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Q&A with Rapid Retail’s Managing Director, Nick Daffern

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Nick Daffern, Managing Director of Rapid Retail, answers questions about his firm’s involvement with international stadia and how operations managers can increase revenue and offer fans and spectators a better experience.

Q: Nick, how would you describe your business?

A: We have worked with stadia since 2007, so we have had plenty of time to develop the way in which we work. Firstly, we are not just a supplier that builds and drops a retail unit or kiosk – we are problem solvers. Secondly, the types of relationships that work well are those where we have a relationship not only with the retail manager, but also the facilities people and the food and beverage guys, so the whole retail/queuing/food and beverage needs are examined.

Q: You work with stadia overseas, what element of this work differs from working with personnel at UK stadia?

A: Actually the requirements are very similar across the globe. What does differ is the business culture, and it is imperative that before you work with a client in a new country, you get to know the cultures, their likes, dislikes, and technical things, such as how they might settle their invoices. This is best done beforehand so there are no nasty shocks, for either party.

Q: What have you seen change positively since you launched Rapid Retail in 2007?

A: Worldwide we are seeing bigger and bigger stadia and those that are used for a wider range of activities, not just sport. It is not unusual now to see a political gathering at a stadium one day, a concert the next and then sport at the weekend. This has meant that stadia managers have to think smart to ensure they deliver an excellent experience to a diverse range of fans and spectators, while developing broader revenue opportunities.

Q: This must be a challenge for you, working with these differing requirements?

A: Any business needs to be flexible; we have had to adapt our products and services to meet these changes. It is not just revenue that is at the top of the list, safety is key, too. While we can’t divulge specific figures, we know that by spreading programme-selling kiosks around a ground for example, fans queue for less time and there is not a ‘crush’ at key points, something we are all keen to avoid. This applies to any type of stadium event.

Q: You have been working with French soccer club Paris St. Germain for many years, what do you supply there?

A: We started off developing one bespoke retail unit. It soon became clear that this was very successful and further units were needed, yet at the same time the units had to be more manoeuvrable. So my co-founder Andy Moss designed a kiosk concourse shop that can be easily transported, is strongly-branded and can be quickly opened up and then closed again at the end of the match. Paris St. Germain now has several of these (see below), they reflect the high end of the brand while being practical to use.

Q: Food and beverage is a key area for a stadium operator in terms of delivery to the spectators and revenue. What is your advice to improve both areas?

A: Frankly, operators need to  stop thinking  ‘traditional’ in terms of maintaining just one or two areas to eat and drink. It is far better to spread the load to several areas around the stadium. This not only reduces the queues, but reduces the numbers being served at each outlet, so the fan receives better-quality food and drink as the F&B operator is not so pressurised. One of my bugbears is quality; there are still some stadia where the food and drink service can  be improved hugely. Fans deserve to be treated well. I suggest that directors occasionally come out of the directors’ box and sit in with the crowd to experience the event at grassroots level; then make positive changes. Spectators have to be encouraged back and they will only do that if the offering is good as they become more discerning – there is a lot of competition out there!

Q: Surely, though, stadium operators have to keep a tight rein on budgets?

A: As with any business that is true and when you are dealing with such huge figures as a lot of operators are, it is easy to lose track of what is being spent and where. We have tried to help out customers by offering units to rent, not just purchase. This immediately negates the need for upfront investment, which is often a stumbling block, especially for the smaller stadia. On top of the flexibility with funding, we will take back a unit at the end of its life and replace it.

Q: How do you address environmental policies that are becoming a greater part of contract requirements now?

A: Our units can have lights powered by solar technology, so this not only addresses contractual requirements, but also keeps power bills down. Plus we recycle units where we can; it is something that is always at the forefront of our future developments.

Q: Finally, how do you envisage stadia will develop in the future in terms of retail?

A: As mentioned earlier, stadia are ever-increasing in capacity, so the need for operators to become even more flexible and forward-thinking is key. Why not put merchandising units outside the ground, so people can buy before they go through the turnstiles, for example? We are also seeing the growth of ‘community’ stadia and their needs to bring in revenue, in ratio terms, will be even greater; these operators need to look upstream to see what is working and then adapt a model to suit them. Whichever type or size of development, I am sure that we can help with advice.


Nick Daffern is Managing Director of Rapid Retail. He can be contacted via email at:

For further information, visit:

T Concourse Retail Unit M Paris St kiosks


Levy Restaurants UK and RFU renew hospitality and catering contract at Twickenham Stadium

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The Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Levy Restaurants UK – the sports, leisure and hospitality sector of Compass Group UK & Ireland – have announced the renewal of contracts to continue their joint venture, Twickenham Experience Ltd (TEL). The partnership provides all match day catering, hospitality and bar services, as well as non-match day catering, conference and event management at Twickenham Stadium and has been in existence since 2000. 


The ten-year contract extension is worth over GBP£30m in annual revenues to the RFU Group; the profits from which facilitates investment back into the game at all levels. The renewed venture will deliver all match day retail and hospitality food and beverage operations for the 82,000-capacity stadium, as well as continuing to grow the non match day conference and events business at the venue.


The operational functions of TEL will continue to be supported by Levy Restaurants UK’s sales specialists, Lime Venue Portfolio, the UK’s largest collection of unique, unusual, cultural and sporting venues. Lime Venue will work with the partnership to deliver non match day events and Keith Prowse will continue to promote the match day hospitality sales function.


As part of the RFU’s GBP£76m commitment into creating a state-of-the-art, connected stadium, there has been significant investment in the delivery of catering and hospitality services at Twickenham. In the past year, 17 public bars at the stadium have been upgraded, there has been continued investment into the West Car Park Fan Village facilities, as well as the latest technologies being incorporated, to ultimately enhance customer experience.


Stephen Brown, Chief Financial Officer, RFU and Chairman of TEL said:

We are not only committed to delivering a unique and inspiring experience for fans attending Twickenham Stadium on match day, but also creating the same quality of experience for customers attending the many other non-match day events and conferences that occur throughout the year at our venue.  There has been a long and successful partnership over the past 14 years with Compass Group UK & Ireland, who have extensive experience in delivering the very best in catering, hospitality and retail services. This strong relationship has instilled a great deal of confidence in our joint venture and has facilitated the bringing forward of the contract renewal process 12 months to this year. The new ten-year contract will allow us to continue to develop and innovate our match day and conference and events offering as well as to set an ambitious, standard setting long term strategy for the Twickenham Experience Limited business.


Colin Bailey, Managing Director, sports, leisure and hospitality, Compass Group UK & Ireland said:

As a partnership we have made a considerable investment to the development of facilities and staff at Twickenham. The contract renewal is testament to the partnership we have with the RFU and the commitment we share to delivering an exceptional experience for visitors to the stadium.


Last year, TEL’s public bars and catering units served in excess of 1 million event day guests, at 19 events and over 49,000 hospitality covers catered for on match days. TEL’s non-match day Conference and Events business achieved revenues of GBP£4.5m, with the world-class conferencing facilities being utilised for a range of events from small lunch meetings to international conferences, product launches, weddings and awards dinners for over 800 people.


Etihad Stadium hospitality installs smart kitchen comms

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The hospitality areas at the Etihad Stadium (home of Manchester City FC) are looking to reap the benefits of a smart kitchen automation solution this season, with dramatic improvement in service delivery times.

The expected improvements will be made possible by the installation of Call Systems Technology (CST) ConnectSmart Kitchen (CSK) system across the six hospitality areas to ensure quick and efficient service levels for all visitors to the club.

Neil Worcester, Venue Director at Fabulous FanFayre, contract caterers at the Etihad Stadium, commented:

The catering facilities at the stadium were in real need of modernisation and to be operational efficient. Now, with the help of CST and Verteda, we offer a superior quality service, that ensures quick and efficient service levels and in turn, customer satisfaction. The kitchen automation system is ideal for when the team are juggling lots of orders, something which is sure to increase with the recent approval for an extra 14,000 seats at the stadium.

CST worked alongside hospitality technology solutions provider Verteda to provide a flexible kitchen automation solution, replacing the stadium’s existing manual and printer paper operation. The overall project included the installation of the InfoGenesis POS solution and mobile ordering devices, with the aim of incorporating technology to streamline back of house processes, such as supplier orders, inventory control, cash management and Business Intelligence reporting.

Etihad has added smart kitchen comms in its hospitality areas

Etihad has added smart kitchen comms in its hospitality areas

CST was tasked with improving service delivery times, communication between front and back of house and order delivery in the kitchen. The system also had to deal with reducing labour by eliminating the need for staff to go to the kitchen to request orders.

The ConnectSmart Kitchen (CSK) system also provides operational data to help the stadium’s business managers learn about the kitchen operation so that they can continue to improve service delivery for every fan visiting the stadium in the future.

CST installed a 16 screen CSK system across the six different hospitality areas at the stadium, allowing the separate kitchens to work seamlessly together without the need for manual communication – leaving staff able to focus on service.

The CSK system helps the stadium’s chefs to determine which food items to focus on, taking into consideration preparation times of each so all items for the order complete at the same time. Screens at each chef’s station present staff with all the information they need when and where they need it. This ensures that customers receive their meals together, freshly prepared, even when cooking times vary.


Sandown Park evokes upscale club

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Jockey Club Catering, a sister company of Levy Restaurants, has created the Equus restaurant in partnership with Sandown Park Racecourse. The 275-seat restaurant has been designed to evoke the exclusivity of a private members’ club and appeal to the younger racing demographic, which the racecourse is looking to attract.

Equus will be open on racedays for the spring season and plans are in place to open the restaurant for use as a private events space.

With the brief to create an aspirational dining experience, architects and interior designers SHH were asked to create a stylish environment complementing the restaurant’s stunning dual aspect views across the racecourse, winning post and parade ring.

Menus have been created for Equus by Head Chef Allen Townsend and his team.

Equus at Sandown Park

Equus at Sandown Park