THERE'S nothing like sports to work up an appetite — especially in spectators. For corporate clients looking to coddle VIP groups, hospitality at premier racing and golf events presents an opportunity to feed hungry fans in style.
LAP OF LUXURY
Operating at a dozen NASCAR- and IRL (Indy Racing League)-sanctioned tracks nationwide, Daytona Beach, Fla.-Based Americrown leads the pack in racing-event corporate hospitality.
And with 15 years of Americrown experience, including four years as director of catering, Jim Crowl leads Americrown's southeastern division.
As catering director, Crowl says one of the most significant changes he's witnessed in NASCAR and IRL corporate hospitality is in the area of catering expectations. “It's not just the simpler foods anymore — the burgers and dogs” that clients want, he says, but beautifully presented meals with regional and international flair.
For hospitality packages at NASCAR's Homestead-Miami Speedway, for instance, that might mean serving traditional pressed Cuban sandwiches, in addition to favorites from the track's regular menus. Those menus include the Italian-leaning “Victory Lane,” which features house-made lasagna and penne pasta with shrimp, and the “Finish Line,” which includes Americrown's signature barbecued pork and “Code 3” chili, along with chunky red potato salad and Southern-style coleslaw.
At tracks such as IRL's Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., corporate hospitality menus will likely have a Southern touch, Crowl says. That might mean items such as tender, slow-cooked pot roast with carrots, celery and pearl onions — one of the savory offerings on Martinsville's “Champion Cup” menu.
Whatever the track, race or client, Americrown prides itself on versatility, the catering director notes. “We've got a standard menu package, but anything our client wants specialized, we just tell them to let us know,” he says. “We can do anything.” And with the profile of NASCAR's audience continuing to rise, and demand for upscale corporate hospitality options rising along with it, “anything” means just that. For recent events, Crowl's staff has provided corporate clientele — and their well-heeled guests — with fine wines, champagne, Mexican fajita stations, lamb chops and even hand-rolled sushi.
FORE COURSE MEAL
Site of numerous PGA and LPGA tournaments, golf landmark Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C., provides corporate hospitality packages that range from $40,000 to $750,000 on the upper end, according to Pinehurst Championship Management director of sales and client services Ricki Lasky.
Whether modest in scope or decidedly grand, all Pinehurst pro golf hospitality packages are designed to deliver the most bang for the client's buck — a must in today's high-demand event environment, Lasky says. “When a client is paying for food and beverage for a golf event, it's pricey,” she explains. “People are expecting that the quality of food and service are going to be as if someone comes to your house and caters, even though it's coming out of a temporary kitchen.”
Pinehurst meets these demands, she says, by offering restaurant-quality food and impeccable service, whether for station, passed or plated hospitality events — all available for pro golf tournaments.
Most packages include morning and midday meals for the duration of the tournament, with menus changing daily, Lasky notes. Breakfast may include house-made granola, blintzes, smoked salmon displays and Belgian waffles. For lunch, corporate guests may be treated to regional favorites, from buttermilk-battered Southern fried chicken with peach-and-pecan chutney, to “Low Country” seafood stew, with shrimp, salmon, scallops and andouille sausage, served with Southern-style succotash and creamy cheddar grits.
For those clients determined to impress VIP guests with the best Pinehurst has to offer, catering upgrades are available, Lasky adds. Add-ons may include action stations such as a quesadilla grill station or a carving station featuring peppercorn-crusted beef striploin. Display upgrades range from spinach and blue crab dip to a baked wheel of Brie with pecan praline topping. In addition, “People can add on cocktail receptions with passed hors d'oeuvre or full dinners after play is over,” Lasky says.
On the beverage side, VIP groups may enjoy custom martini bars and Scotch bars. And for a sweet finish to a day of invigorating play, there's always strawberries Romanoff served in a black almond tuile with Grand Marnier whipped cream, or bananas Foster served over vanilla ice cream with dark rum syrup.
Americrown, 386/947-3800; Pinehurst Championship Management, 910/295-8151