At the Summit Level
The APEC Summit 2012, which was held in Vladivostok from 2 to 9 September 2012, was one of last year’s most widely discussed events in Russia. CorpusGroup, the country’s largest catering operator, was in charge of the catering arrangements for the summit participants. The mission was to provide exquisite catering for 5,500 delegates from 21 countries, including state leaders, on an island connected to the mainland by one single bridge. Report by Julia Matveeva, Editor-in-Chief of "Foodservice", the Russian trade magazine.

In total, caterer CorpusGroup employed 1,800 people to provide catering for the APEC Summit 2012 on Russky Island, Vladivostok.

Working at the APEC summit was a unique project for CorpusGroup – in all senses. “The two greatest challenges we faced were the geographic location and the time factor,” says Ernest Lepsky, CEO of event catering companies Figaro and Parad Catering, who supervised the project on the part of CorpusGroup. “We started working on the project in the last ten days of May, just three months before the summit began. On 1 August, when the people in charge of preparing the summit on behalf of the government began to arrive, we started providing fullfledged catering services.”

The summit was held on the newly built University campus, which was then taken over by teachers and students right after the summit was over.This meant that all
the delegates were able to stay in the future professors’ and students’ dormitories
in nine campus buildings. Originator of the project was the Department for residential Affairs of the Russian Federation.

CorpusGroup was to provide foodservice for the summit participants, namely, diplomats, business people, journalists and security officials. On peak days, the number of clients reached 5,500 (plus the personnel – 1,800 people that also needed to be fed). Summit delegates were offered three prepaid meals a day, plus the opportunity to relax in-between and after business events in a variety of bars and a more sophisticated restaurant. These charged the usual commercial rates and were not part of the all-inclusive foodservice programme. Apart from the catering arrangements, CorpusGroup was also in charge of the housekeeping services.

The task was greatly complicated by the specifics of the location: all foodservice outlets had to be organized 9,000 km away from Moscow, on Russky Island, in the newly constructed buildings of the Far Eastern Federal University. There is only a
helicopter pad on the island, but no air-port. All equipment and food were to be
shipped by trucks across the cable-stayed bridge, which is the only link between the
mainland and the island.

5,500 delegates from 21 countries, including Australia, Vietnam, Canada, Japan, Korea, USA, China, Mexico and others, joined the APEC Summit 2012. For the first time in history, the annual economic leaders‘ meeting of the AsiaPacific region took place in Russia.

Purchasing and logistics

Taking into account the scale of the event, it was obvious from the start that the company‘s material resources would not be enough. “We had to purchase up to 80% of inventory and equipment,” Lepsky recalls. “We ordered some of the dableware in France, flatware in Germany, grill stations with built-in ventilation system from Italy, lighting elements from Hong Kong. We viewed these expenses as
an investment in the development of our business for the next few years.”
Another task that needed to be solved was where and how to store food. The on-campus refrigerating facilities could only store enough food for two days at best, so additional refrigeration options were called for. Storage facilities had to be established on the mainland, as security measures did not allow refrigerators to be installed on the island. The company rented ten cooling containers in Vladivostok. Strict access control complicated the transportation of the equipment: some trucks spent hours at the access control points, even though they had all the required approvals and permits. But a much more serious and completely unexpected logistical challenge was presented by typhoon Bolaven, which meant that the Russky Island bridge had to be closed. “The bridge was opened within 24
hours, but the supply schedule was broken,” Lepsky says. “Our main consolation
was the fact that the typhoon happened at the end of August, during the preparations, not during the summit itself.”

Most of the food, such as milk, eggs, fish, seafood and frozen food, was purchased
in Vladivostok. Chilled meat, frozen pastries and desserts, and alcoholic beverages,
were shipped from Moscow. Fresh products were a separate cost item; they
were delivered by plane every three days. “Alcohol delivery wasn‘t without its problems, either,” Lepsky recalls. “There was a moment when the transport containers got stuck somewhere near Ussuriysk. We had to use all my connections, contacts and friends, to get them out. While we were waiting for the containers to arrive, we bought up virtually all the alcoholic beverages available in Vladivostok.” Olga Schelkunova, head of the CorpusGroup marketing department, admits that the
work was intense. “For the Summit, we kept working on Moscow time, which is
seven hours behind, as we constantly had to order things from Moscow. In Vladivostok the pace of life is completely different, people take their time and money is not the main object. On Fridays, companies and stores can close at three
o’clock in the afternoon; Saturdays and Sundays are their days off.”


Buffet-style food service outlets were established in the future student canteens
in the nine campus buildings where the delegates were accommodated. All served the same items, but with daily changes to the programme at lunch and dinner. On average, 600 people per mealtime passed through every foodservice outlet, where summit participants had breakfast, lunch and dinner. Food was cooked on the spot in every outlet. “We discarded the idea of a central kitchen from the very beginning, knowing that the strict security controls wouldn‘t allow us to take the pre-cooked food from one building to another,” says Lepsky. The power supply at the canteens wasn‘t enough for all the needs of CorpusGroup. “We had show cooking in the dining rooms; wok and grill stations were brought from Germany. We had to provide additional power outlets for them,” he recalls. Taking into account the multi-national summit audience, the menu was based on European cuisine using the range of foods available in Vladivostok, with an emphasis on local fish and seafood such as caviar, crabs and scallops. Christophe Moisand, a French chef who headed the kitchen in the Westminster hotel in Paris and in the Michelin-rated Le Celadon restaurant, was invited to manage the menu development. The French chef’s task was to improve the meal servings as
well as to bring elements of haute cuisine into the menu. He also headed the cooking team.
Christophe Moisand developed the menus for the four commercial bars and the upscale Russia‘n‘Roll restaurant. Designed in Russian style, with popart elements, the restaurant was very popular among delegates. “Initially we viewed the restaurant as a burden, not really interesting for us business-wise,” Lepsky admits.
“However, we were wrong: on the very first days of the summit we started receiving requests from the delegations to hold various events there. A quiet restaurant with good food proved to be a perfect place for communication.”
Russia‘n‘Roll seated 60 people, the average bill being $50 at lunchtime
and $70 at dinnertime, alcoholic beverages not included. “Christophe’s task for the bars was to set up a simple menu that could be easily recreated by any chef,” Olga Schelkunova explains. While the choice of alcoholic beverages at the self-service restaurants was limited to white and red wine, there was a wide range of alcoholic beverages on offer at the Russia’n’Roll restaurant and the bars, which were open for journalists and delegates as well. Apart from CorpusGroup, which provided
95% of all foodservice for the APEC Summit, two more catering companies were
involved: the Kremlevsky Food Production Facility, which traditionally caters for
leaders of state, and Concord Catering, which was in charge of the catering in the
media center. “Some delegations brought their own chefs for their state leaders,”
Lepsky says, “although Hilary Clinton, for example, came downstairs to have breakfast together with the others, and the president of Indonesia did, too.”

Oleg Lobanov, CEO, CorpusGroup
Why did you decide to work at the APEC Summit? You used to avoid government contracts.
Lobanov: I avoid projects with unclear objectives, when the client doesn‘t know what he wants. In this case communication between us and the client was absolutely clear. I must admit that it changed my opinion of the government system, because I dealt with very competent professionals with a strong business approach. That is why we were able to work quickly and efficiently, despite the extremely tight schedule. What is your assessment of the company‘s work on
the project?
Lobanov: I‘m proud of what we did! We implemented all of our ideas, for instance, that of the role of a French chef. Just imagine: for 10 days we opened a gourmet
restaurant in Vladivostok, run by a Michelin chef! On some nights we had up to 150 guests in the 60-seat restaurant. I appreciated the input by French chefs into the organisation of the operating model, when the final stage of preparing a buffet for 500 guests resembles an assembly hall where everything is opened, finished and served within 30 minutes. For the first time ever I saw briefings and chef exams held by foreign chefs. I was proud to have it all happen in my company! Now I‘d like to introduce this operating culture to CorpusGroup: we have opened a permanent position for a French brand chef in the company.
Do you have any further large-scale projects in mind? Are you planning to work at the Sochi Olympics?
Lobanov: We didn‘t receive any official request from the Sochi Organizing Committee. We don‘t participate in tenders: I believe this approach to organising events is completely wrong. One of the conditions of the tenders that we saw was personnel accommodation at the expense of the catering operator. Today, accommodation costs $20 per night, but during the Olympics it will cost no less than $100 per night. That is why I‘m sure that “cheap and cheerful” is not going to happen. Should the organisers need our services, we will do everything, but participating in a tender is out of the question for me. If the client‘s catering
budget is limited, I have the right to refuse, because I won‘t be able to provide the level of service that we saw, for instance, in London. I‘m not trying to pull up the stakes. I simply know that I won‘t be able to guarantee the proper level of service otherwise.


CorpusGroup employed about 1,800 people to provide catering for the summit.
As Oxana Talitsyna, HR-director at CorpusGroup, admits, “It was a unique project recruitment-wise, even though we are a national-scale company with 45 branches throughout Russia.” 80% of the administrative and managerial personnel were recruited from within the company. About 200 of the company‘s employees, 50 from Moscow and 150 from the regions, were involved in the project. “In a positive sense, we were selling the work at the summit within the company: we launched a competition and called for the employees from the regions to take part in this unique project,” says Oxana Talitsyna. “They filed a vacation request at their primary place of employment, then signed a work contract with us and were paid from the project budget.” The team of chefs came from all over Russia. “We selected the donor cities with a high level of restaurants: Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, Perm,” Oxana Talitsyna recalls. “Our specialists went to a restaurant, explained the scale of the project to the chefs and offered them the opportunity to work under a Michelin chef which, by the way, the cooks found highly motivating. That way we brought together about 150 specialists.” An unusual method of recruitment was used for unskilled operating personnel. “The idea of engaging student brigades was born at one of our brainstorming sessions,” CorpusGroup CEO Oleg Lobanov recalls. With the support of the Russian Student Brigades organisation and a few universities, the company was able to involve college and university students from Moscow, Vladivostok and other regions
in the project. They worked as waiters, hostesses, charwomen, maids, loaders. All candidates‘ backgrounds were checked by the Federal Protective Service, which
rejected about 10% of candidates. Before leaving for Vladivostok, the young men and women took part in a three-day orientation programme in Moscow. They were told about the project and given specific behaviour guidelines. “Training sessions
enabled us to find out the candidates‘ strengths and weaknesses.” The personnel arrived at Russky Island in groups, while the new buildings were being fitted out. Upon arrival, all operating personnel had five days of intensive training; then they got down to work. All personnel lived on the campus grounds on the island. Only Vladivostok residents were allowed to visit the mainland. The employees‘ movement around the island was also restricted to designated areas and routes.
Apart from expanding the company’s competence and gaining new experience, working at the Summit enabled CorpusGroup to form its candidate pool. “We selected those who we are definitely going to engage in the near future and those
who we plan to engage for offpremises events and future largescale projects,” says Ernest Lepsky, sharing his plans. “Some of the production personnel will become part of CorpusGroup; we also found new stars among service employees. The project enabled us to shake up the company, it showed who is who. This is a positive experience, which gives us a clear understanding about the people we can get on with.”

F&B: Volumes*
● 2 tons of red caviar
● 4 tons of scallops
● 5 tons of salmon
● 15 tons of meat
● 10 tons of bakery products and pastry
● 9 tons of milk
● 3 transport containers of alcoholic beverages
In total, 300 tons of raw
material purchased in Moscow, Vladivostok and Khabarovsk were shipped
to Russky Island.
*Catering at APEC 2012