HOME WORKERS: FOOD FOR THOUGHT
For the next part of our feature delving into operations at Stamford Bridge off the pitch on the day of a game, we take a look at the matchday fare on offer for supporters around the ground…
For the approximately 36,000 people that head into Stamford Bridge to watch a game in general admission areas of the stadium, there is hunger to be satiated and thirsts to be quenched. The 'pie and a pint' culture has been a longstanding hallmark of football attendance in this country, and it is up to Levy Restaurants, the caterers at Stamford Bridge, to ensure that supporters' culinary requirements are met.
Nav Daine, the head of concessions for Levy's work at the Bridge, is in charge of the 55 or so catering units both inside and outside the stadium. His innovative work has seen the range of food on offer broaden drastically, with healthier options, such as wraps and noodles, introduced alongside the more traditional fare of pies and burgers. As Daine explains, though, there are considerable logistical issues to be met.
'My largest challenge is structural,' he says.
'Unlike some of the new stadia that are built with hospitality in mind, every single stand at the Bridge is unique. In the West Stand Lower we have 10 units operating. In the East Stand Upper, we have two. We can't offer the same options in every stand because of space restrictions.'
The East Stand is the oldest in the stadium, with the upper tier holding a smidgen under 5,000 spectators, and regulars to that part of the ground will know how limited space is in the concourse area. Daine has introduced a new 'hawking' system there, where staff selling soft drinks, burgers and snacks move into the seated areas of the ground at half-time with the aim of alleviating pressure on the packed concourses. He hopes he will be able to spread the concept to other areas of the ground soon.
Approximately 350 staff arrive at the ground five hours before kick-off to set up the catering units in the concourses and around the ground, preparing for the pre-game and mid-game rush. Twelve thousand pints of Singha are sold at the Bridge on matchday, with 50% of those being consumed during the half-time interval. That works out at around 400 pints a minute, or nearly seven a second.
With so many drinks being sold in such a short space of time, the emphasis is on speed of service. To aid that process, a token service has been implemented. Supporters can buy multiple vouchers for a reduced price and exchange them for beer in a special queue. Over 1,000 of these tokens are sold every game, offering supporters the twin benefits of saving both time and money. Early-door initiatives have also been introduced, where drinks can be bought at half price if supporters get into the ground early.
Daine and his team's innovative work hasn't gone unnoticed. They won the UK Customer Experience award for the hospitality, leisure, retail and tourism category earlier this year for a revolutionary new concept aimed at visiting supporters in the ground.
Away fans in the Shed End now have the option of buying ale local to their region, such as Newcastle Brown Ale, served by staff wearing shirts adorned with their team's crest. The hope is to encourage visitors to come into the ground early, particularly as many pubs in the area don't permit away fans.
With beers sunk and pies devoured, the time soon comes to head to the seats and see what the players on the pitch can serve up.