You’ve got the marquee, you’ve booked the security; the lighting plan is perfection and the speakers are blaring. Now guests are arriving and there’s only one thing they’re asking for—food.
Arguably more than any other sector in the events industry, food and catering professionals are expected to keep up with by-the-minute trends. Whether that entails serving ice cream cone-shaped canapés that actually taste like sh and chips, using sustainable ingredients that minimise waste or creating tools that make for fast installation and breakdown, these suppliers move like sharks— never stopping, always moving forward.
Access sits down with Lee Vines, managing director of PKL Group, and Chris Arkadie, head chef at the Wellcome Collection, to find out more about this always-relevant sector.
What’s the biggest job you’ve done?
Lee Vines (LV): We’ve supplied kitchens to the last ve Olympic Games, as well as a number of other major international sporting events, but our biggest regular UK event is Goodwood. In 2016, we supplied more than 800 items of catering equipment to over 120 different locations across four Goodwood festivals. We had a dedicated project manager on-site for each event and used our previous expertise in supplying Goodwood to help the new caterer keep things running smoothly. As well as supplying our eHandover packs to give each kitchen area, with all the information they needed on a handy tablet, we also had up to ve catering engineers based on-site to o er support for the duration of each event.
Chris Arkadie (CA): I’d have to say it was a 650 stand-up canapé event with small food stall offerings at the same time.
Are there new challenges that you see on the horizon for 2017?
LV: As events get more ambitious, kitchen installations are required in increasingly challenging locations. Whereas in days gone by, a simple temporary kitchen or marquee located alongside a building was the norm, in recent years we’ve found ourselves installing kitchens in locations ranging from underground tunnels to the roofs of buildings, as the events industry becomes more and more adventurous. ese jobs are always fun to work on, but require the full expertise and experience of our team to ensure installations are carried out safely and are fully compliant with all relevant legislation. From technical site surveys and road closures, to crane lifts and liaising with water, generator and tent suppliers, these specialist installations are not for the faint-hearted kitchen supplier!
CA: Food waste, over-production and food packaging.
What is your role during an event?
LV: We work behind the scenes, installing temporary kitchens and catering equipment before the event is open, then collecting after it’s all over. We have a 24-hour technical support line to help keep things on track, and we often supply catering engineers to be based on-site for the duration of larger events where equipment will come
under exceptionally heavy usage and may require additional support. We also ensure that CDM 2015 Regulations are adhered to during the temporary kitchen installation and make sure that this aspect of the event is fully compliant.
CA: Co-ordinating the di erent food o ers with the organiser to work around the event and ensure high quality is maintained.
How has your sector changed over the last couple of years?
CA: We are seeing more and more trends in healthy eating. A vegetarian option is a must and vegan o erings are extremely important. Using serving equipment that is either recyclable and has a low impact on the waste.
Are there any noticeable trends for kitchens in 2017?
LV: We’re noticing that more events are opting for temporary kitchen units. is appears to be as a result of the CDM Regulations, as it’s often quicker and easier for event organisers to hire a fully compliant kitchen building than to spend time ensuring marquees or similar structures are compliant. Our kitchens have been CDM Regulations-compliant for over 10 years, so our clients know we can be relied upon to supply fully compliant kitchens, reducing stress, risk and uncertainty.
CA: Sourcing and buying locally is still at the top. Steering away from mass-produced foods and ingredients, making sure clients are more aware of foods trends and reducing waste.
Has technology changed event catering?
CA: Very much so. We have systems to record our waste count on each catering event, which allows us to accurately engineer menus and assist with ordering of foods according to waste trends. We use an electronic measuring system for food waste, Winnow, which weighs and records all discarded food products to maximise efficiency in the kitchens, reducing waste with clear, analytical statistics to evidence achievement.
LV: Following a successful trial last year, our innovative eHandover packs were rolled out across all hires this year. Supplied on electronic tablets or via weblinks, these interactive packs provide comprehensive equipment and hire information. From site drawings and equipment manuals, to detailed health and safety information, the eHandover packs contain all the information each client needs to know about their temporary kitchen hire, all in one place.
What do you wish organisers knew about your sector?
LV: We wish organisers would realise the importance of remembering to book the kitchens. We’re always surprised by the number of organisers who contact us at the last minute as they’ve completely forgotten that they’ll need a kitchen. Our events website is called dontforgetthekitchen. com for that very reason!
CA: Most importantly we are exible in our approach to creating a menu that will suit not only the guests’ preferred tastes, but the food will also represent the brand and ethos of the event. We also like to share the information around food trends to help the creative process in the menu to avoid waste and over-production of food without compromising quality.