Thankfully this weekend I was allowed into the Restaurant without an Orange Sticker!
Umm’d and erred about going to Ascot for the Victor Chandler Chases meeting, and in the end I watched it on Channel Four Racing and had a meal at Towcester instead.
If I had gone to be honest I would have ideally preferred to wear what I wore for Towcester, and indeed what I normally elect to clothe myself in when I go jumps racing: leather shoes, smart jeans (I could say designer if I was vain!), warm smart jumper and sensible coat. If it’s in the summer, I tend to substitute the warm jumper for a smart collared shirt.
This is the garb that I wear whenever I go racing, typically I book a meal in a members enclosure once a month (or more if I can get away from the office).
The issue with Ascot is three fold, firstly that their dress code is (in my opinion) backward looking, secondly that they didn’t appear to notify everyone well enough, thirdly that they choose to mark every transgressor of the amended dress code with an orange sticker!
Dress Code Correct?
In my view Ascot firming up the dress code is a retrogressive move. I would hope I am fairly representative of the type of person who Ascot are trying to attract. I am married, employed and aged thirty two. Normally we go racing with friends, or work colleagues (I’m a Director of a company that is a supplier to the betting industry) and the average age range of our group is from 24-34. Typically we all wear suits for four days of the week (hooray dress down Friday!) and don’t really see the need to wear suit and tie for the weekend also. Please note that I always look presentable and don’t turn up in football shirt and ripped jeans! I have attached a picture of me before attending Towcester’s restaurant on Sunday. I personally don’t drink or smoke (partial to the odd punt so not vice free!) and as a treat I like to eat well. In my time I have been lucky enough to eat in restaurants that have been rated by the fat-man that makes French tires, and my typical dress code is sufficient for me to be welcomed into those establishments!
Apparently the dress code was due to feedback from established members. I would hazard a guess that these consulted individuals are perhaps of an older generation (of course entitled to give an opinion). Perhaps Ascot’s management should have thought that instead of polling selected individuals they should instead have looked at what policy was the best for pushing their product forward. It may be viewed as a somewhat arrogant quote, but the late Steve Jobs said:
“For something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Communications cock up
The second issue is the complete PR shambles of marking people who had been “warned” with an orange sticker, and the subsequent PR furore that resulted in the track refunding £28,000 worth of ticket revenue as an apology and attempt to dig themselves out of a hole. Many of the affected people interviewed in the press indicated that their ire was not addressed at the dress code, but at the fact that the stiffening up policy was not communicated when they brought the tickets.
In fairness to the Berkshire track, the £28,000 refund is a significant move. Hopefully lessons can be learned. At least if the dress code changes are here to stay people will hopefully be advised better in advance. That way people who don’t want to wear a jacket, tie (and so forth) can elect to not bother. I love racing, but have drawn line about sporting a top hat and tails for Royal Ascot or the Derby meeting, but at least the dress code for those examples was widely known.
Ascot’s PR team is doing their best to deal with this maelstrom of bad publicity, as such I thought I would speak with them via a modern communication method and have tweeted @Ascot insider to challenge them to retweet my blog and provide a response for me to blog about. If they look at their records they will even see that in the early 2000′s I was a junior member.