Food for the Brain

The accreditation process was led by Amadeus at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham. As the in-house caterer for the venue, we have been awarded the accreditation from Food for the Brain – an educational charity.

It is an exciting time for Amadeus, as the first to gain this recognition in a conference centre setting we feel it reflects our already high standards and desire to provide fresh and nutritious food. It was a long process but worth the hard work the team put into it.

It began with multiple site trips by the appointed Food for the Brain Accreditation Relationship Manager, David Titman, over a six-month period. Working closely with the charity ensured menus were developed which were nutritionally balanced for visiting delegates. Fuelling them during events is essential and we are always making sure visitors are satisfied and expectations are exceeded.

It was a rigorous audit and each site visit involved a new outline which was expected for us. This included highlighting areas we needed to adapt to ensure the accreditation requirements were fulfilled. It was essential that no part was devalued in anyway.

It is important to recognise that we are not just the established caterer at the ICC. We are the conference, banqueting and hospitality caterer for the whole of the NEC Group – the NEC, ICC, Vox, Genting Arena and Barclaycard Arena and also at regional venues and events. To receive this accreditation is a strong showing that we are continuing to put the visitor first. Our 900 plus staff, including 91 chefs, serve more than 1.9m covers every year and so the wellbeing of these visitors is very important to us.

One of these great chefs is Simon Hellier, our Executive Head Chef at the ICC who created a menu which supported the philosophy, methodology and nutrition recommended by Food for the Brain. This included ‘morning fuel’ and dishes such as Bio yoghurt blueberry and toasted oats, ‘mid-morning boosters’ such as Homemade flapjacks and healthy lunches – brain food; Steamed salmon fillet, lemon grass infused broth, shiitake mushrooms, bok choi or Smoky baby aubergines and chick pea tagine, lemon and apricots. Superfood salads are also on the menu for lunch with dishes such as Lentil, bean and wild rocket salad, watercress pesto, shaved radish salad. ‘Sweet goodness’, the delicious ending to the menu includes Mango & passion fruit soya milk panna cotta, cardamom pod poached pineapple.

The menu provides a wide range of flavours, colours and textures which reflect the variety of nutrients that are available. It was noted during our assessment that they could see significant effort had gone into ensuring the key nutrients were included and provided within the menu. We know the importance of colourful vegetables and omega 3 fatty acids and it was great to be rewarded for that commitment.

During the process it was essential to train all teams that are involved, from the sales team to the front of house. This training investment makes sure they understand the reasoning behind the principles and they can then go on to inform clients and delegates. By explaining exactly what food menus mean, the visitor also feels valued. Our team were seen as knowledgeable during the assessment process and were able to explain the health benefits of the menu, which is essential for visitors who may not realise how beneficial the menu is.

The conclusion from Food for the Brain was a 100 per cent score for all aspects of the assessment criteria and score sheet. This makes me immensely proud of the team because not only are we the first conference venue to achieve the award, we also passed with flying colours. Whilst an overall score of 75 per cent or above is required for those operations wishing to gain Food for the Brain accreditation, we were delighted to surpass this by miles. The accreditation included an assortment of criteria that included menu analysis, ingredient quality and provenance, provision of special diets, production methods, staff training in nutrition and healthy eating marketing.

We also received some very valuable feedback during the audit from our Food for the Brain relationship officer. They pointed out that they don’t usually record conversations with delegates or organisers from an observed lunch but did recall some stand out quotes, “This is the best food I’ve had at one of these types of events in years”, “I could tell it was healthy but it was really nice” and “I often struggle to find something I can eat but this was lovely.”

By approaching this process with enthusiasm and understanding the importance of nutrition in mental health and wellbeing, the initiative shows how Amadeus and the ICC want to ensure the F&B offer is the very best. By adding value and our positive attitude we can develop the initiative further.

For the future we plan to extend the menu in line with the Food for the Brain principles and really allow more choice when catering at events that last a couple of days. It’s also important for us to tell more about what we are doing and why we believe it the importance of nutrition. At the same time we will ensure that unapproved health claims about specific foods are not promoted. There are complex regulations regarding health claims so we’ll stick to the proven general nutrition statements, which are also recommended by Food for the Brain.

An effective event with catering that supports mental health and wellbeing is no longer a fringe possibility. The importance of nutrition has never been of higher value and as food moves centrally to the overall offer and appeal, we must ensure our F&B continues to match that desire. This accreditation emphasis our commitment and now we will continue to make the difference.