When the venue doesn't care...

By Alan Wight

Picture yourself stood on the street outside Mahiki, one of London's most prestigious nightclubs, with the CEO and MD of one of your largest clients, accompanying 10 incentive winners on a trip of a lifetime; and the nightclub refuse you entry -  despite having pre-booked and having a long paper trail of correspondence and confirmations.

Sometimes we deal with businesses who don't care, have no honour and break their promises. Thankfully it is rare.

We had been asked by Iceland Foods, one of our favourite clients (who are always as good as their word), to organise their managers' incentive trip. This one was particularly tricky because in previous years it had been held in Ibiza, New York and Monaco - this was a year of austerity - so we had to put together a 5-star trip to London.

The 5 winners and their partners were flown into London by helicopter, enjoyed private cars, 5-star accommodation at the Corinthia, special treatment at the offices of DWF, another of our clients, at their London offices high in the Walkie-Talkie building. They took in a west end show, enjoyed the sights before their highlight, an evening with Malcolm Walker, Iceland's founder and CEO and Nick Canning, Joint-MD. They had a fantastic dinner at Novikov restaurant and then were heading to Mahiki nightclub to dance with the stars.

Mahiki didn't let them in.

We had been concerned about this possibility from the outset. Taking a group of people into one of the trendiest nightspots felt like a risk.

We booked a booth, 4 months before the trip. We agreed minimum spend, signed a contract, with penalty charges if we were more than 15 minute late for our arrival slot, we agreed specific drinks and refreshments. We had the usual relationship that we would expect from people at a venue. But, being paranoid event people, we went to visit Mahiki 2 days before - met the event contact, walked through the venue, discussed the plans for the evening and the service expected - they had taken another large booking and moved us upstairs (less desirable apparently) and to compensate were going to send over some goodies on the night. Being paranoid, our event managers on the ground were in contact via text to the event manager on the day and evening and actually agreed to an earlier arrival than the booked time.

So you can understand their shock when the girl on the door said there was no record of the booking. When she was shown the correspondence she changed her attitude, not as you would expect, but she said they had sold our booth. No apology, no alternative, nothing. Goodbye.

Malcolm Walker decided he wouldn't want to go into such a rude establishment anyway, rang Annabel's, one of London's oldest and finest clubs and they welcomed the group, looked after them by providing jackets for the men who didn't meet the dress code criteria and the night was rescued.

The subsequent response from Mahiki has been nothing. No replies to any of our emails or calls, no unprompted apology or compensation, absolutely nothing.

The response from Malcolm Walker was to be affronted on our behalf at the lack of service, so he wrote this article for his regular column in the trade publication Retail Week, and instructed his lawyer on breach of contract.


Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, we stand by the decision to try and give our guests the best possible experience, took every care in making sure that everything was in place and then were let down by people who don't care.

We're not big believers in contracts and written agreements, we believe in honouring commitments, fulfilling our promises, delivering what we agree to deliver. We often have to create a written contract or agreement to formalise the terms of our service to fulfil the requirements of due process, but we have never had to call upon the terms to overcome a dispute, because of the way we work. We do what we commit to do.

Our choice of suppliers mirrors our way of working. We select suppliers who have the same basic values as us, as far as we can. Our regular suppliers, the ones we favour, all think like we do. We don't often have written agreements, we are as good as our word and so are they. Together we thrive by caring for each other.