The Saints are coming

Having developed the catering facilities for Wembley Arena, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and the O2 in Greenwich no less, Dartford-based KCCJ is something of a sector specialist when it comes to indoor and outdoor stadia environments.

But every stadium brings its own set of unique challenges and that was certainly the case for its latest job involving Langtree Park, the brand new 18,000-seater home of rugby league side St Helens.

For a start, KCCJ had to design and install nine stadium kiosks and two onsite production kitchens while keeping to a strict budget that required a more prudent approach to sourcing equipment than normal.

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While the cost of the project totalled a cool £540,000, Kevin Slatter, managing director at KCCJ, says the funds needed to go a long way given the traditional catering requirements of sports stadia. As it was, plans to install a third kitchen to support the venue’s hospitality and banqueting functions had to be postponed in order to ensure the rest of the job wasn’t compromised.

“I have to be honest that the biggest single issue with St Helens was that they really did only have a limited amount of money,” says Slatter. “Although that is always an issue with every customer, it was particularly a problem for St Helens because with stadia there is always a need to get to a certain level. You can’t just suddenly say, ‘right, we will only have one kitchen which will have to serve four floors or one concession that everybody has got to get to’, there needs to be a practical solution. So, to a large extent, our challenge was trying to come up with something that would give them an operation and would satisfy their base requirements, but also build in a little bit of flexibility so that they could look forwards to the future.”

An additional challenge for KCCJ was that it took over the job from another contractor after the main stadium building work had begun, which meant it had little influence over the shape of the two production kitchens.

“It was already pre-determined that the kitchens were on two levels and pretty much sized the same, so we had to be a little bit inventive in trying to get the production facilities across two areas,” explains Slatter. “To a certain extent you have got the first floor kitchen which produces most of what I would call the hot food offer, while the second floor produces most of the chilled food offer. It is working fairly well, but from a caterer’s point of view you would probably rather have your core staff going back to one area during the course of the week than having them split across two. So it was a bit of a challenge, but it works and I think they have found it does what they require.”

KCCJ used its experience of stadium catering and knowledge of the equipment market to bring in a wide range of kit from a plethora of manufacturers. The main cooking units, which included solid tops, open burners and bratt pans were sourced from Falcon, while four 20-grid Lainox combination ovens — three in the main hot kitchen and one in the sister kitchen — provide both automatic and manual cooking options for chefs.

Foster supplied all the refrigeration equipment for the kitchens, with the installation of cold rooms providing ample storage space and a chilled prep area ensuring plenty of room for the caterers to prepare sandwiches, starters and sweets throughout the week. “Because the kitchen was predetermined, some of the shapes were a little bit challenging so Foster played quite a big role from a cold room perspective,” acknowledges Slatter.

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A single Comenda rack conveyor services the site’s dishwashing needs, while extract canopies were manufactured and supplied by Blackpool-based South Shore Metal Fabrication. Although there wasn’t a huge emphasis on food prep equipment for the project, KCCJ procured several items from Metcalfe, including industrial food mixers.

As with any modern day sports stadium, maximising the investment that has been made in the facilities to develop a steady stream of revenue from conference and event opportunities is key objective for those owning and running it.

“That is where somewhere like St Helens is really looking to try and go because you pretty much have a surety that as long as the team is doing alright then they will get that level of hospitality during match events,” says Slatter. “The art of the new stadium is generating revenue from non-matchday events. Like any big new stadia, other than the team, the biggest single investment is the stadium. To have it used once every two weeks doesn’t make sense from a commercial perspective.”

With only seven weeks in which to complete the job, KCCJ had two project managers stationed at the site for the duration of the installation to co-ordinate deliveries. The main trial though was that KCCJ didn’t begin the fit-out until after the main contractors had finished the stadium interior, which commanded an overly cautious approach to siting equipment.

“With 20-grid combination ovens you would normally have hoists and things to move those and put them in place, but they had to be manoeuvred very carefully in small lifts or up stairwells because we were working in finished areas,” says Slatter. “That presented a challenge and meant that we really had to think things through before we did them.”

It is fair to say that when it came to putting all the equipment in place, the KCCJ project team had to demonstrate the kind of dexterity and organisation that St Helens is more used to seeing on the pitch.

To see pictures of the project click on our exclusive photo gallery here.

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The half-time scrum

As well as the two main production kitchens, KCCJ also had the job of fitting out nine separate food and drink kiosks charged with keeping rugby supporters watered and fed during St Helens home games.

That meant an emphasis on kit that was economically practical — after all it is only in use for a handful of times a month — but still able to produce large batches of food served at short intervals.

Turbo fan ovens manufactured by Blue Seal have been installed to take care of the hot food offering, meaning paying punters can look forward to a selection of tasty pies, pasties and other hot food options during their visits to the stadium to watch matches.

“We do try, where possible, to encourage the client to go as fresh as they can,” says Slatter. “We are trying to move past the days of just precooking and reheating because I think people want something a little bit better.”

Scotsman ice machines and Foster refrigeration units are also positioned within the kiosk lay-outs, while KCCJ worked with the stadium’s brewery partner Robinsons to develop a fast and efficient beer pouring system.

The other brand that featured prominently on the job was Lincat, which provided hot display units. “They are a good piece of equipment, they do what they say on the tin and they serve well, so they fitted in nicely,” comments Slatter. “A lot of the grounds that you go into don’t allocate sufficient kiosk spaces, but in fairness to St Helens they took on board the advice that was given and spaced and sized them correctly. A couple of them might look a little bit sparsely supplied with equipment, but having the right base means they can always extend into them.”

Spec sheet

Equipment from the following brands was used during the fit-out:

Blue Seal Turbo ovens
Comenda Dishwashers
Falcon Prime cooking suites
Lainox
Combination ovens
Foster Cold rooms, refrigeration
Lincat Hot display units
Metcalfe Food mixers
Scotsman Ice machines
South Shore Metal Fabrications Canopies & fabrication

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