Industry expert: Sports report

Jon Davies, managing director of Levy UK and Ireland, on what’s next for the venue catering industry and how Levy is preparing for the return of fans...

After a tumultuous year, confirmation from the government that fans are able to return to sports and entertainment venues is very welcome news. We have done a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes with our venue partners to prepare for the safe return of fans, and to ensure that they are offered the exciting and memorable experiences they have been waiting for throughout lockdown.

The health and safety of Levy’s visitors and our people is always our foremost priority, and it will continue to be into the post-Covid recovery period and beyond. We’re working with our teams to ensure they feel safe and confident to come back into the workplace with extensive reinduction and training programmes, alongside our See, Care, Share approach, empowering them to speak up about any anxieties and to inform improvements across all areas of the business.

Embracing technology that can improve Covid safety, the guest experience and the working process for staff is going to be crucial. Levy has been an industry leader in events technology for a number of years – we had a forward-thinking approach to going cashless, with our venue partner Tottenham Hotspur built to be the Premier League’s first cashless venue. We have also been ahead of the curve on innovations such as digital screens and apps, allowing for pre-ordering of food and beverages with delivery at designated drop points. Alongside reducing waiting times and congestion, these innovations will become even more important in helping customers to maintain safe distances – both from each other and from employees – when they return to venues.

The next step is to move towards a frictionless experience for visitors. This approach combines the ethos of convenience- and safety-enhancing techniques – pre-ordering and collection, interactive screens and cashless payments – to deliver something truly seamless to the customer. Through the installation of fully contactless payment terminals connected to automatic digital barriers, the frictionless experience could remove the need for customers and employees to interact physically at all, drastically reducing the risk of person-to-person transmission. These systems have the potential to make a revolutionary impact on the hospitality industry, futureproofing stadia long after we have recovered from this pandemic.

This period also provides us with a real opportunity to make positive change, leading by example in driving new sustainable and ethical practices within the industry. Guests will be offered proper, well-sourced, unprocessed food with natural ingredients that demands less from the environment. As an example, through culinary innovation and ingredient repurposing, we are looking to reduce our food waste by 20% and use a minimum of 80% British seasonal fruit and vegetables by the end of this year, cutting down the emissions from air freight significantly. These initiatives also extend more widely to Compass Group, who recently announced a pledge to reach net zero by 2030. This is the foodservice industry’s first commitment to a climate net zero economy.

The innovations that we are working to implement today – in technology, in sustainability, in guest safety - will have profound effects on the broader venue experiences of tomorrow. 2021 will undoubtedly see huge innovation in the stadium and events space, and Levy will continue to be at the forefront of developing and deploying those innovations. We can’t wait to welcome our guests back.

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