Hi Mark, tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m Boulevard’s youngest son, affectionately known as “bubs” by my big sister. I was last to join the family business on a full time basis back in February of 2013. After a stint in the kitchen in my teenage years, as well as many shifts waiting and bartending, I went off to university to study Sports Science and Nutrition, gaining a research masters degree which was published in The New York Times. I then decided to return home to Boulevard and take up a role as Events Director, helping to continue our family legacy. My research background also influences my role as Wellbeing Advisor for ILEA UK, where I get to help event professionals become healthier, more energetic versions of themselves. When I’m not doing that you can find me planning and managing our weddings and corporate events, or somewhere on your Instagram timeline.
How did you get started in the events industry?
As a company, we made the transition from family run restaurant to event caterer quite organically. We were asked to cater for some local events and then just took it forward from there, finally closing the restaurant and concentrating solely on events catering in 2002. Since then we have taken it one event at a time, didn’t distract ourselves by trying to grow too fast, but just tried to deliver the best service possible at each event.
As an individual, I took myself to industry events as often as possible and tried to be as kind and positive as I could to everyone I met. That has opened up a lot of opportunities both for myself and indirectly for Boulevard as well.
Why did you start Boulevard Events?
You would have to ask my mum that! But I know the answer, she has always been a pioneer with huge ambition. Her and my dad always wanted to own their own restaurant, so they opened the first one ever in what’s now known as Victoria Park Village (there’s lots of restaurants there now). After that they said “yes” a lot and grabbed every opportunity by the scruff of the neck, Boulevard Events was one of those opportunities. We (second generation) are just trying to continue the legacy and keep building on their ambition.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I get to think of ideas and make them a reality without asking for permission. Ok, I can’t just go and build a spaceship… but if we notice that street food is becoming popular, we can take the whole team to Dinerama for a research trip and start working on our own packages. We get to design the menus, taste everything, tweak it, think about suitable events where it would work and then ultimately produce it for guests. It’s such a fun process and it brings our whole team together as well. It’s our version of creation, which I think is one of the most fulfilling things we can do as human beings.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
Keeping everyone happy. Ultimately we care about our team more than anything, even more than our clients (although we love them as well), so we want them to enjoy their job 100% of the time. Given that this is the events industry though, things can get the better of us from time to time. Sometimes doing your own job, running a business and keeping everyone in a good frame of mind can be tough. Every now and then we just need to stop and remind everyone what’s most important, which (as cliché as it sounds) is health and happiness.
What is your biggest business achievement to date?
Catering for the Hockey European Championships (and next year’s World Cup). We provide the catering for all hospitality areas (three separate tiers), all the athletes, media, match officials and the event workforce. It’s roughly 1000 covers per day and potentially 10-15 different menus. From nutrient dense options for the athletes (right up my street), to bespoke menus for the VIP areas with flavours taken from the cultures of the competing nations. It’s logistically a huge operation, add to that the other weddings and corporate events we are catering for around London at the same time, for sure it’s our biggest achievement.
Are there any emerging trends in the industry that you think will be a big focus for 2018?
HEALTH AND WELLBEING! – I genuinely believe it’s the most important thing there is but it’s been long overlooked in the events industry, work hard play hard and all that. We’ve started to make an impact through EventWell17 and getting organisations like ILEA UK and Square Meal to take notice. Boulevard have started to introduce healthy menus as standard in our conference catering packages (delegates will not stay awake for the afternoon session if you feed them a stodgy, low nutrient dense lunches, I don’t care who the speaker is). Plus we are seeing wellness hotels popping up and all sorts of other exciting things happening. Hopefully it’s not a trend, but it’s definitely on the up.
What one element of the events industry would you like to change and why?
The culture of alcohol being the only lubricant for conversation at networking events. Of course we enjoy a drink, it’s brilliant, but there are so many things that can release endorphins in the brain and get people interacting, that don’t require us to get half cut. Exercise, creative tasks, challenges, thought provoking videos, I think if we are more creative as event organisers we can make a huge difference here and produce some amazing events that are different and that will get the industry talking. Eventwell17 proved that it can work.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone looking to get started in the industry?
Go to every networking event with the intention of making friends, not to sell your product or service. Be as kind and as inquisitive as you can and wait to be asked before talking about what you do.
To find out more about the work at Boulevard Events, head over to their website here.
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