Michaelmas term might be over but December is a particularly busy month at Churchill this year, with 4,200 Christmas lunches booked in the two week period leading up to Christmas!
The College benefits from having largest dining hall in Cambridge and can cater for 450 with an overflow in the Fellows Dining Hall for an extra 60. As Carol Robinson the College’s Head of Events and Accommodation explains, ‘the chefs do an amazing job catering for such large numbers, managing all the menu choices and special dietary requirements and the Front of House team also work incredibly hard to make events runs smoothly.’
The College is in fact unique in terms of its size and space and has the largest college campus in Cambridge as well as the largest dining room. For seated dinners with numbers of up to 250, you can also have the dance floor, DJ and mobile bar all in one space! Where numbers are above 250, there is plenty of space for dancing in the Buttery. There is a fully equipped theatre with capacity for 300, a broad range of flexible break-out spaces, extensive green spaces, and the College’s location, just outside the city centre, provides easy access and some on-site parking.
The team also had a busy summer, with one of the biggest challenges being the heat wave in mid-July with temperatures up to 38 degrees. This coincided with a large group of around 250 people being in College for four days. As Carol recalls, this was particularly challenging as nine of the meeting rooms were used, in addition to the main auditorium, which required numerous changes in layout, something the Hospitality Porters tackled without complaint. The Housekeeping team were also affected having to service 200 en-suite bedrooms in the extreme heat and the catering team were fantastic having to serve lunch and evening BBQs outside. The team set up service points located in the shade of the oak tree and under gazebos to avoid the direct sunshine, but it was still quite a feat to bring all the food and drinks outside, keeping it all topped up and served in such conditions. Unsurprisingly it was difficult to source last minute requests for extra ice creams and lollies! At the other end of the scale, with temperatures this week dipping to -3C, the team continues to deliver whatever the weather.
The Accommodation Office also took a record number of B&B bookings over the year, with 1,900 individual bookings taken in addition to all the events and group bookings where accommodation is included in the package. This was a huge task to fulfil both in terms of taking the bookings and managing the allocations around arriving and departing students!
We asked Carol to tell share what she enjoys most about the role along with some of the feedback her team has received over the years:
The most satisfying moments are of course when an event goes well but it’s very much a team effort. Within the Hospitality teams, everyone works together to make events such a success and it is great to work with such committed colleagues. I am especially proud of my own teams, the event/conference and the AV teams who are all so professional, committed, hard-working and conscientious, doing everything they can to ensure our clients get the best possible service.
Almost all the feedback we get says how friendly and helpful all the staff at Churchill are, how good the food is, how brilliant the AV team are. Feedback from B&B guests almost always praises the Porters in the Lodge, saying how helpful and friendly they are. A typical email from clients is, ‘Thank you so much for a completely seamless meeting today. Your help was invaluable, as was the AV team (please do thank them for me). You alleviated so much of the stress! Everyone was so happy with the day and so impressed with the organisation. Not to mention the delicious lunch. Thank you, truly!’