and kiosks a small but noticeable refurbishment but, most importantly, the kitchens more of an overhaul with a significant investment by the club being put into new appliances and equipment. 

We have been extraordinarily lucky to benefit from this, much needed, new kit, obtained, in part, with the assistance of Steve Coates and brother Robin from Advanced Catering – both loyal Hatters – who have very kindly offered assistance in sourcing and locating equipment to upgrade our kitchens and services areas. 
I have also been busy reviewing our current suppliers as well as hiring new matchday staff. As of the start of this season all food will be locally sourced and freshly cooked on site.

OS: Do these positive changes extend to catering outside the ground?

DR: We came to the decision to replace this burger van situated by the Main Stand turnstiles at the Kenilworth Road end of the ground, which was previously owned by an outside company, with our own, newly purchased, van. This will serve our own food, and, for the first time, we will be able to offer our supporters pints of Foster's in the same area from our mobile bar. This area will also be opened slightly earlier on matchdays to ensure supporters have more time to purchase food and drink before kick-off.

OS: There can be long queues for food on matchdays – are there plans to help ease this process?

DR: Absolutely. A new till system has been installed to ensure a quicker service – the same system which will be used by the ticket office from this season. However, just as Mike Hooker asked for patience from our supporters to start with, we would also ask you to bear with us for the same reasons.

OS: What new food and drink products will supporters get to purchase?

DR: The food and drink available from the kiosks will be very much the same as last season albeit better quality, however, we are introducing a hot turkey and stuffing roll in the burger van. But, at the same time, I am, along with Joanna, looking at other products on the market that you might find from time-to-time being sampled in kiosks to get supporters’ views.

Supporters enjoying matchday hospitality will this season be treated to a range of menus, the likes of boeuf bourguingnon, salmon fishcakes, slow-roast lamb shanks and more over the course of the season. From the start of the season, executive box holders will be called three weekdays prior to each match to ascertain their food requirements from a selected menu, along with an upgrade in the coffee service to each box.

OS: Have you got a message for the supporters?

DR: With it being the first season that the club has taken catering in-house for many years it be folly to assume that the year will go without a few hiccups. There will be many new staff here, so I would ask for supporters’ patience, but also accept suggestions or ideas that might help them enjoy not only the game but the support of the catering offer. I welcome constructive feedback so please feel free to email me

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