Fine-dining and corporate-hospitality giant Sodexo is looking to expand north of the Border, planning to boost its conference and banqueting turnover by £1.2 million this year and concentrating on the stadium sector over the next few years.
Austin Tilsley, regional director of Sodexo Prestige Venues & Events in Scotland, told The Scotsman that the past five years in particular have been “very successful”.
He said this part of the French-headquartered group has this year retained almost all of its contracts, including the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh and Hampden Park in Glasgow.
“Our core business is so important to us,” said Tilsley, who is responsible for a portfolio of contracts at venues also including racecourses, historic homes and conference centres, with a total annual turnover of £20m.
“We’ve grown our team quite significantly in the last three years,” he added, saying the firm works in close partnership with its clients, “so we understand where their business is going”.
Also among his responsibilities is The Open Golf Championship catering contract, with this year’s event in Troon taking place next month. His team’s work at the event includes delivering all the on-site hospitality, public catering and R&A complex catering.
Its involvement in the sporting event typifies the move towards firms looking for a more relaxed and inclusive catering offering, Tilsley said.
Sodexo has created the “Champions Club” that he said is based around social-networking hospitality, and “you get to feel really part of the event”.
The firm also said its conference and banqueting operations have grown by 23 per cent in 12 months, adding £750,000 to annual turnover.
“Our objective this year is to grow this by £1.2m,” Tilsley said. “This would come from developing existing contracts so we look to organically grow our business within our current contracts,” he added. “We’re very focused on driving that side of our business.”
He said the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is a “significant” contract, and has been extended for a further seven years, while its deal with Hampden has been carried forward by five years.
Tilsley – who has been with the firm for about 16 years – also noted that overall the market in Edinburgh is “very strong” with a buoyant international market and food culture.