The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is an exciting time of year, especially when you’re the premier catering company that’s feeding it.
For more than 20 years, Blue Plate Catering has been fueling the Bank of America Chicago Marathon with our award-winning catering and services. It is a partnership that is near and dear to our hearts and business highlighting the key of what makes Chicago run — collaboration, relationships and good ole’ Midwestern hospitality.
This year added another “win” for us — our kitchen and crew cranked out an estimated 2,000 assorted breakfast sandwiches, 2,000 bagels, 2,000 muffins and scones, 6,200 pounds of beverages, 70 pounds of coffee, 500 mimosas and 50 fruit trays plus other unique tasting and buffet stations across various tents and spaces; all for nearly 4,000 guests.
From initial planning meetings and coordination with Chicago Event Management, the planning arm of the marathon, to four days of kitchen production and then day-of service, it is a big event for us and one we look forward every year. “We have employees who have worked the marathon for more than 15 years, it is their most coveted event,” says Beth Bracco, vice president of business development. “From our CEO, Jim Horan, to our receptionist, it’s all hands on deck for the marathon; everyone is eager to be there.”
Pulling off large events like the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of our specialties, and each year we go through our own training to make sure the event goes smoothly. Check out our recap of what it takes to be Chicago’s Caterer to one of the most anticipated events of the year.
Find more behind-the-scene and day-of photos at our 2016 Bank of America Marathon Facebook album!
As with all of our events, extensive planning, organization and collaboration with our partners is key to our success. Eight weeks before the marathon, the operations teams convenes in regular meetings to organize team resources, staffing, and discuss logistics for the coming weeks.
Once the numbers have been crunched and menus have been decided, it takes close to 50 kitchen and 20 warehouse staff over four days to produce the event. This year, the team had the special opportunity of producing the marathon from our new state-of-the-art kitchen and warehouse space at Larkin Hall in Fulton market which quickly showed its impact and efficiency as Purchasing Manager Anne Fisher noted, “It was the smoothest event ever in my eight years.”
With only a few days before the marathon, the Blue Plate team meets to set up equipment and review the day-off logistics.
The day before the marathon the kitchen makes the final touches then all food is carefully accounted for, packaged and loaded up to be transferred to Grant Park. Heightened security adds additional logistical challenges to adhering to load-in parameters, staffing and even food set-up that all have to be taken into account for a successful partnership.
“My favorite memory, year after year, is watching our incredible staff work alongside the marathon team to construct a mini town in the middle of the night,” says Bracco. “Starting at midnight, when no one is there, we build a fully functioning food service operation. By 7 am it’s a beautiful display.”
While the city is still awake from the day before, leadership and culinary staff head to Grant Park the day of the marathon to begin food prep and start brewing the 70 pounds of coffee on separate generators that will caffeinate the more than 4,000 guests who come through the various tents. Breakfast is served for the operations team at 3:00 am, and then the delivery team sets off to deliver hot coffee and breakfast to smaller tents while service and culinary staff begin prep for the larger tents with their own behind-the-scenes remote kitchens. Doors open at 5:00 am sharp for breakfast and then the team flips for lunch as the first runners complete the race. Service continues throughout the day until 3:00 pm and then it’s time to clean up, load trucks and head home. At Blue Plate, it’s all in a day’s work but it’s also moments like these — the smiling faces of runners and their families looking for a warm meal, the energy of the city gathering around food and drink — that make all the planning and hard work worthwhile. At the end of the day, we are about creating memorable experiences and what can be more memorable than celebrating victory.
See you next year!