Hospitality and Events after Covid-19 by Edgbaston Stadium Chief Executive Stuart Cain

The hospitality and events industry has felt the brute force of the COVID pandemic since the introduction of the first lockdown measures in March last year.

Events have been cancelled, kitchens have been closed, some temporarily and the less fortune ones for good. However, pressure and adversity can sometimes bring out the best of people and one quality that has shone through in this process is innovation.

Edgbaston Stadium Chief Executive Stuart Cain, who joined from Wasps last July, talks about how the events and hospitality business of the iconic Birmingham venue has dealt with the last 12 months.

I’m incredibly proud of how we’ve adapted our business despite the most challenging of times.

The first lockdown was incredibly tough because of such stringent measures. Many staff were placed on the job retention scheme, but we kept a core group working throughout the process to plan our way out, but also see how we could make a difference in our local community.

Almost immediately, we offered the stadium car park out as a drive through testing centre, which was accommodating thousands of tests each week at peak. We also worked with Thrive Together Birmingham, a local food poverty charity, to turn our exhibition hall into a food storage and distribution hub. 

Players and coaches made hundreds of phone call to elderly, self-isolated Members and our staff fundraised for Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity and the NSPCC, via the 2.6 Challenge.

But we needed to work out how we could get our business back open as quickly as possible. What measures were required to ensure that Edgbaston could operate efficiently within the new guidelines and, more importantly, instil confidence in our visitors.

Being a large venue and boasting rooms of a variety of different sizes firstly meant that we could easily accommodate and socially distance the government enforced capacity of 30 people. 

Operationally, we need to plan the delegate experience around this.

The journey back took a major step forward on 16 June when we launched our Safe Meetings & Events Promise, which focused on six key areas to highlight our commitment to providing the safest environment possible for events and meetings.

  • Space and Social Distancing 
  • Hygiene and Cleanliness
  • Contact Free Catering 
  • Enhanced Technology 
  • Staff Fully Trained
  • Communication 

One-way walking routes were immediately employed around the venue to ensure that there was no crossover in the stadium and all event seating plans had a two-metre gap for social distancing.

Sanitiser stations were fitted at all room entry points and cleaning schedules were enhanced to ensure that each stadium touchpoint was cleaned every 30 minutes. We could provide excellent ventilation through our heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, which brings in fresh air from outside. Electronic temperature checks were also installed for all stadium visitors to record upon entry.

With culinary excellence forming a key part of any event at Edgbaston, we were determined to ensure that our outstanding food offering was not compromised by the new working procedures. 

As a result, all food that we served was boxed individually and delivered to a collection station within the meeting room as opposed to the previous group serving options.

Technology also formed a key part of the new meetings and event offering with greater investment into equipment that could deliver video conferencing, live streaming and virtual tours for hybrid events.

We invested heavily in our fantastic staff to ensure that they all received appropriate training to deliver these events to the standards that Edgbaston is renowned for. 

Throughout the booking process, our team were in regular contact with the event organiser and they provided a dedicated risk assessment for each event. 

Ahead of each event, the senior event manager would deliver a briefing for everyone in attendance to understand the procedures that were in place for their event, which included staggered departure times to ease the pressure on routes around the stadium.

Once events were completed, we operated a comprehensive feedback system, which allowed delegates to speak openly about what Edgbaston could do to improve and instil greater confidence in all future visitors.

Alongside our hosting of client events, we also planned our own events to maximise seasonal opportunities.

This included a restaurant to coincide with a screening of England’s Autumn Nations Cup fixture versus Italy, which attracted 40 diners.

To maximise the growing trend of dining at home, we also secured a partnership with Deliveroo to launch our new food brands, the Pan-Asian themed Bamboo and Hola Pollo, which offers a Peruvian inspired menu. 

We have made good progress, but delivering events is what we do best. This is what excites us most and we take a lot of assurance in knowing that Edgbaston is well equipped to accommodate this next generation of events.

We’re committed to building on our own programme of events and already have advanced plans in place for the return of our Fireworks Extravaganza, Christmas parties and much more later in the year. View photos.