“Proud to be supporting both the Country and the NHS”

The NEC is one of the primary sites for the new Nightingale Hospitals that have been founded to combat Covid-19. 

EP spoke to the Amadeus team central to supporting this effort.

There are many hospitality operators who are sitting in lockdown, frustrated and wondering as to what the future may hold. For others, they have found their lives almost turned upside down or suddenly changed in outlook and daily work patterns. Such an example is the award-winning food service company, Amadeus, who have seen themselves one-month hosting vibrant concerts, dinners and exhibitions and the next working closely with Public Health England, the NHS, fellow NEC Group colleagues and the military to open a major to combat Covid-19.

For many of us, Covid-19 is still all a touch surreal as we sit in lockdown relatively safe and secure. For those who are turning such major spaces into special healthcare operations, it all becomes far closer to very real and serious reality. Last Thursday a new 500-bed facility was opened at the NEC. Amadeus was brought on board as the nominated caterer to look after not only the f&b requirements for workers on-site during the build but to support on designing staff rooms/canteens and menus for any incoming frontline staff and patients.

EP was, therefore, keen to talk to the operational team and hear their views as to how it has impacted on their lives and how they believe it will change their behaviours post-crisis.

One very clear message came across consistently from the interviews which was the genuine pride that the team has had in making a contribution during the crisis.

Paul Bate, theOperations Director commented: “It is a fresh experience for all of us. The biggest challenge has been figuring out the processes to keep people safe during this time – our first and biggest priority. However, everyone has been brilliant. They see that they have an opportunity to make a real difference for both the country and for the NHS and they have embraced the challenge.”

Annie Monnox, General Manager agreed; “Our team has been superb. They just want to help and this situation has shown hospitality employees at their best. It has been lovely to see and is a testament to our team.”

“Our challenge is to make sure everyone is kept as safe as can be. We are specialists in running events and in many ways, this is another event – just a different layout and challenge. It is one though that no one thought we would be involved in but it is, and we just want to make sure that we do the best that we can. The Amadeus team has been excellent in making sure that we all have had the right PPE, that we are fully equipped and supported.”

Kane Bridgeman, General Manager at the NEC also concurred: “Everyone is proud to be working on the project and it has a been a real experience, if only it were under better circumstances”

“We always have the ability to deliver; we are experienced in adapting to different events. Another challenge was working to such a short timescale from concept to delivery . Everything has moved at such speed.. I think it is fair to say that we have all been learning as we go, but the feedback from those that we have been working with – such as Public Health England – has been very good.”

So what have been the main challenges faced in mobilising and preparing the facility from an Amadeus perspective?

Marc Frankl, F&B Director noted; “One of the things that many operators agree on is that as we come out of this crisis, our view of food waste will be different. Prior to lockdown were carrying a lot of stock so we have been working on the best methods to maximise the use of this and also make sure that our food has been excellent and nutritional for all workers on site. We have also been working closely with suppliers to make sure that they feel supported and are able to meet our needs.
It has been very hard on them and they need to know that we are there for them. It is about partnership and collaboration.
“The biggest challenge though undoubtedly has been in preparing all the additional safety measures but has provided great learning; we’ve tested ideas in a tough environment.”

Paul Bate made the same observation; “We have tested new operational procedures that we know work and will benefit us in the long-term.”

Will their behaviours change as we emerge from the crisis?

“We will have learnt more about how to deliver safely,” noted Marc Frankl. “We are now working on new innovation for when we return to business as usual and start to host events again. We are looking at “self-serve” beer systems, screen between tables and new service techniques.”

“People are more respectful of each other’s space. I also see a kinder, more compassionate approach to social interaction within the team and on the streets and I hope that this stays. I think most people want it to.”, observed Kane Bridgman.

Annie Monnox made a different point: “I would hope we all learn something from this time. More of us are buying from local shops and suppliers. The local shops have been outstanding and this will not be forgotten.

“Our senior team is also now working on blue-sky thinking for the future and this is fascinating to be part of. They have shown themselves to be a great group to work with – positive, understanding and wanting to make a difference.”

In all the interviews with the Amadeus team, it was clear that the individuals had really taken on the challenge of catering for this facility, and took positive learnings from a job they wish they never had to do. It is important to note, that although hospitality has been badly affected by the crisis, there are many people across the country who have wanted to step forward and make a difference in spite of the personal pressures that they have been facing.

Kevin Watson, Managing Director of Amadeus, commented: “I am very proud of what the team is achieving at this most difficult time – but what has made this a really special time, is also the hundreds of hand-drawn pictures or rainbows that have been sent in from the children of team members. This has been a very rare time when it has not just been the team that have put themselves out but also their families. It is humbling to watch just how communities have once again placed others first.”

The Amadeus team is reflective of the many in the industry, and one can sense both their pride to play an active role but also their determination to continue delivering excellent service for all.