Mikhail Shiyanov, general manager of premium hospitality for Levy Restaurants at the O2 Arena, spoke to Janie Manzoori-Stamford about catering at one of the UK's biggest venues
What are the main challenges of catering on such a massive scale?
On a sell-out night at the O2 Arena, Levy Restaurants caters to 16,000 people from our concessions units and also delivers up to 2,000 covers in corporate hospitality areas. The main challenges we face are consistency of presentation and quality, as well as the logistics involved given the size of the building and locations of the production and finishing kitchens.
Give us an idea of the scale of the operation
Our operation is massive - we cater for over 200 events per year ranging from awards nights to musical performances and sporting events. The O2 Arena hosts events like the BRIT Awards where 5,500 people join us for fine dining, the Barclays ATP World Tour finals each November sees eight days of corporate and hospitality packages as well as concessions for up to 25,000 people, and Rihanna's sell-out, 10-night performance attracted 170,000 people.
How do you ensure consistency of quality across all the hospitality suites?
Each dish is prepared to our precise, high standards, and we train our chefs and front-of-house team so they can drive these. We also make use of well-developed company procedures and technology such as front and back of house point of sale software.
How do you ensure you're ready for any eventuality?
Flexibility is essential to our operation and the people at the heart of our business make this possible. So whether we are required to set up six hours earlier at short notice after a late finish the night before, or keep the kitchen open until a client's entire party arrives following a long delay, a contingency is always in place and our people are always on standby ready for action. Our passion and dedication are what make Levy Restaurants so unique.
What is the big trend in corporate hospitality for 2012?
One thing that remains unchanged year after year is the corporate clientele's demand for innovation. Authentic flavours are big this year, and our menus feature exotic and ethnic flavours from all over the world. Unique food and beverage pairings are also in high demand - experimenting with a cocktail or a spirit pairing to go with a main dish is a popular alternative to a traditional main and wine match.