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Read our case study to find out how Amadeus transformed the catering offer at the NEC

The Challenge

The NEC hosts over 500 events every year and welcomes 2.4million visitors annually. With each show comes a different customer profile – as caterers to the NEC, Amadeus must provide a scalable in-hall catering offer which also boasts quality and convenience.

In 2016, Amadeus set out on ‘Project POD’, which will see all of the outdated catering pods in each of the 18 exhibition halls transformed by 2020 in order to keep up with customer demands and remain competitive in the catering industry. 

Phase 3 of the upgrade programme saw the complete refurbishment of halls 9-12 completed in August 2018. These halls represented a particular challenge for the Amadeus team with typical customer complaints being not enough seating, not enough catering choice and difficulty finding the food they wanted from the various service stations.

The Solution

Enhanced F&B offer  

  • The F&B offer was changed from a limited service where customers would queue up with trays and could choose from four hot food options, to a food court style operation

  • The Edge food court concept was installed comprising four different retail brands for customers to choose from including MADE handmade café, Butcher and Grill, The Oak Kitchen and Evviva – increasing the menu choice from four hot main courses to 17!

  • Unlike previous halls, the Evviva concept was installed as a bar, rather than a full-service restaurant, driving quicker turn around service times

Remodelled catering facilities

  • The restaurants in halls 9-10 and 11-12 were combined to make two large dining areas rather than four separate dining areas. This was done by removing the partition wall in between restaurants 9-10 and 11-12 on a permanent basis
  • Accessibility has been greatly improved with multiple open shutter doors and large windows providing good visibility into the catering areas wherever customers are on the exhibition floor

  • Seating was increased by 30% in each of the halls, providing a nice environment for customers to dwell in and increased potential for staff to upsell

  • A further additional seating area was created in halls 9-10 to service particularly busy shows

Improved customer experience

  • The catering areas have been designed with the customer journey in mind – as soon as a customer walks into the food court they can see the entire range of F&B available

  • Instead of customers having to queue up with trays, Amadeus has introduced a table service system whereby people order at the tills and their food will be bought directly to them

  • The introduction of a large service hatch means that customers can see chefs cooking fresh food in the kitchen, enhancing perceptions of quality

  • A kitchen video screen has been installed in each hall so that customers can see the progress of their food being cooked live

  • The number of tills were doubled in each hall to improve speed of service

Marketing initiatives

  • Amadeus gave the catering facilities a distinct identity through The Edge branding and all catering areas were refreshed with new furniture installed and redecoration taking place

  • A cashless campaign was launched – point of sale marketing and pre-awareness encouraged customers to pay by card – improving speed of service

  • Digital screens were installed within the restaurants promoting meal deals and catering offers

  • Fridge items displayed so that top ten selling items are directly in the consumer’s eye

Efficiencies in labour   

  • Staff have been given the tools, products, training and support so that they are now multi-skilled operators. This means staff can be moved between multiple roles in one shift if needed

  • Amadeus introduced easily identifiable zones across the restaurants so that service staff know exactly where they need to deliver food

  • A range of different operational procedures have been put in place to improve speed of service, including:

    • Bus tubs have replaced trays meaning staff can clear away more at one time, while aprons containing sanitiser bottles make it easier for staff to clean tables as they move along

    • A system where hot drinks are made for customers queuing before they reach the till has been introduced at the MADE handmade café retail units to improve speed of service

    • Clear sightlines from the kitchen serving hatch to the zoned tables make it easy for staff to deliver hot food to customer’s tables quickly and efficiently

Flexible Approach

  • Halls 9-10 and 11-12 are often rented out together, however, if an organiser rents only one of the halls the partition wall can be reinstalled. Although this will create a smaller catering area, with only two retail outlets available, Amadeus are able to maximise profits by moving its bestselling concept (MADE) into another retail outlet

  • Express tills selling specific packages e.g. kids meal deals can be installed for particularly busy shows, easing congestion

  • Mobile retail concepts can be placed in the additional seating areas within halls 9/10 when not being used for customer seating


Phase three of Project POD has proved particularly successful in a number of areas, for example adding additional tills to increase the volume of transactions going through the tills. Since the redevelopment was completed in August 2018, Amadeus has seen phenomenal results within halls 9-12:

  • Year on year sales have seen a 39% increase in net income across 11 public and trade shows
  • Average spend per head have increased by 10.6%
  • The numbers of transactions have increased by 23% year on year

Since launching in 2016, Project POD overall has seen far-reaching benefits for customers and client s alike. 

With the redevelopment of the F&B areas catering is now increasingly becoming an integral part of the offering for organisers running exhibitions at the venue, with positive feedback from event organisers.

When it comes to customers, the monthly NEC visitor survey has seen ratings for the variety of food increase and the speed of service increase by 4% and 6% respectively since 2016. Mystery shopper scores have also improved by 2.5%, increasing from 88.92% pre-Project POD to 91.42% after the redevelopments had taken place.