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Analysis

Catering in Remote Locations

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 12:10

Catering for the mining industry is a much bigger operation than just providing food for the mine workers; it also requires precise logistics. “One of the main challenges is being able to maintain the refrigeration cycle of perishable goods when transporting them to the mining site, especially when it is located in the desert,” points out Rodolfo Loya, Director General of Grupo, a catering company that began providing integral food services to Gammon Lake in 2006. The mining industry now accounts for 60% of the company’s operations and it is currently working on El Sauzal with Goldcorp, La India with Agnico Eagle, El Concheño with Minera Frisco, and Bismark with Peñoles.

The logistical challenge includes transporting meat and milk products at the right temperature to avoid them going bad on the way to the mining site and becoming a health hazard. Furthermore, packaging is key for ensuring that the produce arrives in good condition. “Picture a mine with 1,000 employees, and bear in mind that each employee requires three meals a day. This means preparing 3,000 plates a day. Now, consider that mining operations are active seven days a week; this translates to preparing 21,000 dishes each week. There is no mine that has the storage capacity to contain all of the perishable goods that are required to make this quantity of dishes. Therefore, supplies need to be delivered regularly according to an established schedule,” Loya explains. For Loya, the services the company provides are similar to those provided in hotels in remote locations: “We are in charge of all of the workers’ nutrition, as well as living quarter maintenance, cleaning, and laundry. Our service portfolio is very broad, to the point that not all of our services are necessary in all mining operations, because every mine is different and has different needs,” he adds.

Alberto Loya, the company’s Operations Director, points out that the company operates under a lot of pressure, because failing means leaving a mine’s employees without food, which would affect their health and work performance. “Driver training is essential to face this challenge, as well as performing regular maintenance on all vehicles. We emphasize driver training because if there is a mechanical failure it can affect the operations. Well-trained drivers are able to fix any mechanical failure, avoiding delays that risk the wellbeing of the workers,” he adds. He also goes on to explain that in other industries the company delivers the products one shift before each meal is due to be served, however in the mining industry they have to be delivered three days earlier

Logistics are not the only challenge that Grupo Síncom faces when providing its catering services to the mining industry. “At a mine there are workers from every region of the country, as well as foreigners. People are also from different social classes. It is very thrilling to create a menu or plate that satisfies the tastes of all workers,” says Alberto Loya. To be able to guarantee the satisfaction of its clients’ employees the company has developed an integral management system called SAIS, through which the menus for each week are made. Each day a variety of dishes are offered, in order to provide different options for diners. Through the management system statistics are also recorded: how many dishes were consumed or which was the most popular, for example. Grupo Síncom also has a survey system, through which diners can evaluate its services according to different criteria such as taste, seasoning, customer attention, and hygiene, among many others. “We have to take into consideration that mining employees live at the operation. The dining hall is their only source of nourishment, and the warmth with which they are treated and our cooking have a direct effect on their performance. We have to be cautious about what we prepare in our kitchens because people might become bored,” Alberto Loya states.

The industry’s development in recent years has caused Grupo Síncom to double its size, currently employing almost 1,000 people. In order to prevent this growth from challenging the quality of the company’s services it specifically focuses on its personnel and provides continuous training in customer service and service providing. It also has a policy of moving its staff to different mining sites so they can acquire new experience and knowledge. “Our team is multifunctional and very versatile in every sense of the word. The company’s growth allows the professional growth of our personnel; we are constantly creating supervisors, managers and directors. Moving people to different locations also enhances cooking skills and enables people to share their experiences with the other cooks,” Rodolfo Loya says.