Consultant’s Agents Open Day at Towcester

With fantastic facilities, multiple meeting rooms and delicious food Towcester Racecourse is the first over the line for your next conference or event...

Arriving at Towcester Racecourse, set within acres of beautiful parkland, is not like arriving at any other conference venue. Bleating sheep can be heard in the neighbouring fields, autumnal trees, their leaves a tapestry of maroon and golden brown, line the country roads and a stone colonnade greets you at the access point to the racecourse.

On the morning of November 11, men in flat caps walk around the course treading the grass back into place after a surprise race event the night before. But there is no race today, instead it is Trident Hospitality Consultant’s Agent Open Day, where a select few booking agents have been invited to attend a meet and greet, a two-course lunch and a tour of the unique venue.

As the five agents from Off Limits, Global Venue Solutions, Tobook, Venues and Events International arrive, they are greeted with a choice of refreshments and canapes in the Emperor Box. The Box, located within the Empress Stand and adjacent to the racecourse, features a plush carpet, a lounge suite and surrounding balcony where guests are invited to go out and admire the panoramic racecourse views. Sunshine fills the room providing enough natural lighting that only a few spotlights are needed during the welcome introductions.

Leading the open day is General Manager Helen Deakin and CEO Kevin Ackerman, who ensure both the guests and young hospitality team, aged between 16 - 21 years old, are all comfortable.

The need for a dedicated hospitality team was highlighted in December 2014 when Towcester racecourse, traditionally focused on running solely horse racing events, realised they had the facilities and availability to host greyhound races.

“Holding greyhound races three times per week we had the idea to bring all external services in house,” Kevin said. “However it soon became apparent we couldn’t meet the demands.”

Kevin brought Helen Deakin on board in April 2014 to help with the transition, believing the key thing was the detail and the quality of service the racecourse could deliver.

Helen Deakin, General Manager

“When we came in house we realised we had to find the right staff,” Helen said addressing the group. 

“I have worked in the industry for many years and have seen all types of staff.

“We wanted a team that had a passion for service and were friendly. Over the past two years we have taken on up to 60 students from local schools who had no hospitality skills to begin with.

“I wanted staff who could be moulded to the type of workers we think hospitality are all about – those who have people skills, the right attitude and manners. We wanted to offer a high standard of service and needed staff that could deliver.

“So for me, it was about taking a blank canvas. I could have taken on more equipped and experienced staff but they would have had bad habits.”

After two years training the team, the venue suffered a setback when 20 workers left to study full time at universities across the UK. However, amongst those who remained, several were promoted to managing positions and are now full time.

Charlotte Hopkins, who began working as a waitress for Towcester Racecourse before working her way up to become the current Events Co-ordinator, believes the young team create a good working atmosphere.

 “I started working at Towcester in the restaurant waiting on tables, along with a lot of the rest of the team. When we started, we had a huge training sessions covering the company ethos, values as a venue and our ongoing vision to become the ‘Ascot for the greyhound world’.

“I soon moved to receptionist and found I had a particular interest in events. I landed the role of Events Co-ordinator a year ago and Helen taught me the ropes, showing me all there was to know about events. There is still ongoing training - a couple of weeks ago I had web-based training on the new website. It’s very much a continual development process.”

Charlotte believes the progression from training to working in the same team has built up a good team moral. “We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “It creates a positive atmosphere and we all want to keep growing.”

As the last few canapés disappear and the introductions are concluded, the group are taken on a short tour of the venue highlighting the versatile space and fantastic facilities available for conferences and meetings.

Towcester Racecourse offers two art-deco inspired buildings where events can be held: The Empress Stand and the smaller Grace Stand.

The tour begins in the Empress Stand showcasing the large Empress Suite, able to accommodate 400 delegates theatre style, and several luxurious VIP boxes. All rooms provide laptop connectors, projectors, air conditioning and heat control along with floor-to-ceiling windows allowing plenty of natural light and fantastic views over the racecourse.

Downstairs there is Bar 4000, named after Tony McCoy’s 4000th race win at Towcester, which is used as a main area for guest refreshments with a large adjoining heated marquee.

The Grace Stand is suitable for groups too big for the VIP boxes but not large enough to fill the main Empress Suite. The stand offers a Champagne Bar as a small refreshments area, the larger Pomfret Suite able to accommodate up to 200 delegates and three VIP boxes on the top level. The VIP boxes and Pomfret suite offer views across the racecourse and lake situated within the racecourse grounds.

The large lake can be utilised for events along with the ample manicured lawn space, additional marquees and complimentary car parking for up to 2000 vehicles. Clients can have their business logo or personalised greeting projected on the large racecourse digital billboard and Towcester Racecourse have their own fully-equipped production team.

Helen believes there is still room for improvement and has as vision of what Towcester Racecourse can offer within the conferences and events industry.

“The main challenge is ensuring good communication and correctly interpreting what a client wants. Holding your event at Towcester Racecourse will see you receive excellent attention to detail and real personal service," Helen said.

“It’s your event and the only person that matters that day is you. We’re not concerned over what we are doing tomorrow or what we did yesterday, our only focus is what is happening on that day.”

Day delegate package at Towcester Racecourse starts from £37pp with additional upgrades and add-ons available.

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