Partner Content: Cooking in the desert

Raqtan tells us how it successfully completed its most ambitious project to date
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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was the new and first destination in the Middle East for Dakar, the global motorsport brand.

The new route in the Saudi Arabian land attracted the attention of media and spectators all over the world to the fresh challenge of Dakar, which was concluded in January 2020.

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The event gathered hundreds of people including the competitors, organisers, and supporting crews, spending weeks in the most extreme conditions. One of the challenges was how to feed all of them. Specifically, how do you prepare 6,000 meals a day in the middle of nowhere, moving from location to location every day? Which is where Raqtan comes into the picture.

SIX MONTHS BEFORE THE RACE
In mid-2019, we received an inquiry from Saudi Airlines Catering (SACC) which was involved in a bid to become a food contractor to Dakar. Although we get different types of inquiries every single day, their inquiry was not a routine one. The “Are you renting kitchen equipment for the Dakar race?” immediately caught our attention. “Oh, and you need to submit your offer in two days maximum,” was one more challenge posed by SACC representatives.

Race on! In that case, it was our internal race against the clock.

Research is one of our main practices at Raqtan. We always think about the unthinkable to create opportunities for our clients. When we got the inquiry, we were already researching the design of mobile kitchens fitted into regular shipping containers. However, we were not even at a prototype stage. Yet, it seemed that only our container kitchens could meet the requirements of the organisers and the nature of the Dakar race challenges.

We had the creation of the Dakar mobile kitchens in our hands. We made the mission of SACC our own mission, as director of rental services, I worked around the clock, coordinating inputs from the engineering, projects, services, and sales teams. Our teams went through a thorough process of carefully selecting the best machines and equipment, designing the workspace, considering the alternatives, and testing the theories against the tough circumstances in the desert.

With one day to make a decision, we submitted the quote and the drawings of the proposed solid solution.

“It could work,” the organisers said, “but a single container would not be big enough.”

We had already foreseen the need for a larger workspace.

“Sure, no problem,” we said, “We designed our mobile kitchens with the capabilities of connecting two containers with a bridge.”

21 DAYS BEFORE THE RACE

We finally received the green light, but the project was under extreme time pressure. If we had six months to prepare for the project, it would be smooth sailing, but we had just 21 days to get the kitchens to the first campsite.

We studied the Dakar route by carefully measuring the distances between the nine sites, which were huge. We immediately noticed there would not be enough time to move a single set from one site to another. So, six kitchens were required: three main kitchens and three prep kitchens, connected in pairs with an adjoining bridge.

We assessed our resources and found that we had all it takes to do the full project in-house. Our team had to develop everything from scratch to turn shipping containers, which are not designed to be kitchens, into fully equipped professional kitchens.

Our teams went beyond the routine by considering all the requirements to transform the containers: cladding from outside and inside, special anti-slip floors, drainage system, water and electricity installations, ventilation, A/C, and heating.

Our engineering team did an extraordinary job delivering a design that met all the workspace standards we established. We ensured that a lot of cooking equipment, including large heavy industrial ovens, are packed in the containers while there was enough space inside for the operations teams to safely move around.

FIVE DAYS BEFORE THE RACE

We created a detailed checklist that goes over the whole operations inside the kitchens, starting from the sources of electricity to serving the scrumptious authentic Saudi Arabian dishes. Knowing that electricity would come from diesel generators, we installed special power stabilisers on each unit to protect the sophisticated electronic control boards of the ovens against the possible voltage fluctuations damage. We installed reverse osmosis filters to guarantee the best quality of water. Finally, we sent our kitchens on trucks into the desert to give them a good shake and ensure nothing breaks under stress.

Only after trying to imagine and test for every possible and impossible scenario, we felt confident enough to say, “We are ready”. With one day to spare, our mobile kitchens travelled across the Kingdom from the Eastern Province to the bride of the Red Sea, Jeddah.

RACE TIME

The freshly made dishes continued to flow from the kitchens serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to feed the hungry racers. Our kitchens lived up to the challenge and were operating for 14 to 16 hours a day. They never stopped serving meals even for a minute to fuel the competition. While racers were focused on breaking records, the kitchens kept up with the demand and served a total of 90,000 meals, approximately 6,000 a day.

Like racers, we formed a two-expert team consisting of our operations director and the director of the projects who travelled to all campsites throughout the event. They spent the days before the contestants arrival to ensure that everything was set up perfectly. They were ready to foresee and spot any issues at the site. And before anyone could notice an issue, it would be already solved.

The technical support at each site was provided as required by our rotating teams of technicians who ensure a swift set up. Our team represented Raqtan’s commitment to go beyond expectations by travelling around 10,000 km during the race. Sleeping mostly in the car, our teams were living through the Dakar adventure almost like the racers themselves.

DO YOU HAVE A RENTAL PROJECT COMING UP?
It’s hard to imagine a kitchen rental project that is more complex and challenging than the Dakar race.
With our history of successfully delivering outstanding results for projects of all sizes, you can count on our experience, commitment, and flawless logistics to provide you with a top-notch kitchen rental solution where you have nothing to worry about.
Are you planning to participate in the Saudi Seasons events, planning pop-up restaurants for Ramadan, or maybe coming to Dubai Expo 2020?
Contact Raqtan now to discuss your F&B needs.
E: info@raqtan.com
W: www.raqtan.com.

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