|Aramark-Dasko's Olympic Team (l. to r.): Senior Executive Chef Mike Crane, Operations Director Julianne Norton, HR Manager Pam Kokkalis, Operations Director Bridgett Stapleton, HR Director Susan Meier and Executive Director Marc Bruno.|
|An Olympic feeding operation has to take into account hundreds of ethnic, dietary and nutritional considerations at each meal period.|
| A SPLASH OF FLASH. While there will be exhibition cooking in the servery, much of the production will take place in the back of the house. |
It sits not far from glorious antiquities such as the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike. It occupies land that three thousand years ago, when the Olympic Games first were conceived, may have held a farm or settlement supplying food and drink to those ancient athletes. The inhabitants of those early farms may well have witnessed the first Olympic thrills of victory and agonies of defeat.
Today, on that land not far from Athens, Greece, a 21st Century village rises. For several months this summer and early fall, this modern village— the Olympic Village—will house some 35,000 athletes, coaches and officials from more than 200 countries who have come to carry on the tradition of peaceful athletic competition first begun here so many centuries ago.
At the Olympics, some things remain the same—winners are still lauded, for instance, though not with laurel leaves but with gold medals and shoe contracts. Other things have changed markedly—no one in 800 BC could have conceived of synchronized swimming, water polo or basketball as Olympic events.
But something more fundamental is also both the same and different. Athletes still have to eat. But what they eat, where they eat and how food is prepared have changed perhaps even more than the Games themselves...
The entity charged with feeding the residents of, and visitors to, the Olympic Village is Aramark-Dasko, a joint venture company that is an equal partnership between Philadelphia-based Aramark Corp. and Daskalantonakis Group, a Greek hospitality firm that operates some 30 hotels and resorts in the country.
For Aramark, Olympic feeding is about as routine as such a massive event can be. Athens will mark the 13th Olympic Games—Winter and Summer—that the company has serviced since 1968. Included in that total is every Summer Games except the boycotted Moscow Games in 1980 (the company routinely partners with a local firm for Olympics held in foreign countries).
This time around, Aramark-Dasko will operate a series of foodservice outlets in the Olympic Village for the Olympics in August and then the Paralympics, which will follow them in September.
During the course of these events, the company is expected to serve more than two million meals to more than 35,000 athletes, coaches and officials (in addition, another 10 million meals are expected to be served to visitors and spectators at the various Olympic/Paralympic venues by local and international concessionnaires).
The Aramark-Dasko-operated facilities in the Olympic Village include Filoxenos (“hospitality”), the 6,500-seat main dining hall (plus its separate 700-seat employee dining area); a 42,520-sq.ft. production kitchen that supplies the main dining hall (which Aramark-Dasko was responsible for designing and building); Epikouros, an 600-seat casual dining “taverna” located in the middle of the residential area; a poolside cafe in the recreational section; four internet cafes; and a 300-seat retail cafe in the International Zone, where visitors to the Village congregate (they are generally not allowed into the residential areas).
In a separate contract, the company will also provide foodservice and catering to NBC, which will broadcast the Games, through a series of eight mobile kitchen operations (see sidebar on p. xx).
A Greek Summer
Aramark managers scheduled to work the Olympics began arriving in Greece in June (senior managers like Bruno have been onsite since last October), with most on hand by the beginning of July. The first meal—served to the Village staff—is on July 20th. The Village officially will open 10 days later, when athletes start arriving. The Opening Ceremonies are two weeks later, on August 13th and the Olympics run through the 26th.
At that point, the Village dining operation will have about a week of downtime, when it will only be feeding staff, before athletes begin arriving for the Paralympics, which open on September 17th.
In the past, this was a smaller event for the dining team, with a shorter duration and only about 60 percent as many athletes as the Olympics. But this year, Paralympics organizers decided to house judges and officials as well as athletes in the Olympic Village, meaning the usual 40-percent drop in business will only be about 10 to 20 percent. The full Olympic menu will be retained for the Paralympics but the staffing will be reduced by about a quarter. The main dining room seating will be slightly realigned to provide the officials and judges with an eating area separate from the athletes. A portion of the dining room will also be cleared to provide space for special equipment like wheelchairs.
Despite its near-exclusive “ownership” of Olympic Village feeding, Aramark still has to win an open bid process for each separate Olympiad. The responsibility for selecting a foodservice supplier in each Games rests with the host country's Olympic Committee, which forms shortly after a site is selected by the International Olympic Committee six or seven years before the actual event. That national committee then awards the foodservice contract a year or two in advance of the event (the Athens contract was officially awarded to Aramark-Dasko in February 2003).
The uncertainties and the time lag between bid and actual event mean that Olympic bids must have built-in flexibility. The stated public value of Aramark-Dasko's winning bid is $34 million, but the costplus nature of the contract provides for a series of adjustments—up or down— depending on factors that cannot be precisely anticipated two years out.
By the time the contract is awarded, a lot of groundwork has already taken place.
“We begin getting involved some three or four years out,” says Mark Bruno, vice president of Aramark's International Group and co-executive director of Aramark-Dasko in conjunction with a counterpart from Daskalantonakis Group. “We start to understand the Olympic Committee's plan and start giving them some insights based on what we've done in the past. If it's overseas, we also spend some time at this point identifying a local partner, and we start working on our operational plan to manage the big three things: people, products and distribution.
“We'll need to know the local market for both talent and product, as well as how we can get everything—not just food but also construction materials to get the kitchens built—to the site. That's all considered before we even compete for the contract.”
Aramark is undoubtedly already communicating regularly with Olympic Committee officials in Beijing, which has been selected as the site of the 2008 Summer Games, but which has not yet selected a foodservice contractor. Several cities are still vying for the honor of hosting the 2012 event, and they also get some attention. When FM first caught up with Bruno this past spring, he had just returned from a meeting with the New York City organizing committee, which is working to bring the 2012 Games to the Big Apple, “just to help them get some insights on what we do,” he said.
With only about a year and a half to prepare between the bid announcement and actual event, things must happen fast for an Olympic foodservice contractor. In addition, Athens will present a rather unique set of challenges. The two most recent Summer Olympics—Sydney, Australia, in 2000 and Atlanta in 1996—were held in large, modern, English-speaking countries with plenty of infrastructure.
By contrast, Greece is the smallest country ever to hold a modern-day Olympics (its population of 10 million is about the size of Michigan). It is also fairly isolated, traditional and speaks a language not many outside the country understand, though many Greeks do speak English (Bruno says his team has recruited just about everyone in the Aramark organization who knows Greek, while the Daskalantonakis Group alliance provides a source of cultural experience when dealing with local interests).
Other than language and a manpower shortage, Greece presents a supply challenge. Without a “one-stopshop”superdistributor available, it has had to build its own distribution operation (see p. xx). To stock its huge pantries, it will be relying on a mix of local Greek suppliers and companies from the European Union (of which Greece is a member). Fortunately, Aramark and/or Daskalantonakis Group already have relationships with many of these firms.They will be augmentedby a few specialty products sourced from overseas.
Almost nothing will be branded, at least not in the front-of-the-house. That's a departure from, say, the United States Olympic Training Centers, where the cafes depend on in-kind donations from “official suppliers” who then get to display their brands in the servery area.
The Athens Olympics has named only a few official suppliers—Coca-Cola for soft drinks and Heineken for beer, for example. Otherwise, no manufacturer brands will be displayed in the Olympic Village ( McDonald's—a longtime Olympic patron—will have the only branded outlet, in the main athletes dining room).
To manage supply and replenishment efficiently, Aramark-Dasko will use a standard computerized menu tracking system into which recipes of the entire menu will be inputted, along with sales projections.
“Based on a given day with a given menu,” Bruno explains, “we try to project how many people will eat one item versus another—how many people will have the lamb versus the pizza, for example. From our past experience, we have a good understandingof running these kinds of menus and what the athletes will eat. It helps us manage the number of portions that we prepare on each given day, and it helps manage procurement.”
What' s Available
The European flavor of the supply channel will pose some challenges for the culinary team. “The ingredients that we will use are very different from what we're used to,” remarks Executive Chef Mike Crane, who will be in charge of the culinary aspects of the Olympics operation in conjunction with a peer from Daskalantonakis Group.
“The packaging and the types of products are different,” Crane comments. “It'll also be a bit of a challenge working with lots of smaller suppliers as opposed to one big onestop-shop, like in the States. Here, we literally have one supplier for honey and one supplier just for five types of specialty cookies.”
But what you lose in operational efficiency, Crane is quick to add, you more than make up in authenticity and quality. “Some of these products are incredible!” he exclaims. “Through these small suppliers, the Greeks have maintained their traditional dishes and traditional ingredients. A lot of these dishes are handed down from generation to generation—in fact, a couple may even go back to the time of the ancient Olympics!”
Still, while authenticity is nice, Crane well knows that “with an event this large, we need to bring in pre-prepared items. It just doesn't make sense to do everything from scratch.”
Not so easy, especially in a culture (Europe, not just Greece) where culinary traditions are deeply embedded and the acceptanceof speed-scratch ingredients and convenience foods lags far behind the U.S.
“Items like pre-made bagels, for example, are difficult to get a hold of, believe it or not,” Crane laments. Apparently, with its many traditional breakfast breads, Europe has not embraced the bagel as America has—and certainly not pre-made bagels. Even in late spring, Crane was still looking for a “bagel man”.
By that point, supply difficulties had already eliminated French toast as a breakfast alternative. “We couldn't locate a source for prepared French toast,” Crane says. “Yes, I know it's very simple to prepare, but making 7,000 portions from scratch...well you can imagine the amount of equipment it would take up!”
French toast and bagels aside, authenticity is the primary concern in determining suppliers. There are several, for example, just to provide the many different kinds of rice— from jasmine to basmati and from long-grain to sticky—that will be needed.
Bread is an even bigger problem from an authenticity standpoint, since it is almost impossible to duplicate traditional breads without all the authentic ingredients and the requisite breadmaking skills, he explains. Short of importing hundreds of bakers and probably thousands of specialty ingredients to satisfy every conceivable cultural taste (and sacrificing precious kitchen space for a baking operation), Aramark-Dasko will have to take some short cuts. “There are manufacturers who are willing to work with us to customize some of these items,” says Crane, “but they're going to use their own ingredients and what comes out will be somewhat different from what people are used to from their own countries. For example, a soft lavash that we wanted to have is actually closer to a large flat pita, a little bit different from the more typical tortilla-style lavash.”
In the end, the Olympic menu has to balance a variety of supply, production and even chemical constraints. For instance, no poppy seeds can be used in anything because they can trigger false positives on drug tests with customer demands.
“We're in an event where we have to highlight a variety of cuisines so that athletes from all over the world each see something that makes them feel comfortable, something they can relate to,” Crane says.
Some ethnicities, such as Jews and Muslins will require special attention.
“We considered having a kosher kitchen,” Crane explains, “but since only a couple dozen people will require kosher meals each day, we decided it would make more sense simply to bring in items that are prepared under kosher guidelines. In addition, there will always be a variety of items among the daily food choices in the cafè that meet kosher standards.”
As for halal, the Muslim religious code governing how animals are slaughtered for their meats, “we're working with our manufacturer to have all of our chicken and lamb prepared under halal rules,” Crane says. That way, he explains, observant Muslims can eat any of the chicken-and lambbased dishes.
In the past, Aramark had tried to satisfy Muslim customers by preparing a separate menu of halal lamb dishes, “but the athletes indicated that they wanted to see more variety,” Crane explains. “Now, they'll be able choose from among three poultry dishes and two lamb dishes—as well as seafood options—at each meal period.”
Surprisingly, one diet that gets fairly minimal play is vegetarianism.
“We‘ve had very few request for vegetarian over the years,” Crane offers. Those wishing to go meatless have a choice of several plain pasta dishes, a couple of vegetarian pizzas and a variety of vegetables, rices and starches, he notes.
Meanwhile, meat—especially simple grilled items—will be eaten like it's going out of style. About 120 tons of beef, lamb, chicken and pork are expected to be consumed in the Olympic Village during the course of the Games
One particularly favorite category— surprisingly because it is not exactly what one would think of when considering the nutritional requirements of an elite athlete's diet—is sausages.
“They absolutely love sausages,” Crane reports. “It's a mainstay and part of their regular diet because for many it's a comfort food. It's something that reminds them of home because almost every culture has some sort of sausage as part of its cuisine.”
“We really pride ourselves on working with the individual athletes as needed,” Crane summarizes, “and we look forward to getting feedback because that's our opportunity to look at what we can do to improve the menu the next time around.”
Of course, that interaction is made a bit harder by language barriers, but it's not as hard as it might seem.
“In the end, the old pointing method works real well,” Crane laughs. “But seriously, we're very fortunate to have the people we have. We generally find someone on our staff who can speak a language.”
A Big, Fat, Partly-Greek Menu
The need for ethnic variety aside, the host country nevertheless has enormous pull on the makeup of an Olympic menu. Every Olympic Committee naturally wants to show off its own culture when it hosts an Olympics. And food is a huge part of every culture, so the pressure to serve authentic national dishes to guests is considerable.
Consequently, the Aramark-Dasko culinary team has had to work authentic Greek cuisine into their menu while still offering enough variety to satisfy the hundreds of ethnic preferences that will be represented in the Olympic Village.
Although there are specific traditional Greek entrees on the menu, Crane says much of its Greek nature comes from the traditional items incorporated into the choices: items like spoon sweets, cookies, cheese pies, a wide variety of fruits, nuts and cheeses that Greeks traditionally eat throughout the day, and the olive oil that they use at almost every meal.
The menu will also have to accommodate various nutritional needs as different athletes need different nutrients.
“You'll see what events they're in from what they eat,” offers Crane. “You'll see the weightlifters hitting the protein and just piling up the meat, while the runners and sprinters go more for the carbohydrates.”
Possible menu items are initially tested by Aramark corporate chefs back in Philadelphia, then retested in Athens using locally available ingredients.
Once a menu is approved by Aramark-Dasko , it must still be approved by the Olympic Committee, an arduous process.
In the end, Crane is confident it will be a menu everyone will be proud of, one that the Olympic Village residents will embrace.
“I'd describe its as an international menu with a heavy influence of Greek, using Greek ingredients and dishes,” he says.
On the Front Lines
To serve that “staggering” menu, each shift will use up to 250 staffers, with teams of chefs working the front-of-the-house at the 26 separate stations. The offerings will be a mix of flash and efficiency.
“We have an exhibition cooking station where a chef team will do some of the cooking,” Crane notes. “Obviously they won't be able to keep up with the volume, but its there to show the athletes that we're willing to prepare food in front of them if they want. To keep up with the volume, we'll have more teams in the back that will work to keep each station replenished.”
The management structure incorporates a dining director, four shift managers and lead chefs for each section, along with a facilities director with 10 assistants.
“We've tried to make each area comparable to a larger operation in the States, such as a college board operation” explains Aramark's Operations Manager Bridgett Stapleton. “The main dining director or shift manager handles the daily client relations and oversees the general flow and service of the operation while area managers concentrate on their specific areas.
The goal is to ensure that there is something appealing and appropriate for everyone at all times.
In the morning, for instance, an athlete walking into the main cafe will see a station dedicated to breakfast with a variety of traditional items, usually three daily egg dishes, as well as three additional eggless specialty items such as a casserole or crepes stuffed with apples.
The International station will offer four additional entrÈe choices and ttwo grilled items.
“That's already 12 separate entrèe choices just for breakfast,” Crane summarizes, “and that's not counting the separate Asian menu, where we have a noodle dish for every meal period.”
For breakfast, that includes a miso soup and a variety of chicken, fish and vegetable konji options.
If all that isn't enough, an athlete can simply opt for the wide variety of pastries and muffins, breakfast breads, traditional cheese pies, cereals and other traditional breakfast items at the cold stations.
And that's just breakfast.
Lunch and dinner offers another dozen different entrees, from roasted meats and casserole style dishes to stews, accompanied by 12 different types of vegetables, three different starches and three different types of rice.
The cold menu will remain fairly stable, even as the hot menu will rotate on an eight-day cycle.
“In Atlanta in 1996 we had a five-day cycle menu but realized that there was too much repetition,” Crane explains. “Items came back up too quickly, so it seemed like the menu never changed even though we had a lot of variety in it.”
Four years later in Sydney, the company over-compensated with a 10-day cycle that was eventually deemed too long. The eightday cycle, like Baby Bear's bed and porridge, may finally be “just right,” Crane hopes.
Peaks and Valleys
The cycle must cope with the expected peaks and valleys of demand during the 16-day extent of the Olympics and the additional 11 days of the Paralympics.
“There's definitely a peak and it usually hits about Day Three or Four since some people don't move into the Village until after the opening ceremonies,” says Stapleton. “Then it stays at peak levels until about two days before closing ceremonies, when people start departing.”
As for daily rushes, “the peak time in the big cafÈ, believe it or not, is 9 p.m. for dinner,” Stapleton says, “probably because a later dinner is the European standard. In any case, we're usually very busy from 9 to 10:30 or 11 p.m.”
Lunch is a little bit later as well— anywhere from 1 to 3—at least based on Aramark's experience in Sydney and Atlanta. Breakfast is at a more standard (for Americans) 6 to 7:30 or 8 a.m.
Of course, circumstances can force changes. The Olympic Village is considerably further from the city and from the tourist sites than in other recent Olympics and that may prompt more Village residents to stick around rather than venture out. If so, the various onsite foodservice operations could see an uptick in demand compared to Sydney and Atlanta.
But whatever the outcome, the operations team is confident it will be able to handle any contingency.
“We've always had enough budget to staff all the areas appropriately and we've really never in my experience gotten caught understaffed,” Stapleton claims.
Her big concern is just getting the management team together and “making it click. There are always a few hiccups in the beginning. But in the end, it's just like a giant restaurant opening.
OLYMPIC SHOPPING LIST
During the Olympic and Paralympic Games, ARAMARK will prepare:
Seafood: 225,000 lbs.
Pasta (dry): 27,550 lbs.
Salad (assorted leaf greens): 675,255 servings
One aspect of Aramark-Dasko's winning bid was the contract to design and build the massive—but temporary—42,520-sq.ft. kitchen that will service the main Olympic Village dining area, and also to advise the Athens Olympic Committee on the design of the 150,000-sq.ft main dining room, which is separated from the kitchen by three temperature-controlled, 18-foot-wide accessways. Aramark-Dasko is also responsible for design of a 600-seat cafÈ in another part of the Village. In a separate contract, it also has design oversight of the mobile kitchens that will serve the employees and guests of NBC, the network covering the 2004 Olympics and Paralympics.
“This is the largest dining room we've ever had in terms of seats, though the actual facility overall is a little smaller than the one in Sydney four years ago because, with our own warehouse only about a mile away, we won't need as much onsite storage space,” comments Orlando Espinosa, vice president of Aramark's Design Group, who along with Senior Project Designer Jennifer Safran did the design work for Aramark-Dasko.
Otherwise, the Design Group largely duplicated the kitchen it had provided in Sydney, a football-field-sized production area with 18-foot aisles and full temperature-controlled warehousing and receiving operations residing in a temporary structure that will operate around the clock.
“In effect, it has to be a permanent/temporary facility,” explains Espinosa. “It has to be able to withstand high traffic, remain cool and comfortable in the heat of the summer and yet operate 24/7 for the 30-odd days we're working there. And then at the end it all has to go away—the only thing left will be the dirt."
Construction began in February and is scheduled to be completed in July. Teardown will begin right after the Paralympics end in early October and be done by the end of the year.
The choice of what equipment to put in the kitchen came down to what the culinary team needed to produce balanced with what was available from equipment supplier PKL Group, a British company that rents out commercial foodservice equipment for events such as this.
“We had a shell and then, based on the menu, we identified what equipment we'd need and how to organize them to achieve maximum production efficiency,” Espinosa says.
The resulting culinary armory of some 1,600 pieces of production, display and storage equipment can—literally—feed an army.
“We have batteries and batteries of steam kettles, from 80-liter to 250-liter steam units,” exclaims Executive Chef Mike Crane.“We've got 14 combi ovens with the capacity to do something like 400 pans of product at a time. We have a battery of cooking grills, a battery of fryers and pretty much any piece of equipment that you can imagine for high-volume production.”
PKL is also responsible for installation and maintenance, critical because there isn't a lot of redundancy due to the space constrainsts. Most of the equipment is gas-powered. All utilities will be supplied by the Athens municipal system.
To manage production for the 26 stations in the main servery, Aramark-Dasko is employing a pick-box strategy. “All the ingredients that go with each menu are sourced the night or shift before and put on pick carts,” explains Espinosa.“So when the chef is ready to start production for a particular dish, everything is ready. All they do is bring the cart out.”
The operation will use upwards of 250 of these cart units. “It's cook-toserve essentially, with production 24/7,” Espinosa says, “and these carts will be going back and forth continually.”
Building an Olympic Team
To operate all its venues,Aramark-Dasko plans to have a staff of some 1,800 on hand, most of them hired locally, many from Greek culinary and hospitality schools.They'll include a contingent of 50 to 60 college students from the United States, primarily from the top culinary and hospitality schools here.The management team will be composed of some 200 management chefs, about 75 of them from Aramark operations from around the world and the rest from Greek partner The Daskalantonakis Group.
The international flavor of the management team is important because of the need for familiarity with a veritable Babel of languages as well as cuisines. About half of those hired from the Aramark ranks have previous Olympic experience, an important internal resource for the company.
As for the staff,Aramark had the luxury of having the pick of the crop from among American hospitality students. “We concentrated on juniors and seniors with at least two years of supervisory experience in a restaurant, hotel or even an office,” says Aramark's Human Resources Director for the Games, Susan Meier. “A real defining factor was a passion for being in the hospitality or foodservices industry.A lot of students we met with wanted to be part of the Olympics because they thought it was glamorous or a once-in-añlifetime experience, or they simply wanted to go to Europe.What we really wanted was to find students who saw this as a meaningful part of their career development.”
The benefits for Aramark extend beyond getting high-quality help at the Olympics. It's also a recruitment tool.
“Of the group that we're taking,” says Meier,“about half have already graduated from their programs, so we're hopeful that after a successful job in Greece, we'll be able to find positions for them back in the States with Aramark. Part of our work with them is to get them stared with the company and then help them find some positions that they're interested in once they get back to the US.”
Those who were selected went through a screening process that included a passport review and a check of criminal records to make sure that once they got to Greece they would be cleared to work in the Olympic Village.
In contrast, locating enough local talent posed more of a challenge.
“You are competing in Athens with every other hotel, every other restaurant, even with the Olympic Committee for experienced people,” explains Marc Bruno, vice president of Aramark's International Group and co-executive director of Aramark-Dasko. “That's one reason having a local partner is critical.-They have relationships with all the culinary and hospitality schools and they know the local market, so they understand where the best talent's going to come from.”
Those Greek students who were chosen were moved directly to work contracts to nail down their commitment.They then continued to receive training from Aramark chefs as the time for the Games approached.
Because Aramark-Dasko is a Greek company, it must conform to Greek labor laws and customs, which are somewhat different from what Americans are used to. For example, employees are generally paid monthly rather than bi-weekly. They also get two additional paychecks annually: a year-end Christmas bonus and a summer vacation bonus.
“That rule applies even to people working for us for only 30 days,” Meier says. “If an employee works for you for a 30-day time period, then part of the pay you calculate for them has to go toward their two bonuses.”
Greece is also a country-sized “union town,” with pay rates for nonmanagement staff set by union contracts. Unlike the U.S., these rates tend to take such factors as marital status and education level into consideration. (To complicate things even more, a national election earlier this year replaced the party in power, putting a new group into government with its own ideas of labor rules.)
Managers are on salary.Those who are Aramark employees are paid a per diem for their work in Greece in lieu of expense reporting.The company also assists them with travel arrangements and securing the necessary documentation. For lodging, it has rented out a pair of hotels in Athens to house them and provides a shuttle to take them to and from the Olympic Village.
Another benefit: employees working the Games get free tickets to some of the events as part of the compensation, along with a couple days off during the extent of the Games to take in some of the competition and see the sights.
“But beyond that, there is no other bonus or anything different financially given to the managers,” Meier says.“It's the experience that is really valuable, to live and work in a different country and be part of the Olympics.”
Not surprisingly, there's no shortage of Aramark employees expressing interest in participating whenever an Olympics rolls around and jockeying for positions on the team is intense.
“We had close to three times as many qualified applicants as we had positions,” Meier notes,“so it was tough to tell very qualified people that unfortunately we didn't have a position for them. But we did try to take a variety of people from Aramark's different business units and also to focus on people from our International Group because the language skills and the international experience is a great benefit to the Games. Speaking Greek certainly helped, though most people in Greece do know at least a little bit of English, so the communication isn't as difficult as I imagined.”
Employees who will work the Games receive a couple days training once they arrive in Greece and are accredited to work in the Village.
“It's really a combination of orientation to Greece and to the Olympics, along with touring the facilities and understanding how our operations will be for the next 30 to 60 days,” Meier says. “Most people who will working with us have at least some foodservice training and experience. The great majority of students we're bringing from the States are coming from hospitality programs or culinary programs, and they've worked in food services— sometimes even in management—so a kitchen or a front of the house is not exactly foreign territory.”
A CONVENIENCE CAFE
For athletes who don't wish to trek all the way over to the main dining room from their apartments (about a mile distant) to get a bite to eat, Aramark-Dasko will also operate a few other foodservice outlets in the Olympic Village, including a casual 600-seat roundthe-clock cafè located in the middle of the residential area.
“It's not a satellite,” emphasizes Marc Bruno, vice president of Aramark's International Group and co-executive director of Aramark-Dasko. “Everything is cooked there. Its more informal than the main dining room and also more specifically themed in service style, dÈcor and even menu to have a Greek feel, like a Greek taverna.”
The menu is basically an abbreviated version of the menu available at the larger one. It will feature a rotisserie, a gyro machine, pizzas, pastas and a variety of international specialties, including Asian selections.
A Temporary “ Super- distributor”
One particular challenge Aramark-Dasko faces in Greece is distribution. In Atlanta in 1996, Aramark worked with national distributor Sysco Corp. to ensure a steady, reliable supply of product. Four years later in Sydney, Australia, a similar large distributor was available. But no such entity exists in Greece, so “essentially, we're creating our own ‘super-distributor',” says Marc Bruno, vice president of Aramark's International Group and co-executive director of Aramark-Dasko.
Aramark-Dasko is leasing an existing warehouse, along with a fleet of temperature-controlled trucks from an Athenian confectionary distributor called Elgeka, and temporarily going into the foodservice distribution business.
To manage the operation—after all, neither Aramark nor Greek partner Daskalantonakis Group has much distribution expertise in-house, and certainly not on the scale required here—Aramark-Dasko is "borrowing" Jamie Marines, director of Sysco's Chicago area warehouse operation, for the summer. In addition to his experience in running a large distribution facility, Marines has one other valuable attribute: he's a Greek-American who speaks the language fluently.
The Elgeka warehouse is less than a mile from the Olympic Village. "We got lucky," Bruno admits. "We'll bring in the product on our own trucks, which are secure and sealed. It alleviates having the meat guy and the bread guy show up at the Olympic Village, where we have limited storage space."
The plan is for the Village kitchen to always have about three days worth of stock on hand at any given time, Bruno says. The Elgeka facility allows them to essentially double that by holding another three days worth while also streamlining logistics by serving as a forward staging/receiving area.
Operations manager Bridgett Stapleton estimates that four to six tractor trailer loads will make their way into the Olympic Village from the Elgeka warehouse every night—there will be a strict midnight-to-6-am delivery window for security purposes.
“With the quantities that we go through, we've want to make sure we got the supply chain mastered,” Bruno emphasizes.
Behind the Cameras
Aramark has had a long-term relationship with the National Broadcasting Corp. (NBC), which will telecast the Athens Olympics to the world.The company has provided onsite catering and foodservice to NBC's broadcast team at three Olympics: Barcelona,Atlanta and Seoul.
For NBC in Athens,Aramark-Dasko will set up eight separate mobile kitchens, one at the International Broadcast Center (IBC), and seven others at various sites where competition will be taking place, from the Stadium to the beach volleyball venue.The contract covers both the Olympics and the subsequent Paralympics,-which will begin in mid-September, a couple weeks after the Olympic Closing Ceremonies.
In all, some 1,500 NBC on-air personalities, administrators and crew will be onsite in Athens, about 1,100 of them at the IBC, a massive global telecommunications hub from which about 12,000 print and electronic journalists from the world over will cover the Games.
The mobile kitchens will operate "basically 24 hours a day," says Mark Bruno, vice president of Aramark's International Group and co-executive director of Aramark-Dasko, which holds the NBC contract as well as the contract to provide foodservice and catering to the Olympic Village complex. In addition to running the kitchens,Aramark-Dasko will also provide onsite catering services to NBC, from staff meeting refreshments to VIP dinners.
The NBC operation will have its own dedicated personnel and production operations separate from the Olympic Village operations, except for some backroom administrative functions like Human Resources.
The IBC operation will have the use of a semi-permanent kitchen in the building. It will not only prepare meals for the NBC staffers onsite but function as the main communication hub between Aramark-Dasko's main warehouse and the smaller mobile kitchens to keep stock replenished on a timely basis.
The other seven satellite mobile kitchens will be responsible for feeding anywhere from 50 to 250 NBC staffers apiece.
“We plan to have basically two menus, depending on the size of the operation,” explains Doug Bradley, executive chef for Aramark-Dasko at the NBC operations.“We try to build these menus around 50 to 60 percent American food but we know they also want to see some of the interesting local dishes as well. NBC knows their people are going to be working 14-16-hour shifts and they want to have American items such as Roast Turkey Flank or Cioppino for them. They also want some Mediterranean options like Polenta with Roast Vegetables or Saffron Rice with Spicy Eggplant Ragout, all of which will give them lots of choices to keep them going.After all, with the production schedules they have, they're running their own Marathon!”
Operating hours at the mobile kitchens will depend on the location. Four of them, including the main site at the IBC, will be open 24 hours with a limited late-night menu.The rest plan to have something like a 16-hour shift, Bradley anticipates,“but if they're there and they need service, we'll set it up for them,” he's quick to add.