Community meals provider’s Olympic plans

02/08/2012 - 16:35
Neil Emery, customer service & distribution director and Olympic contingency group member at apetito, can be forgiven for having mixed feelings about the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. He explains why.

Hosting the Olympics means many things for Britain, but amid the tremendous national pride and enthusiasm stirred by such an occasion, it’s easy to overlook the potential impact an event of this scale can have on the vital services that so many people continue to rely on every day.

It’s no surprise to learn that many companies within the foodservice sector and beyond have had to change their delivery patterns to adjust to traffic pressures caused by the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“While after-hours and night time deliveries have been the obvious ‘go-to’ for most, for companies like apetito who have a responsibility to deliver meals to some of the country’s most vulnerable individuals – hospital patients, care home residents and meals on wheels customers – this isn’t a solution we have been able to contemplate.

Take, for example, our meals on wheels daily delivery service.

These individuals are relying on us to deliver the food they need to remain as healthy as possible.  And it’s about more than just food, for many of apetito’s community meals customers, the visit from our delivery team not only provides their one hot meal of the day, but is sometimes their only human contact.

It’s simply not an option to disrupt such a vital community service and months of intensive contingency planning have been needed to ensure smooth running.

In the nine months leading up to the Olympics, we have pored over maps of the country and identified by postcode all those areas likely to be affected and the extent to which they might be impacted by the Games.

While the majority of affected areas lie within London and the South East, plans have also had to include cities and towns hosting the Torch Relay and Game venues such as Weymouth.

Meeting on a weekly basis from May and a daily basis throughout June, a dedicated Olympic Contingency Group was created to map out all routes taken within these areas and each and every delivery point was classified with a colour code linked to the expected severity of disruption to services.

For example, customers on alert level amber are those affected only during peak events such as the closing ceremony, with those on alert level red affected throughout the games and requiring alternative delivery plans for a relatively extended period of time.

A site-by-site analysis of traffic impact around specific Olympic venues was carried out and from this, six contingency plans were compiled.

A one-size-fits-all solution was discounted early on in our planning and instead we have needed to intensely tailor our deliveries to suit the individual needs of our customers, making sure their meals are delivered as close to their usual time slots as possible.

This has included adjustments to our usual Community Meals delivery routes, holding additional stock at our depots, any additional equipment needed to do so and keeping extra Chefmobil vans on standby.

We’ve also created a dedicated out-of-hours phone line for delivery queries.

Similarly, we worked with each of the hospitals and care homes we serve in areas impacted by the Games to arrange alternative delivery times where suitable, including the provision of extra staff to cover night deliveries if needed and an investigation into whether they are able to hold increased stock to cover an additional day’s worth of meals.

While such measures have incurred additional costs, when you’re serving some of the most vulnerable people in society, it’s more important than ever to ensure they continue to receive the nutritious food they rely on to remain healthy – no matter how extreme the circumstances.

The Olympics has been widely described as the biggest peacetime catering operation, but it’s taken a military precision style of planning for companies such as apetito to function without disrupting our services.

For more information visit www.apetito.co.uk, call 01225 756071 or follow apetito on Twitter @apetitouk.

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