Philadelphia-based Aramark caters to Olympic athletes

"Food hall is massive! Unbelievable! almost way 2 much choice! the strategy 2 tackle this baby is a station a day!" according to one Olympic athlete's tweet. MATT DUNHAM / Associated Press
"Food hall is massive! Unbelievable! almost way 2 much choice! the strategy 2 tackle this baby is a station a day!" according to one Olympic athlete's tweet. MATT DUNHAM / Associated Press
Posted: July 23, 2012

One of the biggest participants in London's Olympics will also be one of the most silent.

Aramark Corp., the $13 billion catering company headquartered in Philadelphia, will serve 70,000 meals a day at the Olympic Village during peak times.

That should give Aramark bragging rights over what must be a monumental logistical task. But it can't happen, not if Aramark, now handling its 16th Olympics, wants to retain its supplier status in the future.

Lloyd Evans, a spokesman with the Olympic Committee in London explained in an e-mail:

"As you may or may not [know], all of our contractors and suppliers sign no-marketing-rights clauses in their contracts," he wrote. "A large proportion of the funding for the staging of the Games comes through sponsorship — companies which purchase the exclusive rights to promote their association with the Games.

“Without these sponsors, the Games simply wouldn't happen, which is why we ask suppliers not to publicize their involvement," he wrote. McDonald's is the food sponsor for the Olympics.

Evans sent some catering statistics for the games: 14 million meals to be served to spectators in 40 locations, prepared at 800 concessions serving 150 different dishes, including traditional British favorites such as fish and chips and pie and mash. In addition, 15,000 athletes will consume 1.2 million meals. They'll eat 1,300 types of dishes from all types of international cuisine, constituting Aramark's share of the Olympics' food offerings.

Though the Olympic Committee enforces its ban on outright marketing, it has allowed Aramark to "retweet," (retransmit) comments made from the Olympics on Twitter. U.S. Olympic track medalist Kerron Clement tweeted on Monday: "Eating at the Olympic Village. Love the variety of food choices. African, Caribbean, Halal cuisine, Indian and Asian and, of course, McDonald's."

British beach volleyball competitor Shauna Mullin effused: "food hall is massive! Unbelievable! almost way 2 much choice! the strategy 2 tackle this baby is a station a day!" She attached a photo of the food hall to her message.

She followed with a second tweet — "and this is hidden away in the corner," she wrote, adding a photo of McDonald's, the official sponsor.

Some information on Aramark's role — presented way more formally, OMG — came during brief remarks an Aramark executive made at a May meeting of the British American Business Council of Greater Philadelphia that focused on the Olympics.

Aramark's Matthew Offner told the audience of about 150 that Aramark will serve 70,000 meals a day during peak times. Employing 3,500 workers in three locations, or villages, Aramark will offer 900 menu items.

"We will be flying in chefs from all over the world," said Offner, director of financial planning and analysis. He was among company executives who participated in the Olympics bid. A spokesman for the company said later that they were chagrined to learn that an Inquirer reporter was in the audience.

Christopher S. Holland, a senior vice president and Aramark's treasurer, said on an earnings call in May that the Olympic Games account for about $50 million in revenue. The company had about $13 billion in revenue last year.

"We don't do it to make a lot of money," he said of the Olympics. "It's a hugely complex operation that we're very proud of and have a great track record in doing."

Inquirer staff writer Bob Fernandez contributed to this article. Contact Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769, jvonbergen@phillynews.com, or follow @JaneVonBergen on Twitter. Read her "Jobbing" blog at www.philly.com/jobbing.

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