The 02 Arena Interview

Fitting out the O2 arena must have been awesome. What were the chief challenges?

Where would you like me to start? The sheer size and scale of the project, the nine month timescale, the fact that we were working on an enormous building site throughout, the sheer logistics of co-ordinating up to 60 different skilled tradesme­n at any one time…. Okay, let’s start with the co-ordination.

Is that a standard service?

Project management is one of KCCJ’s strengths and one of the reasons why we got the job in the first place. We were responsible for appointing and co-ordinating all the catering contractors, ensuring that their work was undertaken and completed to consistently high standards of design and performance. To streamline operations we installed a core team in the O2 project office. That gave us the ability to respond promptly to any design or installation changes, talk them over with the contractors and implement them more or less on the spot.

How did you decide on the best equipment for feeding and watering the masses?

Much was informed by our earlier work on the Emirates Stadium. We’d learned about what would work and wouldn’t work on a large scale – and when it was time to call in the specialists. Several members of the core KCCJ management team have engineering backgrounds, as well as specialist refrigeration and electrical expertise, so we have a very practical approach.

At what stage did you realise you needed to commission specialist systems?

Right from the start. Every venue is different and requires an individual approach. Whether we’re dealing with a small building or something as massive as the arena, it’s not just about providing equipment that can cope, the whole system has to work effectively. For instance, however fast your beverage pumping equipment operates, you still need to have sufficient counter space and staff in place to make it happen. Our beer calculation sheet for the O2 showed us the amount of beer that could be sold in the 30 minute transaction periods. The equipment we sourced could produce 33,000 pints but the calculations showed that staff could only physically cope with selling around 22,000 prints. Fine-tuning the system made sure that both the staff and their customers were happy with the results.

Faced with the client’s requirements for food and beer, how did you resolve this?

We wanted a solution that would not only meet but exceed our client’s expectations, so we approached the project in the same way we tackled the Emirates Stadium. We looked carefully at the existing systems and equipment and worked out how they could be converted to meet the stringent demands of the arena. Then we worked with a number of top manufacturers to develop bespoke equipment and systems that could do the job and generate the required revenue streams for the client.

Surely that increased costs?

Well, yes and no. We’re not just equipment suppliers – there are plenty of companies that can do that, and only that. Our aim is to install systems that will generate revenue streams. If you can develop systems and facilities for a specific audience, you will always increase profitability for the client.

So it was the custom-made systems that got KCCJ the job?

Not just the systems. We were able to take the hassle away from the client, shoulder the problems ourselves and make sure we got everything done correctly to ensure the job ran smoothly. Because we looked at the project from an engineering point of view, we were able to understand and deal with both the client’s and the contractor’s needs, cutting red tape, time and costs. We’re still on the case – our team meets regularly with the maintenance team at the arena to ensure a smooth handover and iron out any teething problems. London has an incredible new concert venue.

What does it feel like to have been integral to the delivery of such an exceptional facility?

There’s been an incredible buzz about the project right from the start and to be honest I think we’re still on a bit of a high. The whole team can be extremely proud of their achievement. As the principal catering and beverage consultant for this development, we’ve delivered a genuinely world class environment.