RICHARD Groves freely admits he's not one for following orders. “I have never been a great employee, always wanting to be involved in all decisions and in control of my own destiny,” says the managing director of London's Create Food and Party Design. Still, the intrepid catering pro is keen to collaborate if it means a boost to business.
This combination of independence and team spirit has taken Groves far, fostering both the decision to start his own catering business in 1987 and his joining forces with two other companies to form the $40 million Concerto Group in 2000. This merger, which brought together Create Food and U.K.-based corporate event management firms The Ultimate Experience and Business Pursuits, has enabled Groves and his partners “to invest more in marketing, information technology, health and safety, and personnel,” he says. “It also gives each division the opportunity to ‘punch above their weight’ in relation to their size.”
For his own division, which sources venues, designs environments and, of course, provides “brilliant food,” the key to success lies in understanding both his clients' unique needs and the global climate in which his business operates.
As for catering to client demands, Groves has run the gamut. An event attended by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh to celebrate a new landscaping project at the historic Tower of London found Create Food on a British bent, turning out English asparagus, Scottish smoked salmon and Dover sole to suit the royals' schedule. Meanwhile, a banking client who asked Groves to re-create London “foodie destination” the Borough Market at a large corporate event venue got a fête filled with “stalls” serving “organic sausages, oysters and sustainable seafood, fair-trade coffee, an array of miniature British desserts and the finest English farmhouse cheeses,” he says.
Creating such highly customized events brings challenges, the caterer concedes. For instance, clients' increased travel experience and food knowledge means that Create Food has had to come up with creative ways to source and transport decorative items and authentic international ingredients that coincide “with our desire to keep our carbon emissions as low as possible,” he notes.
As for the security worries confronting any event, no matter the client or objective, Groves takes a realistic — but not pessimistic — view. “In the U.K. we are fairly hardened and experienced when it comes to domestic terrorism, and the business population seems to be accepting of the security measures and policing that are required in these anxious times,” he says. In spite of it all, Groves notes, he manages to focus on the most important goal of all: “creating special events for clients who want to spoil their friends or impress their clients and making their dreams a reality whilst allowing them to enjoy themselves and relax.”
Create Food and Party Design Unit 4 The Kimber Centre, 54 Kimber Road, London SW18 4PP, United Kingdom; +44 20 8871 0409; www.createfood.co.uk
“I am calm and methodical, but love the creative process of pleasing people.”
“I love setting up an event from nothing in the most unlikely location and watching the guests have the best nights of their lives.”
“I adore the theatricality of the business. I love hotels and airports and the whole idea of people being in a different space and everything disappearing after an event. And then the whole process moving to another location.”
BEST BUSINESS DECISION
“Joining ISES and being chapter president for a year, and the amazing sense of family and shared enthusiasm and education that it gives you.”
BEST OF ALL
“Producing the most wonderful daughter, Lola Constance — now nine months old.”