Last Monday afternoon, while punters were busy studying the latest form for the string of top-class National Hunt races – including Friday’s Gold Cup – Fire’s staff were already under starter’s orders for the big off.
A coach was laid on to take the 50 catering, waiting and bar staff, serving hundreds of corporate guests in the scores of private boxes lining the Prestbury Park racecourse.
Fire Hospitality founder Rodney Burt, who travelled with his staff to Gloucestershire, said: “Our staff have been working at a number of top sporting events, including Southampton, Portsmouth, Brighton and Reading football matches this season – as well as quite a few racecourses, from Wincanton to Sandown and Newbury – over the past year or two.
“But we jumped at the opportunity to work at Cheltenham – after race-goers were given the green light to return after last year’s festival was held behind closed doors.
“We spent the last few weeks filling up our ‘runners and riders’ to be able to find the staff we were contracted to provide. A lot of them were students from both Southampton and Portsmouth’s universities.
“We pride ourselves on paying above the minimum wage for any temporary or permanent staff we provide for our clients.
“So the first thing we did after agreeing to supply catering and front-of-house staff was to ensure they were able to stay locally, and laid on free travel to Cheltenham.
“It’s a big team effort feeding and watering the thousands of guests, so everything has to be in place for such a world-famous racing event to run smoothly.
“Our team of directors know from more than 100 years working in the industry how important it is to have a happy team, ensuring they give the best possible service to the racing fans.
“The horses and the jockeys are obviously the stars of the show, but our staff are just as important to us, and we try to look after them the best we can.”
The company – founded nearly four years in a house in Wickham – has overcome plenty of hurdles during the pandemic.
But now the relaxation of COVID restrictions after the Omicron outbreak before Christmas also dealt a blow to the hospitality and leisure industry, is seeing a return to some sort of normality, the Fire Group have been quick out of the gates.
Mr Burt, who has built up a large pool of people of all ages and backgrounds, including many students, from across south-east Hampshire on Fire Hospitality’s books, said: “We have been working flat out at Cheltenham all week.
“There won’t be any time to watch the exciting racing, but by the end of the week, we are determined to have provided the very high levels of service, our company’s reputation has been built on over such a relatively short period.
“The boys and girls will be working shifts of nearly 12 hours and record attendances, starting with 65,000 on Tuesday, and 80,000 expected on Wednesday and Thursday, it’s the biggest sporting event of the year so far.”
Horse racing fans from Ireland travel to Cheltenham in their thousands every year, and millions of pounds are gambled on the races – at the Cotswold course, online, and in betting shops all over the country.
The atmosphere is second to none during the 28 races run over the four days of the festival, culminating in Friday’s Gold Cup day.
Mr Burt added: “The catering and hospitality staff play an important role in making it one of the sporting events in the world to attend, not just in horse racing.”
Join the team.
CHEFS – 07706 734383 email@example.com
KITCHEN PORTERS – 07488 233901 firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT OF HOUSE – 07563 023694 Macy@firehospitality.com
Working with our hugely experienced team of directors and managers at such a prestigious sporting occasion, can increase your experience and put you clear of the field if you fancy your chances of working regularly in corporate hospitality and at top sporting events.
It could not be simpler to register to work join the Fire Hospitality crew – the top National Hunt event in the UK calendar.