All aboard the Silver Sturgeon with Chairman Neil MacLaurin

“Brand is important but your focus should be on relationships”

An insightful breakfast with Neil MacLaurin, Chairman of One Event Management was held on the Thames this morning.

Senior hospitality leaders gathered on the luxury flagship of the Silver Sturgeon at the IndiCater sponsored event. Neil shared his experience and knowledge of the food service, events and luxury industry.  From the development of Peter Parfitt Sport in the late 1980s, to the acquisition by Compass and the growth of Levy Restaurants and Keith Prowse, Neil is an influential leader and inspiration for the sector. But how did it all start?

Neil is a very low-profile character who openly shared his story. He was never “a good school boy” – he admitted, adding that his real passion was always cricket, for which he played at a professional level for quite some time.

His natural interest for sport led him to develop a vision around how to connect hospitality and sport. It was back in the 1980s, when Neil met with the Marketing Manager of Twickenham. No one knew what to expect out of that meeting, it was meant to be only an informal chat, but ended up in giving Neil a vision.

During the meeting in Twickenham stadium, Neil made the observation that the security guards had the best view of the pitch from a portacabin on stilts and the rest, as they say, is history.

This for many was the beginning of luxury boxes in stadiums – an opportunity to enhance guest experience for corporates and to connect hospitality and sport to deliver premium service. Peter Parfitt Sport was founded. “Peter and I were granted a 3-year deal from Twickenham stadium, followed by a meeting with a friendly banker that lentus £1 million. It was a simple idea.”

Neil and Mike sold Peter Parfitt Sport to Compass Group in 2003 – who were expanding their portfolio and influence in the leisure sector with the added acquisition of Keith Prowse for £20 million in 2004 – which today boasts a turnover in excess of £50 million.

From 1980s with Peter Parfitt Sport to today as Chariman of One Event Mangement. Neil has worked within the corporate hospitality sector for more than 25 years and has seen first hand the rapid changes in the market over recent years. The latest of his achievements has been the acquisition of Absolute Taste. Today, One Event Management comprises a collection of companies specialising in the events and entertainment business.

From 1980s to today, how did the wants and needs of the customers change?

“Business today has become more complex and professional, but the key focus has always been the need to develop and rely on strong relationships. Throughout my career, trusted relationship are crucial because it is about working for the same objective together – whether that takes place under a JV or a commercial partnership. This is why brand is important but what gives a competitive edge is the capacity to work collaboratively with a group of experts that aim to deliver a fantastic experience.”

He continued: “Absolute Taste shared the same ethos and this is why a marriage with One Event Management was only natural.”

Lyndy Redding, Founder of Absolute Taste commented “Absolute Taste is my baby and I have been on an amazing 20 year journey. I feel proud to have sold it to someone that shares my same ideal and believe in something bigger”.

How do you define success?

“Although driving sales is a key indicator of success for business, listening and understand customer needs should be at the forefront.  Historically, we make too many assumptions around food whereas businesses almost forget to keep things simple. It is about engineering menus cleverly, buying local and trying to take pressure off the kitchens.”

What can we learn from other countries in hospitality?

“Countries like the United States are ahead in terms of technology advacement. Blending simplicity with a level of technology is the way forward.”

What do you see as the greatest challenge for hospitality today?

“From skills shortage, digital innovation and price inflation operators are threatened by general uncertainty. This is why there needs to be faith in what you do and nurture trusted relationships, which find a solid basis in excellent customers experience and great teams.”

EP would like to thank Neil Mac Laurin, Chairman of One Event Management for sharing his story and the team of The Silver Sturgeon for offering the perfect setting and location.

Thank you to Indicater for sponsoring this insighful session and to all attendees.

For more information about EP Events please contact Ben.Butler@epmagazine.co.uk

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