Brand new facilities for groupsAnyone who has ever attended Royal Ascot looks back on it with fond memories – but many also have some less than savoury memories. Up to a few years ago facilities were unexpectedly below par. Most of these had their standards raised with the arrival of the magnificent new Grandstand.
However, some of the crowds at Royal Ascot leave much to be desired. There are still too many who drink too much and who do not sufficiently respect the washroom facilities, for example.
However, there is now a Smart new way for group organisers to host guests of virtually any number in the knowledge that all the best expectations of Royal Ascot will be fulfilled.
ITCM has just been the guest of Smart Experiences and our experiences left nothing to be desired.
The catering and event specialist business has just secured a 5-year contract and Royal Ascot 2014 has given it its first opportunity to show what it can do.
First and foremost, it has created a new design of Royal Ascot Village, so any previous experience of that facility is now well and truly out of date.
The Royal Ascot Village is located on Ascot Heath, a wide expanse of grassy comfort on the opposite side of the racetrack immediately facing the main Grandstand. It is reached by a tunnel under the track and there hosts can offer hospitality completely apart from the crush and noise of the thousands of other racegoers.
The Village comprises a number of semi-permanent structures that are light and airy and very comfortable for relaxing, eating and drinking. There are also, of course, tv screens for those who prefer the armchair approach to horse racing. And it hardly needs to be pointed out that within the facility there is a Tote outlet for ease of placing a bet – with no rush, no crush and a quiet chat with others in the small, orderly queue.
There is also a generous-sized area of outdoor green dotted with chairs and tables and in easy reach of a central bar, where guests can enjoy any good weather available, whilst being entertained by a live band between races.
It has to be added, as an important advantage, that there are ample, clean, fresh toilet facilities.
Those guests placing bets on the racing can benefit from tips provided in an amusing presentation by highly knowledgeable horse racing experts. There is no doubt that their recommendations increased the average chance of novices being able to pop back to the Tote outlet to collect winnings.
Food is vitally important to a Royal Ascot visit. To our delight, we were introduced to the celebrity chef with whom Smart have a close working relationship. It was Angela Hartnett and we could see, and later taste, that she was doing a hands-on job as far as the cuisine was concerned. The 3-course lunch was superb and so was the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party that followed later in the day.
And there is still a major benefit to add – a relaxed and memorable way to view the arrival of Her Majesty the Queen as she arrives for the afternoon race programme, driven in an open landau and accompanied by members of the Royal Family and a column of mounted guards in resplendent uniforms.
Guests of the Smart group simply needed to rise from their lunch table, step up a small stairway and position themselves alongside the race track as the Queen passed by.
The recently appointed Managing Director of Smart Experiences is Andrew Hodgkins, formerly MD at Keith Prowse. He has inherited a great new facility and is determined that it will become highly prized as the way to host guests at Royal Ascot from now on.