The challenge of catering for big numbers whilst on the move

We don’t like to blow our own whistle too often but it’s fair to say one area we excel at most is catering for large numbers whilst on the move. Let’s just break that claim down for a minute…

  • catering (the production of tasty, nutritious, hearty meals for carnivores, vegetarians, coeliacs, vegans and those with intolerances like lactose or wheat)
  • large numbers (sometimes 60, often 100-700, and not infrequently 700-1,500 – ask Jason and he’ll say the bigger the number the better!)
  • on the move (from car parks, fields, valleys, mountains and beaches…you name it we’ve done it!)

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And it’s not just us that think we’re great at it, our customers and challenge participants do too…

“Great food on the ride. Fantastic organisation to cater for everyone.”

 

So what are the challenges when you’re planning and catering for large numbers away from your regular kitchen? 

Planning; Jason, our Head Chef, has a natural instinct with menu choices and numbers when he begins pulling these events together. Particularly when we’re doing challenge events we want to ensure we’re producing food that will help participants refuel effectively at each stage. Then there is the challenge of changing numbers on an event – new signups and people dropping out but somehow Jason is brilliant at mentally adjusting the shopping list to suit. He plans a main menu but we always pay particular attention to accommodate special dietary requirements.

 

Pre-prep; BBBR statsWe always allow pre-prep days for every event, particularly one of volume. The chefs are down in the kitchen preparing dried goods, whipping up trusted desserts and counting out bananas etc!! And then there are the logistics of packing up our vans to not only accommodate these huge initial stocks but also to pack them carefully to ensure we can get to everything as we need. On these challenges we’re often setting up, serving, wiping down and moving on to the next location so careful preparation and packing is key to making the lives of the teams on the ground much easier. Just take a look at the volume of goods we took with us on BBR2016!

Keeping it fresh;  13406977_10154842934804338_7635743149293682358_nOf course we can prep some goods but for longer events we need to make sure we’re serving fresh produce and for that we go local. Whether it is a supermarket in France, a Butcher in Bolton or a Bakery in Bergamo, we’ve sought it out and in between service the team head to the shops en-mass picking up local staples for the next meal. You do get funny looks though adding 40 baguettes, 6kg Ham, 3kg Cheese, 2kg Salami and 18 Iceberg Lettuces into your already full trolley!

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The weather; tIMG_7973he British in us certainly comes out when we’re doing outdoor catering and the subject of weather!. Not happy if it’s sunny and hot and not happy if it’s wet and windy! We’ve done BBQ’s in searing heat with the sun beating down and just this year we lost an entire tray of prepared veg as it blew away in gale winds in the Peak District leaving Jason to change the menu swiftly from a hot stir fry to a hearty beef soup in that instant. We have to be adaptable, and if challenge participants are walking, running, climbing or cycling in that weather then we can cook in it!

Timeframes; It’s very difficult to get such large-scale events to run entirely on time. Usually we receive approximate timeframes to work to from our clients, and sometimes these can be detail based on previous experience of an event – only last week we received a breakdown of how many challengees were expected to arrive for food in which time window (900 participants spread across eleven 2-hour time slots). We have to balance the availability of food with keeping it fresh whilst often looking ahead to the next service/location. It’s a fine balancing act.

People we meet; We love the variety in the events that we cater for – cycle challenges, weddings, ultra marathons, walks, corporate parties and street food festivals amongst others. But it’s not just the events we find ourselves working at, it’s the people we come across along the way. We need to be prepared to ease the minds of the most nervous brides, lift the energy levels of fundraisers and support crews working tirelessly to put on these charity events, celebrate with birthday girls and boys and even catering for well-known celebrities!! This year alone we’ve helped Jo Brand along her way in her ‘Hell of a Walk’ BT Challenge for Sports Relief and Jodie Kidd was one of the cyclists on this year’s Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride in France – with so many more events planned over the coming months who knows who else we might meet!

Our priority is always ensuring no matter who we’re catering for they feel like a superstar with our tasty, nutritious and hearty meals – exceptional catering in outstanding locations.

All-in-all we think you’ll agree it’s quite a feat for the teams and the planners in the office to pull all of this together to get it spot on and continue to delight all our customers on a regular basis. Well Done to all of you!

collage3You may find yourself heading toward an Appetite for Adventure Grill at your next charity event, country fair or corporate party – and if you’re looking to organise something similar then why not talk to us about how you could bring some fresh thinking to your next event.