The UK Games legacy

…AS THE hard work on one huge food operation finishes, another is already under way. BaxterStorey’s John Bennett looks back at the 2012 Olympics…


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At the start of 2011, BaxterStorey secured a contract to deliver catering at the main media centre for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The scale of the Olympics catering project required a committed and professional workforce and in order to deliver great fresh food and round-the-clock service we provided 400 chefs, baristas and customer service assistants to feed between 17,000 and 20,000 international journalists each day.


Headed up by the project director, Tom Barrett, the team had the task of providing 14 catering venues offering a broad range of cuisine including best of British, Asian, tortilla and salad, tastes of the world, and Mediterranean, plus two bars, a BBQ, deli bar, hospitality, vending and seven “grab and go” food and coffee outlets, which together would serve 450 different dishes every day. The international broadcast centre itself is the length of five jumbo jets wingtip to wingtip so it was an enormous venue to manage.


Staffing the project involved transferring over 200 existing staff members and recruiting an additional 275. It was a key LOCOG requirement that London 2012 should be the most diverse and inclusive ever and so we worked hard to ensure that we rose to the challenge.


All staff were recruited through a variety of sources including educational institutions, Jobcentre Plus and the Olympic Park’s local communities, and we engaged with the six host boroughs to recruit people who were long-term unemployed and were being prepared for work by local agencies. We also engaged with the De Vere Academy of Hospitality and a number of London universities with open recruitment days for students on full-time academic courses looking to gain work experience during the summer months.


Investment in employee training is the backbone of everything we do at BaxterStorey so we put all our Olympic recruits through our induction and training process to equip them with skills in basic cooking, food preparation, health and safety and customer service. It proved to be a valuable resource as the staff performance was excellent across all 14 of our venues.


Our commitment to local sourcing fitted perfectly with the LOCOG “Food Vision” and legacy approach. Having been founded on a vision of delivering fantastic food made from the freshest locally sourced ingredients, we were able to demonstrate to LOCOG how our supply chain is set up using a local supplier network that reduces food miles and allows chefs to buy fresh, seasonal produce at all times. Using BaxterStorey’s existing strong relationships with 250 independent regional suppliers, we secured an additional 18 smaller artisan food suppliers for the Games period.


Throughout the Games it was important that we ensured the security of our supply chain to guarantee the volumes of ingredients required. We spent a lot of time working closely with the selected regional suppliers to make certain that they could provide the finest British ingredients with which BaxterStorey could deliver a guaranteed service, 24/7.


Before the Games we worked with them to predict popular foods and customer flow but you can never really know exactly how it will pan out and each day was completely different from the next. To manage this effectively, our supply chain manager contacted our suppliers at key points each day and implemented an emergency order and delivery system to ensure we could respond to customer demands on time.


We have received some really positive feedback from LOCOG and the global media about the food and service at the main media centre. The Olympic closing ceremony was also a great success as the chefs worked hard to provide a seamless pizza delivery service to the media unable to leave their desks. We set up an online ordering system and during that evening alone delivered more than 400 orders up until 4am.


The Games has created a real legacy for British food – providing the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the skills, craftsmanship and innovation that exists within our foodservice industry to the rest of the world. It has been a great platform to showcase BaxterStorey’s commitment to supporting local, artisan food suppliers by implementing a local supply chain throughout our operations – in short, buying British.


…WHILE JAMES WHITHERS from Scotland Food & Drink describes the lessons learned ready for the Commonwealth Games in 2014…


For many people the abiding memory of 2012 will be the Olympic Games. As a project, it started with cynicism rife at spiralling budgets.


Even in the final days of preparation, news was dominated by rows over the provision of security personnel. But, over 17 days of competition, doubts were extinguished. It would have taken a pretty hard soul not to be swept up in Olympic fever. I certainly was.


Scotland Food & Drink was privileged to play its own small part in the world’s largest peacetime catering operation. We spent three weeks in the athletes’ village doing a showcase of Scottish food, working among the 16,000 athletes and their support teams for whom the village was a temporary home.


On the busiest day we were in the village, 48,000 meals were served. The main dining hall was the focus, a riot of coloured tracksuits tucking into a fantastic variety of foods. It was a frenetic place, brilliantly organised. From the Brazilian ladies’ football team coming in with their drums to the cheers from athletes as they watched their teammates win medals on the flatscreen TVs, the atmosphere was superb. But, by its nature, it was noisy too.


Our home was away from the hustle and bustle of main dining, in an inspired corner of the village next to the Team GB building. This was the street food area; a “casual dining” experience which acted as an antidote to the busyness that was the main dining hall.


Working hand in hand with Aramark, who provided the catering for the athletes’ village, we hosted a Scottish stand showcasing some of our very best produce from smoked salmon and island cheeses to shortbread and strawberries. The interaction with the athletes was fantastic, many of them bringing us their medals to look at in awe. Most pleasing of all was the feedback on our produce. Reading some of the tweets the athletes sent out saying we had the best food in the village was a huge buzz. Some of the Scottish food on offer came from large food companies. But it also came from smaller producers who had the opportunity to play their part in feeding the Games. It demonstrated to anyone who doubted it that while large catering operations are delivered by large foodservice companies, smart thinking and a willingness to engage can ensure that smaller producers are embraced too.


Aside from the success of the street food area, perhaps the greatest value I drew from my own five days in the village was seeing the catering operation at first hand and learning lessons. Those lessons are vital for Scotland because in 2014 we will be welcoming the world.


Two years from now, 53 nations from five continents will descend on Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, and two months later the third most watched sporting event on Earth – golf’s Ryder Cup – rolls into Gleneagles in Perthshire.


At Scotland Food & Drink we’re working closely with both those events. Our ambition is to set a new benchmark for the showcasing of regional foods at major events. We believe Scotland is a land of food and drink, and there may not be a better opportunity for a generation to demonstrate that.


The 2014 food and drink masterplan – a partnership between the government and industry – has already been produced. We will be working over the next 18 months with Scottish food and drink companies to ensure they have all the capabilities they need to work with the foodservice companies that win the catering contracts.


The post-Olympic blues have been lessened by the excitement building already for 2014. “Legacy” is the word of the moment. The Olympics legacy for us is greater knowledge of how local food and drink can play a central role in events of this scale. There is much to do but we have a clear vision of what we want to achieve in 2014. There are less than 700 days to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow; time to get to work.