Industry expert: The main event
Allan Heard, account director for Searcys, on how to unlock events post-lockdown...
What a year! Following the country’s unlocking in July, it’s only a matter of time until events, meetings and conferences return fully, and we plan to come back with a bang. Nothing can substitute the sheer enjoyment of a live event; the socialising, positive energy and the creative sparkle is like no other. Confidence is growing as we take the tentative steps to reopening the industry, and there is no better time to get inventive and make events bigger and bolder than ever before. Let’s indulge ourselves.
Since the introduction of the roadmap and the progress of the vaccine drive, there has been a distinct boost in bookings –Searcys event enquires are up 70% from March 2021, with restaurant businesses being the first to come back, followed by weddings enquires. And now we are seeing the return of the corporate booker. More positive news comes from the latest Corporate Event Buyers Survey, carried out by our partners Venue Search London, reporting September as the month where live events will really show a healthy return, with 30% of respondents having events booked already.
Safety is, and will always be, a high priority. While Step four removed all restrictions, we are faced with constantly changing Covid-19 restrictions. As venues, we need to be flexible, offering postponement policies to give bookers peace of mind, and adjusting spaces to manage numbers safely.
Searcys at the Gherkin serves as a prime example for finding innovative answers that allowed us to continue trading since last summer. Developing a bespoke range of restaurant packages that were pre-sold through our online ticketing platform saw 7,000 guests in May and July this year, and a system was developed to manage volume and market the offer in a structured, measurable way. Other venues with open spaces and beautiful gardens such as The Honourable Artillery Company, with five acres of Artillery Gardens, have also seen a huge increase in event bookings.
From the restart of the events, we found that customers are craving a touch of indulgence and we are doing our best to impress. What we must remember is that most events have been a year in the making and organisers know what they are after. New experiences and tailored packages, such as champagne fountains, themed tasting menus, masterclasses and afternoon teas, are proving popular in the revival of events.
Looking ahead, the biggest opportunity to treat people will be Christmas. Guests will be looking to make up for the missed moments and celebrations, and the enquiries are already coming in for office parties and experiences. Being at the heart of events since 1847, Searcys know how to throw a party! Menus, packages, and champagne at the ready, the more inventive the better. Christmas is truly a time to sparkle, whether it is through menus – we’ve gone for a three-course homage to the Brussel sprout – to surprise and delight moments.
Across our business, we’ve witnessed an increase in venues looking to relaunch their events business. As one of the UK’s oldest restauranteur and caterers, we are delighted to be welcoming new event and conference venues into the family, including The View at the Royal College of Surgeons, London’s newest destination venue launched in July this year. As we navigate through the second half of the year, I think Searcys speaks for all in looking forward to raising a glass to a great 2022.