The completion of a major catering project that has been years in the making would naturally be a major organisational highlight for most businesses, but when Glasgow Rangers found itself in that situation recently the news was somewhat overshadowed by more unfortunate developments at the club.
In the same week that Livingstone equipment dealer ScoMac put the finishing touches to a £1.7m match day kitchen project at the club’s Ibrox stadium, the Scottish Premier League football giant was forced to call in the administrators as its financial woes came to light.
It is not every day that the client at the centre of the largest project you’ve ever undertaken is splashed across the front pages of the newspapers, but ScoMac insists the furore over Rangers’ financial plight takes nothing away from the job it has done at the club over the past nine months.
ScoMac was brought in to revitalise the stadium catering infrastructure long before Rangers’ finances came under public scrutiny. At the time, the club and its main catering contractor, Azure Catering, decided that the fast food kiosks which had been serving fans for the best part of 20 years were in desperate need of upgrading.
Iain Munro, joint managing director of ScoMac, says: “The kiosks had been stuck together with Elastoplasts over the years and they’d also had a couple of very harsh winters with some floods. A lot of the old wooden fixtures and things like that had deteriorated and essentially it came round to being a food health and safety issue.”
The efficiency of the catering operation was also in need of finetuning. As it stood, staff were simply coming in on the morning of a match and loading up pies and other snacks in hot cupboards, which, along with griddles, was the main method of reheating food.
As well as modernising the kiosks, the club wanted to find a more effective way to enhance the quality of the food and ensure it was served at the correct temperature.
Four years ago, ScoMac actually conducted a trial at one of the kiosks, piloting a concept that allowed products to be be regenerated through combination ovens. The trial was ultimately successful and yielded a 20% improvement in uptake, but for various reasons the project never gained any legs until mid-2010 when the club’s owners showed a desire to reignite it.
By that time, ScoMac had come across a range of regeneration ovens produced by Moduline, prompting it to take the original concept a stage further and propose that space for a central production unit (CPU) was made in each kiosk, utilising the regen cart as the main method of production.
It was confident that this set-up would offer an easy way for staff to load and heat the food as well as provide the caterers with more capacity to maximise production. As well as consuming less energy — achieved by reducing the number of combi ovens at 19.8kW each to the regen ovens at 9.6kW — the latter boasts four times the capacity.
Following an updated site survey, the club agreed that it could allocate space for three separate CPUs and nine further kiosk-based CPU stations to support the 42 individual kiosks dotted inside the ground.
Additionally, Moduline agreed to modify the ovens so that they did not have to rely on a fixed water source, thus alleviating demands for water during matches.
ScoMac’s next task was then to address the issue of how products could be delivered from the CPUs to the kiosks, leading it to work with Counterline to develop a system where trays could be removed from the regen carts, transferred via hooded trolleys and placed straight into a specially-devised heated display unit.
“Previously they were decanting it from the oven onto a tray into the hot-holding, so the new concept helped with the handling process and made it a smoother operation,” explains Munro.
One of the major challenges for ScoMac was fitting the work around the fixture list, as it meant it had a finite period in which to finish each phase of the installation. With the possibility of domestic cup matches and European games to contend with as well, mapping out a programme was far from simple.
“As you can imagine, one criteria that we were set from the start was that they couldn’t not have a kiosk open, so as soon as we embarked on a concourse with maybe four kiosks we had to know that we were able to finish those in the two-week window before the next home game took place,” informs Munro.
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As well as providing the appliances, ScoMac carried out all of the fabrication work itself and even managed to standardise certain aspects of the kiosks, such as staff drink stations and back-of-house counter areas.
The dealer had originally budgeted to overclad the existing front counters and leave the old wooden fixtures in place, but the savings gained from moving to the CPUs — and thereby eliminating the need to buy so many combis — meant it was able to replace the entire front stainless steel fixtures at no extra cost.
There was also budget left over for ScoMac to replace an ageing fleet of bulk water boilers, which the club was initially only expecting to do on a phased basis at a later stage.
Munro insists the kiosks have delivered a number of advantages to the client, not least the ability to maintain the quality of a cost-driven food offering by using a more efficient array of equipment. The concept should also drive improvements in waste by allowing the catering staff to be less speculative in their sales projections.
“They can measure what they need now rather than throwing in everything they have got at 9am,” says Munro. “They can gauge it so that after the kick-off more product can be regenerated and topped up for half-time, whereas before they just had to regenerate everything. We have also introduced a small amount of freezer space so that they can hold product, whereas previously it was just regenerated and then thrown away.”
Whatever Rangers’ problems off the field, supporters certainly won’t be able to complain they are not well fed.
Method for funding kitchen project attracts scrutiny
Shortly after Glasgow Rangers went into administration in February, reports surfaced that the club had used future income from its catering operations to fund the upgrade of its kitchen and kiosk facilities.
Scottish newspapers claimed the club had bought the equipment on a hire purchase agreement with a finance house, which is due to receive a proportion of the sales Rangers makes from its contract with match-day caterer Azure.
Iain Munro, joint managing director of ScoMac, which fitted the £1.7m kiosks, said press coverage around the financial structuring of the deal had made no difference to its position and confirmed that all sub-contractors it had overseen on the project had been fully paid.
ScoMac began the refurbishment of the 42 stadium kiosks back in May last year and received payments at various stages as the installation project progressed.
In November 2011 it received the final payment for work completed in 2011, with the remaining 20% that it was owed for the last phase of work paid three weeks before the project was fully completed.
Munro says ScoMac enjoyed excellent communication with Rangers’ commercial and finance teams from the outset.
“At no stage was anybody hiding — it was being paid through asset finance and they wanted smaller lumps bundled into a bigger bundle so that there wasn’t an administration cost every time we did a kiosk, which suited us,” he says. “After July 2011, every other bit of work that we did we were paid for in advance of completing that work.”
The following brands supplied equipment during the Glasgow Rangers kiosk fit out:
Chefline Solutions: Moduline regeneration units
Counterline: Heated display units
Marco: Water boilers
ScoMac: Fabrication work
View pictures of the project in our exclusive online photo gallery here.