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This is what catering looks like at UEFA EM 2024

By: Reading Time: 8 Minutes

The European Football Championships (EURO) in Germany in 2024 will not only serve up unforgettable moments in sport. KTCHNrebel took a peek behind the scenes and spoke to Markus Gollus. As head of catering for the UEFA EURO 2024’s official hospitality partner, he is coordinating the catering for almost 100,000 box guests at ten catering locations and plans to use the international soccer festival to promote regional German cuisine.

As well as being true wizards with the ball, they burn a lot of calories during a match – the star soccer players who will play a total of 51 matches at UEFA EURO 2024 in Germany. Food sample from the nutritionists’ game sheet: Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane, Joshua Kimmich and the like burn an average of 1,500 calories per game. That’s usually around 4,000 kcal per game day. It goes without saying that top athletes (have to) pay strict attention to their diet and are served very special food.

Uefa Euro lounge, table set in the soccer stadium

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

EM 2024 – Soccer meets culinary delight

But they are not the only ones who want to be well cared for. Millions of fans from all over the world follow the major soccer event and want to enjoy culinary delights in the stadiums. According to Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser, nearly 2.7 million fans are expected to visit the ten host cities. In addition to regular stadium visitors, around 100,000 guests will also be attending, who pay several thousand euros for their packages in the exclusive lounges.

A set table in the Uefa Euro Lounge in Berlin

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

They expect to be treated to top-class culinary experiences in addition to exciting soccer matches, as Markus Gollus well knows. However, the Head of Catering Director for the marketing organization 2024 Hospitality Experience, the official hospitality partner of the European Football Championship, is not letting the pressure get to him. “We know what to expect. We are well prepared and can’t wait to finally get started.”

Markus Gollus sits on a chair in a football stadium

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

Event catering with expertise, peace and quiet

When UEFA EURO 2024 kicks off in Munich on June 14 with the game of host Germany against Scotland, an intensive 16-month planning phase will come to an end. This was a planning phase in which Gollus, who was previously manager at the four-star superior Esplanade Hotel Resort & SPA in Bad Saarow, was able to draw on his wealth of experience at major soccer events.

The 50-year-old German was involved in both the 2010 Men’s World Cup in South Africa and the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany, so he knows a thing or two about event catering. “As a project manager at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, I was responsible for guest services and ensuring quality food in the VIP boxes, among other things. I already got to know and appreciate a large part of the team I’m working with today when I was in South Africa.”

Markus Gollus stands in a foye with two gentlemen

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

His core team is a “motley crew of ‘travelers’, as we call ourselves. But no matter where each person comes from, they bring a wealth of expertise to the table and respond to unexpected challenges with the necessary calm and composure.”

EM catering – at a consistently high level no matter where you are

As an exclusive partner of UEFA, the 2024 Hospitality Experience and its packages are aimed at a wealthy clientele, although they are not permitted to describe themselves as VIPs. UEFA reserves the right to welcome its own guests, primarily government guests and sponsor representatives, as Very Important Persons (VIPs).

Guests are standing at bar tables, chatting

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

But what or who is actually behind the 2024 Hospitality Experience and what can non-VIP guests expect? The 2024 Hospitality Experience is a joint venture between sports rights marketer SPORTFIVE and e-commerce service Fortius. Not only do they offer a wide range of first-class seats for the various European Championship matches, they also provide outstanding catering before, during and after the game by means of exclusive gourmet catering. A total of four product categories (Club Lounge, Prestige Lounge, Platinum Lounge and Skybox) are offered with an increasing range of services. “Our great challenge is that we want to cater at a uniformly high level in all ten stages. This is above the level of catering normally found in these stadiums in the VIP areas of Bundesliga games. And that’s usually quite high…”

Three men are standing in a circle, talking and laughing

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

Cooperation for sustainability

To guarantee a smooth catering process at this major event, the hospitality managers have recourse to a large number of external employees. Over the course of the 51 matches, more than 2,500 hostesses and hosts will be on hand, as well as almost 3,000 service staff, 2,000 cooks and 550 bartenders. Markus Gollus is also supported by 650 logistics specialists and 500 floor managers and supervisors.

Waiters on their way to the food station

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

Some people may now ask themselves where all these workers come from in times of a shortage of skilled workers in the gastronomy industry. For one, they are not hired separately. No, in terms of economic sustainability – as required by UEFA – the expert uses the know-how, personnel and existing suppliers of the same caterers who also provide the hospitality areas of the individual stadiums during the Bundesliga season. This makes processes much easier and saves costs and resources. But that’s not all, because the professionally equipped kitchens in the stadiums will also shared in the interest of sustainability. “We have to share the kitchens with the official caterer of the UEFA VIP guests. And that means, for example, that we decide in advance who uses which dishwashers and when.”

A laid table in the lounge of the Uefa Euro Lounge in Berlin

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

Good timing is everything, even in catering

To train and coordinate the external personnel for the various assignments, a digital tool was developed in advance, says Markus Gollus. “We provide our catering partners with a training app. They will find descriptions of our food, wines and spirits that they can pass on to guests. They also receive information about the walking routes in the individual stadiums and our service timeline.”

A prepared plate with vegetable rice

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

This service timeline – an Excel-based system – is one of the key elements in the complex logistics of Euro 2024 catering. It also makes use of the planning framework provided by the official time frame for soccer matches. “No matter what time a match is scheduled, we know that admission to the stadium is always three hours before kick-off and that we have to be ready to welcome and cater for the guests,” says Markus Gollus. We know that after the first 45 minutes of play, there is a 15-minute break and we know when the game is over.”

Small appetizers are served in bowls

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

This actually enables meticulous and standardized planning for all locations, regardless of the personnel on site. “However, we can’t just plan when which dishes are going out. We also know exactly when we need to start preparing so that there are no delays in service. And we know when which tables need to be set and how.”

Holy Grail on Excel

A second Excel tool is closely linked to this service timeline and can be accessed by everyone involved. “We have developed our own menu matrix for the EM. It is based on the grammage of the dishes and the meticulous division of the timeline, and from a culinary point of view it is like our holy grail,” says Markus Gollus.

A picture of the menu for the 2024 European Championships

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

While the service timeline determines the exact timetable for food preparation, the menu matrix combines the basics of preparation for every catering event at EURO 2024. “This matrix is filled out by the chefs in the individual stages with all the information about the necessary ingredients and quantities of their creations.”

Showdown before the start

In the months before the start of the European Championships, Markus Gollus traveled to each stadium three times with colleagues from his culinary team (and UEFA employees). A final showcase will be held as a dress rehearsal at each location three days before the first game. “These test meals for the Euro catering are perhaps the hardest part of my work,” says the event manager, with a laugh of satisfaction. “We have to taste 100 to 120 components per kitchen, which should ultimately lead to high-class gastronomic experiences. What surprised me was that the selection and quality of vegan and vegetarian dishes is significantly higher than ever before at a soccer event.”

A plate of food is garnished with

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

The local caterers that the 2024 Hospitality Experience is working with for the European Championships include experienced partners such as Do & Co in Munich, Tim Mälzer’s Speisenwerft in Hamburg and Supreme Sports Hospitality in Frankfurt. “Depending on the location, we naturally try to prepare as much fresh food as possible in the stadiums. However, we also use the infrastructure of kitchens in the immediate vicinity to prepare individual components.”

EM catering: Food sharing as an integral part

In any case, the food for all catering at the European Championships will be finished in the stadiums – thanks in no small part to the various Rational units that are in regular use in the modern commercial kitchens of the Bundesliga stadiums. Here too, Markus Gollus says, perfect planning and reliable food quality are the key to success. “Because of the security regulations and clear accreditation and access rules, we cannot simply request supplies in between if necessary. Everything we need must be on site on time.”

Markus Gollus stands in front of a Rational combi-steamer

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

It goes without saying that under these conditions, everything has to run smoothly and the equipment used must always deliver the same great results and dependable food quality. Ideally, this is also possible with the cooking systems used in the stadium kitchens. With the help of intelligent sensors in the cooking cabinet, the filling quantity, size and condition of the food in combi-steamers, for example, are monitored and important parameters such as temperature, cooking cabinet climate, air speed and cooking time are automatically calculated and set or adjusted from the data obtained.

Another UEFA sustainability requirement applies to leftover – but still usable – food. “Of course, we follow strict hygiene guidelines when it comes to food sharing. That’s why we have rented a large refrigerated container at each stadium, which an NGO will use to collect all unused ingredients the day after the game. That makes me very happy, because my heart aches every time food is simply thrown away.

European Championship catering as advertising for German cuisine

From a gastronomic point of view, there is a common theme in all locations – a black-red-golden theme to be more precise. While individual matches – such as paella and pasta at Spain vs. Italy match in Gelsenkirchen on June 20 – may well include gastronomic tributes to the teams on the pitch, the culinary team wants to use the opportunity to promote German cuisine.

Meat served on a plate with edamame and mashed potatoes

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

One of the reasons for this is that Markus Gollus still raves about biltong, a special type of dried meat (“preferably from kudu or springbok”), which he discovered during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as a typical national dish. “This is the biggest sporting event of the year after the Olympic Games. We will have the opportunity to welcome guests from all over the world. We should use these opportunities to show them the culture and spirit of our German cuisine.”

Focus on bread

Markus Gollus defined sourdough bread as a “typical German product.” “It is very easy to introduce and goes perfectly with various spreads or Black Forest hams.” This ham is a good example of regional products that will be put in the spotlight at the individual stadiums. “We deliberately work with local producers. In Berlin, for example, we will be offering Spreewald gherkins in their signature wooden barrels, while in Gelsenkirchen we will be offering guests a tasty Ruhrpott cheese – each with an interesting backstory, of course.”

A piece of bread, served on a plate

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

The Euro catering culinary offer is rounded off with an extensive selection of regional and renowned drinks – for example with fine Ziegler brandies and Markus Schneider wines. He is a big soccer fan himself and wants to share stories about his products with hospitality guests at one or two matches. “Ultimately, we do everything we can to make our guests feel well cared for and looked after,” says Markus Gollus. “And perhaps they will become just as excited about our German specialties as I am about biltong in South Africa.”

A prepared snack board, sliced loaves of bread in the background

Image: 2024 Hospitality Experience

Hoping for a summer fairy tale

Markus Gollus will open his headquarters during the European Championships in Berlin, where the 2024 Hospitality Experience has additionally blocked room quotas for interested guests at the renowned Hotel Telegraphenamt and offers further premium products in the public viewing sector (The Maifeld Garden, The Maifeld Club) at Maifeld in Berlin’s Westend.

In addition to the opening match in Munich and the final on July 14, 2024 in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, the games of the German national team are also on the to-do list for the man from Brandenburg, as are Turkey’s matches in Dortmund, which are internally considered top games. “It will be a travel-intensive time,” says the soccer fan, “so unfortunately I won’t be able to see any of the games live.” His favorites include France and England. And host Germany? “For the atmosphere around the tournament alone, I hope for a summer fairy tale like that of the 2006 World Cup.” From his point of view at least, everything is ready.

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