In the latest edition of the chairman's Q&A with supporters, Mr Chansiri talks about the catering situation and the potential of naming rights at Hillsborough.
Why did you bring the catering side of the business in-house and has this move worked?
Since we started the Steering Group meetings, the catering was always one of the most raised subjects on a consistent basis. The level of dissatisfaction was concerning so with that guidance in mind alongside a diligent examination process, it was agreed that we would bring the catering arm of the business in-house.
This step was taken at a significant high-end six-figure cost to the club which included unwinding financial commitments aligned to the contract. Nonetheless, we firmly believe this to be the right decision in both the short and long term. This did not mean the catering was going to be transformed overnight – it will be a steady process – but already we are seeing major improvements.
In short, the catering arm needed rebuilding from the bottom up to lay a solid foundation for many years to come. Bear in mind that Hillsborough is an old stadium that was not designed with catering or hospitality in mind so does not lend itself well to either. But what we had to do was drill down into every very area that we studied in detail, from non-matchday events, matchday concourses and across all corporate areas. Assessments were made on where improvement was required which were detailed in a thorough business plan that we felt was necessary in order to move forward.
We were under no illusion of an easy fix but the early signs have offered great encouragement. Having taken control of the catering and staffing, we have been able to aggressively drive down costs and increase revenues, whilst reducing some lines in price. Overall, by far the majority of product prices have been held compared to those in place before I bought our club in 2015.
With regular customer engagement and ongoing improvement, we are confident that the catering will prosper to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. Menu and concourse offerings - in terms of quality and choice - have been upgraded and so too has the level of service, which in many ways can be as important as the product itself. We have also partnered with recognised national and local brands, giving supporters and clients the right blend of quality and variety.
The partnership with Thornbridge Brewery, for example, has been particularly well received following the launch this season of the popular ‘Wednesday Beer’. The concourses will continue to improve, with waiting times set to be further reduced when we introduce fast pour pumps throughout the stadium.
Our long term vision will also see Hillsborough become one of the first cashless stadiums in the country as we embrace the technology for our supporters to enjoy the best matchday experience possible.
Would you consider selling naming rights for Hillsborough?
We continue to try and explore every opportunity to help stay within the Profitability and Sustainability regulations and while naming rights can contribute significantly to the overall commercial budget of a club, they do not represent the millions that some may think.
Outside of the Premier League, the challenges are more acute, without doubt. The current economic climate does not lend itself to huge stadium naming rights deals globally and those deals that are in place tend to be aligned to new stadia with maximum exposure. But that is not to say it is not possible at a club the size of Sheffield Wednesday.
I have been asked if I would consider moving to a new stadium and my answer is always the same. Right now, we do our best with our home of Hillsborough, in which I have invested significant sums since buying Sheffield Wednesday. I am very aware of our heritage and the esteem in which our fans hold Hillsborough and this is something we will balance with the merits of moving in future years after we get to the Premier League. I do not like to look too far ahead, we can only focus on one season at a time.