Paul Child // Live Venues Food and Beverage Manager
Leading the way in sport, leisure and entertainment
Entertaining our nation’s population is a serious business. With a vast variety of on-demand programming that can now be enjoyed by the masses at home, it takes something special to get people young and old to leave their sofas and devices behind and devote an afternoon or evening to what usually proves to be an infinitely more special and memorable experience.
And people who live within travelling distance of Sheffield, in Yorkshire, are in for a real treat whenever they visit the area’s premier venues – Sheffield City Hall and the Utilita Arena. These venues are run by a charitable trust, which means all surplus cash is reinvested in improving its venues and activities to ensure more and more members of its communities can benefit from its services.
The Utilita Arena and City Hall are operated by Sheffield City Trust (SCT), one of the largest sport, leisure and entertainment companies in the North of England. With 14 sites across Sheffield, its aim is to promote the city as an international and cultural centre in the areas of sport, leisure and entertainment, regularly hosting world-class sporting and entertainment events, through to local activities for the people of Sheffield. Over the past 30 years, it has inspired people to be active, to enjoy sociable activities with friends and deliver a lasting legacy for its venues – which now welcome more than four million people every year.
Paul Child, Live Venues Food and Beverage Manager at Sheffield City Trust, oversees the catering departments in the Utilita Arena and Sheffield City Hall. The Arena offers visitors a wide array of hot and cold snacks and drinks in its concourse, and delicious fare and beverages in its hospitality areas, while the grade II listed City Hall boasts elegant conference and banquet suites as well as numerous bars and kiosks.
Paul oversees the food and beverages division with a team of managers reporting to him, alongside two head chefs and more than 150 frontline staff working hard to please the millions of customers who visit the venues each year to enjoy their enormous programme of events.
Paul, who has more than two decades of experience at the Trust under his belt, explained: “At the Arena food and drink outlets on the concourse snacks are very popular, such as chips, pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, nachos, ice creams and sweets, and that’s where we use the labelling system from Allergen Checker so people can instantly check the ingredients on the packaging without having to ask the staff.
“And then in the hospitality areas and suites, guests are sitting down for a two or three-course meal or might enjoy something like a sharing board, so our menus need to be completely clear as regards allergen content.
“At the City Hall, we cater for a lot of sit-down meals in the banqueting area, so again it’s essential our menus are accurate.”
The head chefs ensure the menus stay up to date with trends, tastes and seasonal produce, while updates to the Utilita Arena’s concourse offerings revolve around the ice hockey season, with the Sheffield Steelers’ matches being a huge draw for local and visiting team crowds.
“We like to put in a few new dishes for the start of the season, or maybe create a fresh twist on an old favourite,” Paul added. “We cater for such diverse audiences, people of all ages visit our venues to see all kinds of shows and we need to ensure there’s something for everyone. And of course we offer vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.”
Sheffield City Trust has another string to its bow alongside its entertainments venues – it runs a number of hugely popular leisure centres and golf courses across the city region. And it was the cafes in these outlets where Allergen Checker’s services were first put to good use.
Mark Morgan-Huntley, Founder and Director of Allergen Checker, said: “I first met Sheffield City Trust back in 2013 when I was working at the Scarborough Spa, which at the time was one of the charity’s venues.
“I was working in the kitchen as a chef and got chatting with their Head of Food and Beverages about the new EU law that was due to come into force in December 2014. He was very interested in my ideas and enthusiasm to help protect people who suffer with food allergies, and that’s where our working relationship effectively began.
“As Allergen Checker has grown and the software has developed, we have enabled the Trust to deliver accurate allergen information for their millions of customers. They started out producing menus for the cafes in their sports and leisure outlets, then began using our labelling function too, before rolling out the Allergen Checker service in their entertainment venues as well.
“As with any business, the individuals involved are key to the relationship. Paul Child, who has been my contact for the most part of the eight years we have been supporting the Trust, has always been very open and honest about what they wanted, and we at Allergen Checker have endeavoured to not just meet but surpass his expectations.”
As well as supporting the Trust’s efforts to comply with Natasha’s Law (which means all the ingredients must be listed on individual packaging of products that are considered pre-packed for direct sale), Mark has also helped Paul and his team to provide the calorie information on their menus, which is now required by law.
Paul said: “We have a great working relationship with Mark, he’s so helpful, efficient and responsive. We just send our information to him, then he loads it onto the system for us and we can pull off our menus and labels. We’ve got multiple staff who can access the system and they find it very easy to use.
“Our staff are very aware of the importance of correct labelling because they all do an allergen awareness course when they join us, and we regularly talk about it at team briefings.
“This is a great industry to work in, everybody needs to eat and drink! And we want to do everything we can to keep our customers safe.”
Since 1932, City Hall has played host to some of the most famous names of the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as providing a home for many local and community events. The venue hosts more than 750 events every year, including business events such as exhibitions, conferences, banquets, seminars and meetings. This landmark and historic city centre building features a Classic-style Concert Hall, Art Deco ballroom, and the Memorial Hall.
The Utilita Arena was built to host the World Student Games and was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in May 1991. It can accommodate audiences from a theatre-style 3,500 up to a 13,600 capacity, making it the region’s biggest capacity indoor arena. Since the venue opened in 1991, the Arena has averaged 122 shows a year with more than 650,000 customers passing through its doors each year.
The Arena regularly hosts some of the world’s most legendary musical superstars and sporting greats, from boxing world title fights to darts heroes, as well as some more unusual events such as Doctor Who The Live Tour and the Walking With Dinosaurs show. The building is home to the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team and hosts 25-30 ice hockey games a season. Over the past five years, Utilita Arena Sheffield has welcomed some of the finest bands including Arctic Monkeys, The Human League, and Catfish and the Bottlemen.
In 2022, the Arena welcomed more than 700 shows and over half a million customers while also securing a new seven-year deal to extend the current partnership between Sheffield Steelers and Sheffield City Trust. It was also jam-packed full of incredible live events, including Little Mix, N-Dubz, and Disney on Ice.
To find out more about Sheffield City Trust, visit: