From Strength To Strength

Director of Hospitality at West Ham, David Thorpe-Tracy, says that business is going from strength to strength - and helping to contribute to the overall financial well-being of the club.

Explaining his role, and that of his team, he says:

"We are responsible for the hospitality company which runs the hotel, conference and banqueting facilities on match days and non match days, the catering at the training ground and on the coaches, and the players' food at the stadium."

The club has pioneered the use of its facilities for more than just football matches, and David explains:

"We have now got seven day a week usage out of the stadium, which is a lovely facility, and there are upwards of nine conferences a day sometimes.

"We have banquets and other functions such as beambacks, dinner dances, a singles club that we have started - you name it, we are doing it.

"There is potential for the business to keep on growing; we have increased turnover 45% this year on last year - and, in previous years, with the old stand, there was no capacity to have conferences and banquets.

"We also have the hotel which we operate through an agency, Quality Hotels; they provide us with bookings, though on the whole we find that the majority of bookings come through our own efforts.

"We are now at around 50% occupancy rate, which is a fairly good start, though we would like it to be higher - and it is improving.

"So we have gone from turning over less than £1m when we had the old West Stand to turning over closer to £4m, and the money that we make goes straight back to the club, which is great - it was well over £500,000 last year."

Despite the profits generated for the club, David feels the rates charged for their services are very fair.

"The prices are very reasonable; the hotel bedrooms, for instance, are £65 a night including VAT and a full English breakfast - and that is better than our competitors.

"But we have to overcome the fact that some people don't realise there is a hotel here and that is what we are looking to do.

"The recent series of Family Business, written by West Ham fan Tony Grounds, featured the hotel, and that raised awareness.

"As far as the conference and banqueting is concerned, we have got very big suites - ones that will take 700 people.

"We are looking for people to have their Christmas parties with us, their celebratory dinners, their can even get married in the changing rooms - and consummate it in the hotel bedroom!"

David's team are highly motivated, and he adds:

"We were awarded Investors In People in the old West Stand and we have been re-accredited with it, which is fantastic.

"We are looking to become champions of Investors In People which is an even higher accolade; we have become the first football club in the world to get a professional quality assurance qualification called Hospitality Assured, and we are looking to be re-inspected for that.

"It is a kite mark, if you like, that says we will provide the standards that we promise."

David has a busy schedule lined up once the season is over as well, and he reveals:

"On the pitch in the summer we are looking to offer a service to companies that want to come in with their teams of employees and offer them something a little bit special.

"The package would involve coming to Upton Park, playing on the pitch, having a celebratory function afterwards, watching a video of the match, and meeting some of our ex-players.

"Alvin Martin is helping us run these so we have got some professional support there."

If you are interested in having a function at Upton Park, please call David or Julie on 020 8548 2775.