The revamped hospitality team behind the Australian Turf Club faces its first big test this week with the start of the Sydney Spring Racing Carnival, headlined by the first Group 1 race of the season – the $1 million Winx Stakes.
Restaurant & Catering NSW’s 2021 Chef of the Year Gerry Maher has taken the reigns as Group Executive Chef across all ATC venues, including Royal Randwick, Rosehill Gardens, Canterbury Park and Warwick Farm.
Maher estimates he will feed 120,000-140,000 people across 12 retail outlets at Royal Randwick and about 80,000 patrons at Rosehill Gardens over the life of the 2022 Spring Carnival.
“Our focus for this Carnival now is really on that retail delivery,” Maher says, with new digital pre-ordering trials taking place and the introduction of alternative options to traditional offerings.
Staples will always be there, from daily roasts and pork rolls to the ATC Burger, 2500 of which will be served at Randwick for Carnival alone. But fresh new ideas include the Petaluma Bar in the heritage-listed Official Stand which offers boutique cheeses and a glass of premium wine. Other exciting new concepts on the table include a fresh market-style offering at the new $46.6m Winx Stand and a specialty seafood restaurant.
From abundant hampers on the lawn to three-course meals with Australian wines, served by your own waitstaff in the Skyline Reserve and the Conservatory for the trackside corporates, the ATC aims to offer something for everyone. And any successful new offering test-run at Randwick could become a plug-and-play model rolled out at other venues.
In the kitchen, well-respected Gürsu Mertel has been lured from the two-hatted Me-Gal at Taronga Zoo and has been installed at Rosehill while Stuart Webb (ex SCG) heads up Royal Randwick. The ATC has also secured Neville Alexander (ex GM Spotless at Taronga Zoo and ex RACV) as GM Food & Beverage.
For Alexander, it’s about changing the mindset about what is on offer on race day.
“It’s trying to give people different options, variances as well, but your club favourites are still there and it doesn’t matter if I go to Rosehill, Canterbury or Randwick, my club favourites are available,” says Alexander.
On non-race days, the Winx Stand can accommodate conferences for 2030 people, host gala dinners for 1850, a 94-stand exhibition and maybe a wedding or two.
“It’s a very diverse business,” Alexander says. “There is a lot to get your head around.”
To read how turf clubs across Australia are revamping their offerings, subscribe to Club Management magazine.