Freemans Event Partners leading the way in sport’s ‘foodification’

Images: Freemans Event Partners

Since starting out as a humble fish and chips outlet at Silverstone back in 1975, Freemans Event Partners has grown into a leading provider of food and beverage solutions for the events industry, reaching more than 25 million people across 650 events each year.

The company’s extensive client list includes Wembley Stadium, Twickenham Stadium and Lord’s Cricket Ground, with Silverstone also remaining a long-term partner. Freemans Event Partners has delivered Formula 1’s British Grand Prix for over 40 years, with last year’s event attracting some 480,000 spectators.

The company’s offering is not restricted to food and beverages, with its services also including end-to-end payment technology, wholesale and logistics, commercial partnership facilitation, and practical workforce solutions.

Focused on delivering “outstanding” fan and spectator experiences for its clients, Freemans Event Partners has witnessed a shift in customer habits in recent years, as Jason Mumby, the company’s client development and strategy director, explains.

“There’s nothing quite like the British summer’s sporting events scene, a sub-sector of the hospitality industry that generates more than £20bn (€23.7bn/$25.5bn) in sales from May through to September, with £3.5bn purely attributable to food and drink,” Mumby tells TheStadiumBusiness.com.

“When we think of sport, we don’t typically think much about the food and beverage offer associated with it. When we do, it’s probably little more than pie and mash at the football or strawberries and cream at the tennis.

“Over recent years, the events industry has experienced a major shift, something that we like to refer to as the ‘foodification’ of the sector – whereby spectators have become almost as excited about the food and beverage offer available to them as they are about the action taking place out on the field or racetrack. Tastes and trends have developed and evolved rapidly over a very short period of time.”

High-street brands on the rise

Mumby believes there is now a huge appetite for high-street brands in the events space, as evidenced by Freemans Event Partners’ recently announced partnership with Costa Coffee.

Costa Coffee has been selected as the coffee provider of choice for this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris, and its outlets will be built and deployed by Freemans Event Partners. Bespoke outlets will be fitted across Paris, including at competition venues.

Last year, Wembley welcomed its first high-street food retailer when M&S Food opened two stores at the venue.

“We are in discussion with several other leading high-street brands whose ambition is to break into this space,” adds Mumby. “Alongside high-street brands we have award-winning street food operators who provide a breadth and depth of offer alongside our stadium classics such as gourmet burgers, West Cornish Pasties, and fish and chips.

“At the F1 last year we offered 90 different global cuisines over the course of the four-mile greenfield circuit. Commercial activations are also a growing area. We can see sports and entertainment have truly merged to provide spectators with more immersive experiences.”

Given the wide range of sporting events hosted by Freemans Event Partners’ clients, the company is required to tailor the food and beverage offering depending on the guests.

While there are “food staples” such as gourmet burgers and artisan sourdough pizzas, the increasing popularity of street food options allows for more creativity.

“For the NFL at Wembley, we will provide an All-American menu such as chicken tenders and waffles whilst at Silverstone we will serve over 90 cuisines from every corner of the globe to ensure all 480,000 fans have options that will suit their tastebuds,” says Mumby.

“At a traditional West Ham game at London Stadium fan favourites include our pasty and beer deals, whilst at Lord’s Cricket Ground it is likely to be tacos or bao buns. For events like ‘Harry Potter, a Forbidden Forest Experience’ and Major League Baseball our in-house catering team will theme menus and packaging to the client franchise.”

Award-winning service

Earlier this week, Freemans Event Partners was recognised at TheStadiumBusiness Awards for its involvement in last year’s Major League Baseball London Series. The company, together with London Stadium and Delaware North, won the Fan Experience Award in a strong category that also included the likes of Aston Villa and Manchester’s AO Arena.

On June 8-9, MLB returned to London Stadium as the New York Mets faced off against the Philadelphia Phillies in a two-game regular-season series.

Throw in the Premiership Rugby final at Twickenham Stadium and three Taylor Swift concerts at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium, and it has already been a busy summer for Freemans Event Partners.

In the coming weeks and months, its calendar includes no fewer than eight Taylor Swift shows at Wembley, two Foo Fighters gigs at London Stadium, a MotoGP event at Silverstone, and England cricket internationals at Lord’s.

US ‘leading the way’

Freemans Event Partners recently introduced a new food and beverage concept at Lord’s that includes self-checkout kiosks to increase service speed and cut the time guests spend queueing.

The two-floor structure has brought a range of food and drink options together under one roof, with Marylebone Cricket Club, owners of Lord’s, hoping it will streamline the purchasing process.

Freemans Event Partners’ build, menu development, technology and design teams sampled a range of venues and concepts across the UK before rolling out the concept at Lord’s, but Mumby says the “most inspiring” venue was Moody Center in Austin, Texas.

“The USA are leading the way when it comes to payment technology, hospitality experiences, and all-inclusive F&B events,” he adds.

“(But) the quality, depth and variety the UK F&B experience delivers is second to none, be it event classics, street food and, of late, high-street brands.

“Quality, consistency and speed of service is synonymous with our event delivery. Overlaid with our event delivery teams experience it is a powerful and proven model for events, festivals and stadiums.”

Post-pandemic resurgence

Like so many businesses across the sector, Freemans Event Partners was hit hard by COVID-19, with Mumby admitting the company’s event calendar was “decimated” during the pandemic.

“Our objective during this time was to remain visible for clients, reassuring them that we continued to operate and would still be there on the other side of COVID,” he says.

“We pivoted the business to focus on procurement. We also undertook several government contracts to manage F&B at temporary government facilities during the pandemic and supported a number of our clients with pilot events using innovative solutions such as in-seat delivery at Gloucester Rugby to capped audiences.

“I joined the business during this time, and client development was a key area of focus as we wanted the business to come out of COVID stronger than before. And we did just that, securing high-profile contract wins such as Lord’s and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. We have continued to grow and develop our client portfolio exponentially thereafter.”