Catering for the hungry masses

Feeding more than 10,000 delegates requires careful planning far ahead, discovers CNCC.

China National Convention Center

Event brief
Apart from China National Convention Center’s (CNCC) meeting rooms being used to stage the Belt and Road International Cooperation Forum’s opening ceremony, high-level plenary session, six thematic sessions and bilateral meetings on May 14 last year, the venue’s catering division was tasked to feed about 10,630 delegates, forum staff and the media.

China National Convention Center

CNCC served a total of 33,900 meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and provided 14,600 refreshments in the media centre.

Challenges
Compared to other international events at CNCC, the Belt and Road International Cooperation Forum was a higher-level international event, which required much higher standards of service.

While access to the venue, security and forum logistics were handled by the organisers for the many high-profile Chinese and international delegates, including 29 heads of state and governments and their delegations, CNCC’s F&B and service capabilities were put to the test as it had to feed up to 20,000 people at peak mealtimes and showcase its creativity in representing “Belt” and “Road” dining highlights.

CNCC was also responsible for the press centre and had to provide 44 hours of continuous service. The 10,000m2 press centre – with 15 functional areas, such as a press release area, a studio area, a dining area and 538 workstations – had to be equipped with a free, comprehensive wireless network. On the opening day, CNCC had to cater for 4,495 registered Chinese and foreign media reporters.

Solution
CNCC’s F&B team began planning for and testing the intense pace of the event’s catering delivery as well as research on food to be served six months before the event, according to Wei Mingqian, executive general manager.

From the selection of ingredients to staff training and table setting designs, the F&B team worked towards providing outstanding dining experiences to all the delegates.

CNCC brought in the local customs and culture of countries along the Belt and Road route and created 40 groups of food decorations made of dough, sugar, fruit and vegetable carving and nearly 1,000 distinctive icons like the Great Wall, desert scenes and seascapes, as well as hundreds of flowers in bloom and great inventions.

To ensure smooth F&B delivery, CNCC designed a number of delegate diversion and dining routes, with volunteers guiding participants and maintaining order during peak times.
Those attending the opening ceremony had to be admitted early to be seated before the 09.00 start and for those who had no time for breakfast, CNCC prepared five coffee break areas, starting from the main entrance and on every floor, for delegates to help themselves. With so many international delegates with different tastes and dining customs, CNCC’s F&B team created fancy food displayed with names like Bloom and Prosper for fruit and dim sum selections, rose-flavoured cakes, assorted mini-naan bites, vegetarian rolls and a wide variety of snacks.

To avoid any food allergy attack, all items were labelled in Chinese and English with the ingredients listed.

Apart from serving the international press core at regular mealtimes, CNCC volunteers provided 24/7-service to the journalists who had to meet deadlines round the clock.

Key takeaways
For CNCC, hosting the event provided a great opportunity to set goals and measure its capabilities as a capital venue provider. Hosting the forum has given CNCC a strong template of how it can replicate and deliver high quality, large-scale state affairs.

Event Belt and Road International Cooperation Forum

Organiser Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and the National Development and Reform Commission

Venue China National Convention Center

Date May 14-15, 2017

Number of participants Around 1,500 participants from more than 130 countries representing some 70 international organisations

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