When Zen bought their A-Game to the Commonwealth Games


During the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Zen Catering pulled off one of the largest greenfield events in Australia’s history. Over the 12-day event, we served over 1.8 million meals across a variety of functions. From obligatory catering of games officials, VIP delegates, athletes and their families, to the general public coming to watch each event, everyone was spoilt for choice! One of the most popular catering items? Sushi! All 21,000 rolls of it!

To cater for the masses is challenging but with our exceptional function project team, we overcame each hurdle (so to speak!) as they arose.

Our catering staff were exceptional! Through a strategic 8-month recruitment drive, we were able to hire Australia’s strongest hospitality team. From not just Brisbane, but interstate, we attracted 1,500 staff from all hospitality backgrounds including wait staff, supervisors, chefs, kitchenhands, baristas, logistics operators and drivers. Our Human Resources team individually interviewed every applicant, held over 25 sessions. Our retention plan in place was second to none – with monthly newsletters to maintain interest in the long lead up to the 12-day event. Every staff member attended a minimum of two training sessions to learn everything about Zen Catering’s culture and our involvement in the Games. The best part? Our staff are still with us today at Zen or our retail outlets and cafes.

Zen catered for nine of the thirteen venues on the Gold Coast – organising food, beverage and staff to thousands of people each day. Due to athlete safety and public travel, food deliveries could only be made in a 4-hour window every day, after midnight. Getting 150,000 meals to 9 venues every night, wasn’t easy, especially when all suppliers were in the same boat! Thanks to our incredible logistics team, our delivery routes were mapped out perfectly. Trucks departed our catering warehouse every 30 minutes to each venue, and no one was without food… a testament to our chefs and operations team!

No sporting event is complete without a glass of wine – but how do you serve alcohol in a glass-free zone? Beers were a quick fix in cans, but wine was a different story! Brainstorming sessions were filled with lengthy conversations on beverage decanting options. Eventually we stumbled (quite literally after a few tastings!) across some ingenious plastic glasses of sealed wine. They were a hit and meant no one had to go a game without a glass!

For Zen Catering and Australia, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity… and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world!