Excited staff at Olympic hotel gear up for London Games

by Patrick Camara Ropeta, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Jun 21 2012 01:23 PM | Updated as of Jun 21 2012 09:23 PM

LONDON - Filipino staff at a hotel in Stratford are hard at work preparing for the upcoming London games, after beating thousands of other applicants to secure the opportunity to serve guests at the 2012 Olympics.

Four Filipino hotel workers bested 7,000 applicants to work for Holiday Inn in East London, one of the hotels within the newly developed Olympic area in Stratford. Only 60 slots were available during the games.

Commis Chef Jojo Almojuela is training himself alongside other kitchen staff in preparation for the demands of the London Games

Among the lucky four are Jojo Almojuela and Fatima Bathan, experienced chefs from the Philippines who are now part of small team responsible for feeding thousands of guests using the hotel this summer.

“It’s a thrill because you don’t know who you’ll be feeding. It could be a prime minister or an organizer or the who’s who of the sports arena. At the same time you are scared because you don’t want to disappoint them,” said Bathan, who has been working in the food and hotel industry for 18 years.

“I know it’s going to be busy. But this is how I look at my job: treat each plate as if you are serving one. Although you’re doing a lot and multitasking, every person is different from the next, so do your best.”

Speaking to ABS-CBN Europe, Almojuela added: “I feel honored, because it’s not for everyone. We are only about 4 Filipinos working for Holiday Inn for the Olympics so I’m quite honored that I’m part of this team.”

Reports estimate over a million people will descend in the Olympic Park during the games, including 10,500 athletes, 200,000 staff, and 700,000 spectators for all venues.

In anticipation of such high volumes of people, Olympic hotels in the area are gearing up for the busy period by training staff, stepping up security and developing special procedures to cope with the demand.

“We’re trying to train ourselves to be more punctual and more organized because if we don’t organize ourselves, we can’t do it if there’s a lot of people. So right now we’re just training to deliver 100% customer service and 100% good food for the Olympics,” explained Almojuela, who started working for the hotel since its opening in May.

Commis Chef Fatima Bathan will help feed thousands of hotel guests and clients during the London 2012 Olympics

Bathan, who recently moved to London from the Philippines, added: “It’s very interesting and challenging. I’m learning so much because the Philippine scenario is totally different - the ingredients, the palette, and the customers are all different. It’s not easy but it’s definitely worth the trip.”

Working at the same hotel, Filipino duty manager Rein Bael-Kitchen will be among the team responsible for its smooth operations during the games, ensuring everything runs according to plan and keeping guests satisfied at all times. She also works alongside another Filipino staff, maintenance technician Roy Oredina.

“We’re trying to get as much guest feedback to look into potential improvements. In terms of the guest services, we definitely make sure we ask the guests how they found their stay, as well as feedback on our staff,” Bael-Kitchen explained.

“We did training a month ago before we opened, and definitely before the Olympics starts, we’re re-training our staff again. And possibly look deeper into details of the standard operation procedures of what needs to be improved and enhanced, and determining what are the weaknesses that we have to look into.”

With over 360 rooms and thousands of guests expected to use the hotel, the pressure is on for all the staff on what is potentially the most important service of their careers.

Yet despite the mounting stress of working during the Olympics, the hotel staff remains optimistic and excited about the rare chance of taking part in the global sporting event.

“It’s history. For the longest time, we’re just watching this event on TV, and now we’ll be in the centre of the Olympic arena and our job is to feed whoever will be part of it. I’ll be happy to do that,” Bathan said.

The London 2012 Olympics runs from July 27 until August 12.