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Virginia Horse Center Food Service Under New Management

Written by: Courtesy of Client
Client: Virginia Horse Center Foundation
Release Date: 2014-08-01

Pure Eats Opens in Anderson Coliseum; Red Hen Owners Consult on Catering 

Lexington, VA – August 1, 2014 – The Red Hen and Pure Eats are two of Lexington, Virginia’s most renowned, award-winning restaurants, and now they are bringing that same outstanding food and customer service to the catering and concessions operations at the Virginia Horse Center (VHC).

The two acclaimed eateries have entered into a two-part agreement with the Horse Center to encompass both concessions and catering.

Pure Eats, owned by John Blackburn and renowned in the Shenandoah Valley for its fresh doughnuts, locally roasted coffee, single-steer beef hamburgers and Homestead Creamery milkshakes, has opened an outlet in the Anderson Coliseum.

Adding to its traditional menu, Pure Eats at the Virginia Horse Center now serves a range of healthy wraps and salads. Pure Eats will also be supplementing food service outside the Coliseum with mobile concessions at various locations on the Horse Center grounds. Pure Eats will also soon offer a refurbished food truck with greater capabilities to serve hot, fresh and tasty items at multiple locations.

In the catering realm, Stephanie Wilkinson and John Blackburn, co-founders and co-owners of The Red Hen, have entered into an agreement with the Virginia Horse Center Foundation to provide consulting services to reorganize and improve the quality and profitability of its catering operations.

With over 100 events held on grounds each year, the VHC is called upon to provide catered meals ranging from boxed lunches for horse show judges to buffets for hundreds of exhibitors. 

Drawing on their experience hiring and managing award-winning kitchen talent, Blackburn and Wilkinson conducted a search for an in-house food & beverage manager. In early July, Jennifer Porter was brought on board as the VHC Food & Beverage Manager. Porter brings a passion for great food and hospitality and professional experience as an executive chef, caterer, as well as a background as an equestrienne. 

“One thing we certainly learned at the Kentucky Horse Park is the critical importance of quality food service,” said John Nicholson, former Executive Director of the Kentucky Horse Park and current consultant for the Virginia Horse Center. “It is such a big part of the horse show experience, and it very much reflects whether or not your facility is committed to customer service.” 

Nicholson continued, “Without question, the Virginia Horse Center has signaled that it is totally committed to providing an excellent food experience for all who show horses there and participate in all the events and activities.” 

Wilkinson and Blackburn are consulting with VHC administration on cost controls, inventory and personnel management, and best practices for catering, with the goal of increasing VHC food service revenue and expanding catering operations.

Planned upgrades to the VHC facilities will provide new opportunities to serve a wide range of visitors to the Horse Center as well as show managers, trainers, exhibitors and spectators. Future plans include marketing the VHC’s wealth of appealing indoor and outdoor event venues for corporate parties, weddings and other special occasions.

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THE RED HEN, Lexington’s first farm-to-table restaurant, opened in September 2008. Its style of down-home fine dining has been featured in the pages of The Washington Post, Southern Living, The Wall Street Journal, Edible Blue Ridge, The Roanoke Times, and Virginia Living. Currently, the Red Hen is rated the #1 Restaurant in Lexington on The renovation of the late-19th-century red brick, gingerbread-trimmed building won the Founder’s Award from the Lexington Historic Foundation in 2008. Visit the Red Hen online at www.

PURE EATS serves prime Buffalo Creek burgers, craft beer, handmade Homestead Creamery milkshakes, fries, and more in a charmingly converted Pure Oil building on Main Street in Lexington. In June, 2014, PURE EATS was cited as one of the Best Burger Joints in the Shenandoah Valley by Virginia Living magazine. Find out more about Pure Eats on Facebook here:  

The Virginia Horse Center (VHC) hosts over 100 equine events a year. In 2013, VHC provided 51,455 stable nights with an estimated 205,000 guest days and a combined local economic impact estimated at over $53 million statewide and $37 million in Lexington and Rockbridge County.

The VHC is situated on a 573-acre site with 8 barns to accommodate 750 horses in permanent stabling. Indoor stabling can be increased to 1,200 horses with the use of temporary stalls. VHC hosts 19 show rings, including two large arenas and a five mile Olympic cross country course. Four of the VHC barns are winterized with close access to the 4,000 seat indoor coliseum. VHC is recognized for the excellent footing of its show rings and the durable construction of the concrete stalls. VHC also offers camping facilities and on-site food and beverage services. Find the Virginia Horse Center Foundation on Facebook here


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