Seats at venues across Australia were hot property during yesterday’s Melbourne Cup, with data revealing a surge in reservations year on year.
According to SevenRooms – a guest experience and retention platform for the hospitality industry – there was a 20.6% increase in reservations in Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup venues this year (6/11/23) versus last year (1/11/22).
Across Australia, there was a 1.35% increase in reservations for the Melbourne Cup venues this year (6/11/23) versus last year (1/11/22).
SevenRooms General Manager APAC Paul Hadida said: “Irrespective of economic pressures, special days like the Melbourne Cup provide significant opportunities for restaurants and bars to capture revenue through special events and experiences – something Australian consumers are looking for as they become more selective about how and where they spend their dollars.
“The surge in year-on-year reservations in Melbourne and the nationwide increase are indicative of that. We’re really seeing the importance of guest experience.
“As cost-of-living pressures squeeze household spending, two in three (68%) Aussies are prioritising quality rather than quantity when it comes to their visitation of restaurants, bars and cafes. To convince them to spend up, they want more than a meal, they want an experience and to be rewarded for their patronage.
“We’re certainly seeing venues that focus on guest experience and deepening relationships are better able to drive retention and loyalty; which enable them to generate more sales and profits.”
Drinks brands at the centre of the action trackside
The exclusive Birdcage Enclosure at the 2023 Melbourne Cup Carnival included marquees for Penfolds, Furphy, G.H. Mumm and Schweppes, plus a Don Julio 1942 Secret Bar.
VRC Chief Executive Officer Steve Rosich estimated the 18,000 square feet Birdcage would accommodate about 5000 people a day during the carnival.
Take a look inside the Melbourne Cup venues …
Penfolds goes under the sea
Fine wine, horse racing and the deep sea came together as Penfolds returned to the Birdcage at the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
Inspired by its global brand thematic, ‘Venture Beyond,’ the Penfolds marquee experience had an underwater wonderland theme.
Guests entered via a ‘Mother of Pearl Cave’, before making their way into ‘The Coral Reef’ and sipping sea-inspired cocktails at the ‘On The Rocks Bar’, including the Seaside Spritz and the Ocean Drop Martini.
Each paired with freshly shucked oysters, Avruga Caviar Bumps and grilled scallops with curried shallot butter.
For an intimate food and wine paring, guests could book into ‘The Tasting Cave’, where Scott Huggins, Executive Chef of Penfolds Magill Estate Restaurant and Penfolds Ambassadors Zöe Warrington and Sam O’Connell served a taste of Penfolds Grange 2019 with a perfectly curated bite of slow cooked beef rib, potato foam and pickles.
The journey continued as guests made their way into ‘The Seabed’, the marquee’s activity hub with a stream of entertainment throughout each raceday, including a DJ, performances from Mike Snell, plus surprise performances from notable Australian musicians.
‘The Sandbar’ served an array of wines from The Penfolds Collection including Bin 311 Chardonnay and Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, while the outdoor Boardwalk was the perfect spot to enjoy the trackside action with sweeping views of the Pre-Parade Ring.
G.H Mumm creates trackside theatre
G.H Mumm opened a world-first, double-storey theatre in the heart of The Birdcage.
Designed to encapsulate the Champagne producer’s passion for the creative arts, innovation and celebration, Théatre G.H. Mumm hosted a full program of performances accompanied by unique cuvées.
Entertainment included singer-songwriter Thando, NZ DJ duo and producers Sweet Mix Kids’ Sandon James and Chris Scott, and house DJ Nico from Melbourne.
Pernod Ricard Australia Marketing Director Kristy Rutherford said: “Théatre G.H. Mumm celebrates a contemporary vision of our theatrical and cinematic heritage, embodied by our iconic cuvée Cordon Rouge. Like any great theatre, it is not just about what happens on the stage – it is the opportunity to meet friends and enjoy outstanding hospitality.”
There was a secret backstage cellar for a select few to taste G.H. Mumm’s vintage cuvées.
In the main marquee, guests were treated to unique French and Australian inspired canapés: Murray cod, sweet corn bisque, leek foam; Champagne poached prawns, endive, horseradish, tarragon and lemon cream fraiche; Lavosh wafer, D’affinois, and truffle honey.
On Melbourne Cup Day, Matilda’s stars Chloe Logarzo and Elise Kellond-Knight undertook the iconic and theatrical ‘Tap Tap’ moment, sending a shower of free-flowing Mumm Cordon Rouge champagne high into the sky by tapping the neck of jeroboam with a sabre.
Jessie Murphy, wife of AFL legend, Marc Murphy led the secondary ‘Tap Tap’ moment.
Don Julio secret tequila bar
One of the newest drinks brand to create Mellbourne Cup venues at The Birdcage was Don Julio, which unveiled its first secret tequila bar, the Don Julio 1942 Secret Bar.
Those fortunate enough to score an elusive invitation stepped through the threshold of the mirrored acrylic box, featuring a display of Tequila Don Julio 1942 bottles.
With touches of gold refracting the light, a table of eight individual glasses was set a top of a striking golden coaster, each filled with a liquid served by Orlando Marzo, one of the World’s Best Bartenders (2018 Global World Class Champion).
Marzo shared the secrets of Don Julio 1942 with guests and the story behind the liquid, as he lit the smoking hats atop each glass – the hat representing the elusive Don Julio Tequila ‘Man in the Hat’.
Designed to be savoured, the serve was complemented by a salted chocolate with delicate gold flakes, highlighting the flavour notes of warm oak, rich vanilla and roasted agave.
Furphy hosted the ultimate pub-style marquee in The Birdcage, with eight screens for racing.
The marquee was also showing off its automatic beer pouring machine, delivering a perfect inch of Fuphy froth.
Cocktail sipping with Schweppes
Asahi’s Schweppes had a marquee on the front row of the Birdcage as the company prepares to “elevate” its brand with new packaging and design that is soon to hit the shelves.
“Schweppes is all about bringing sophistication to social occasions with our range of premium mixers and drinks,” a spokesman said.
The marquee featured ‘a magical bubble booth, boasting delicious edible bubbles in a variety of flavours’, while the brand served guests a range of premium cocktails.