The heat is on in London, and not just literally. With visitors expected to flock here for the Olympic Games, many of the host city’s restaurants are revving up for a busy summer, with some making concrete plans to capitalise on the opportunities brought about by the sporting event.
To be held from 27th July to 12th August, the London 2012 Olympics is expected to usher in nearly 10,500 athletes, 5,800 team officials and around 21,000 accredited media from around the world, not to mention a significant volume of Games-related visitors and tourists. According to estimates released in March by Amadeus and Forward Data, there will be a 31% year-on-year increase in travellers to London in the four days leading up to the start of the Games, based on air ticketing reservations. Following the main Olympic event, the Paralympic Games involving some 7,000 athletes and team officials will also be held from 29th August to 9th September, creating another spike in visitor arrivals.
For restaurateurs, all these numbers point to a glaring conclusion: there will be an unusually high number of hungry people in London. While it is yet unclear whether the Games will indeed boost takings — due to inconveniences such as traffic diversions — many are conscious that this summer is indeed special.
McDonald’s, for one, will open its biggest restaurant worldwide in conjunction with London 2012. Located in the Olympic Park, it is 10 times the size of an average outlet and can seat up to 1,500 customers. As the official restaurant for the Olympics, the fast-food chain expects to sell over 1.75 million meals, which translates to roughly 12% of the estimated total number of meals served during the Games
Across the canal from The Counter’s new riverfront terrace is the main Olympic stadium (Credit: The Counter/Stour Events Management)
The Counter, a café-restaurant about 100m away from the main Olympic stadium, is anticipating a boost in the number of customers during the Games period, said Claire Beesley, communications & Olympic events manager for Stour Events Management. The Counter is located in Stour Space, a refurbished warehouse and art gallery in the Hackney Wick area.
According to Beesley, the café will extend its late closures beyond Thursdays through Sundays to daily during the Olympics, and there will also be more staff on hand to cater to the increase in patrons. It has just completed its new river terrace “so customers will be able to sit in the sun, look out onto the stadium and hear all of the action going on inside”, she noted. On top of that, the café plans to put in place projectors and screens for customers to enjoy broadcasts of the Games within the premise.
Between 5th July and 5th September, diners can also look forward to an exhibition in Stour Space featuring Olympic-related pieces by local artists, added Beesley.
Outside of the Olympic Park, the excitement is also evident in restaurants in downtown or other parts of the city centre. 10 Greek Street, located in London’s West End, is expecting a 10% to 20% increase in the number of diners over the Games period, said its co-founder Luke Wilson.
“We are really looking forward to the Olympics, it should be a fantastic experience which will show London in its best light,” he noted, adding that 10 Greek Street plans to attract and retain diners by concentrating on providing high-quality food, wine and service in a relaxed environment.
Fried baby squid at 10 Greek Street (Credit: 10 Greek Street)
Classic Peruvian ceviche at Ceviche, which opened this March (Credit: Ceviche)
Peruvian restaurant Ceviche, which opened in March, also views the Games as an opportunity. “We will be able to reach out to more people who will hopefully love our dishes,” said its founder Martin Morales.
Ceviche, located in Soho, will be launching an exhibition within its premises to commemorate Peru’s participation in the Games, revealed Morales. Entitled “Peru at The London Olympics 1948 & 2012”, it will feature photographs taken by Peruvian athletes during the 1984 Olympics. According to Morales, the Peruvian Olympic delegation will be gracing the launch party for the exhibition.
Challenges on their plates
But, not all is rosy for the food and beverage industry during this busy period. Daytime road closures and diversions mean that eateries have to make alternative arrangements for deliveries from their suppliers. For example, Donostia, a Basque restaurant in central London, will resort to receiving ingredients and other supplies overnight, said its co-founder Melody Adams.
Miles Quest, spokesperson for The Restaurant Association (RA), also predicts that restaurant staff might face problems getting to and from work with the travel disruptions. An arm of the British Hospitality Association, the RA is a membership body that promotes capability building, looks into marketing efforts and acts as a representative to engage the government.
Regular customers, added Quest, may also avoid restaurants in central London due to the transport difficulties.
Last October, the Earl of Bradford, Chairman of RA, told The Independent that some of the visitors could be in town specifically for the Olympics and dining in restaurants may not be on their minds.
The central McDonald’s restaurant in the Olympic Park in London is touted to be its biggest, most sustenable and most recyclable (Credit: McDonald’s UK)