Frank Coughlan – 2010 Accomplishments and Look Ahead.

February 16, 2011

I am very proud of how many chefs now contribute to this blog. Here is a post from Frank Coughlan – an executive chef at Wembley Stadium in London – on his favorite accomplishments from 2010.

The 2010 Wembley Stadium calendar was eventful and I can reflect proudly on what was undoubtedly another busy and successful year which saw us deliver 27 major bowl events of which twelve were Grade-A categorised.  This categorisation is determined by both the prestigious nature of the event and the volume of guests attending. To achieve this status, an event must sell-out all 90,000 available tickets. Impressively, these 12 events took only 1,560 chef shifts, an overall total of 12,480 hours! This efficiency was achieved through careful event analysis and meticulous planning, and we were also able to deliver more dining styles, variety and innovation to our clients adding real value to our overall operation at Wembley Stadium.

So, the question now is, how do we ensure we continue to deliver excellent food and implement innovation into the culinary experience at Wembley Stadium for every event in 2011? Research, analysis and planning are the key element to our success.

At the beginning of this new and exciting year, we analyse every aspect of our past events from sales-mix analysis to cost of goods. We also draw on the central points which are raised through our debriefing sessions, and we look to identify best practices, trends and demographics. This helps to reduce wastage but also ensures we are able to provide the most appropriate offering and service style to our guests – improving their overall experience.  Using this information, I am able to tailor our menus to the specific wants and needs of both our clients and our guests. For example, “Take That” requires sushi and salad style offers to suit the demographics and a concert such as “Oasis” will require a more substantial offering of gourmet burgers.  I work closely with both our purchasing team and our suppliers, motivated at all times to keep our food offer fresh, innovative and ahead of industry trends, meaning we are able to uphold our reputation as a market leader. This year I aim to maximise the use of seasonal ingredients, focusing more on sustainability and locally produced products so that we can proudly promote our British heritage.

In 2010, corporate clients needed to be more prudent with their spending and our task was to develop offers and create new options that added value and fun rather than just a cut-price solution.  In 2010, we successfully introduced themed menus to our box clients. Examples of these were ‘The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ specially created in theme with our Summertime Ball concert and ‘The All American Halloween Experience’ perfectly suited for our guests dining at the world-renowned NFL event. The take up of these menus was fantastic and we now have a platform to build up the level of anticipation and excitement for the customer who was created last year. We will enhance the theming and marketing to ensure maximum exposure and increased sales for all 2011 events.

My personal highlight of 2010 was the launch of the Steamship joint into our Club Wembley buffet restaurant. Taking the lead from our American colleagues, we worked with our nominated butcher and arranged to purchase raw, French trimmed joints, weighing in excess of 30kg. They took nearly 72 hours to prepare through the art of slow cooking but looked and tasted incredible! This added an element of theatre to our buffets as guests queued in anticipation of having their meat carved for them personally by a skilled chef who could talk through the history and cooking method of this spectacular piece of beef.

Looking forward to 2011

2011 looks set to be another exciting year with Wembley Stadium proudly hosting the Champions League Final in May, four England International Football Games and the “Take That” concerts which are due to make history over the summer when they play eight concerts here as part of their sold-out UK tour.

My main focus for 2011is to exceed the expectation of our guests and the key to this will be to continue the analysis, research and meticulous planning.  I will look to leverage best practice examples across all of our operations and provide options that are relevant to each event and audience.  We expect a high volume of repeat clientele at Wembley Stadium this year and I will work in conjunction with our clients and senior team to ensure we provide new flavours, styles, innovation and a fresh approach to the culinary experience.