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A bite for the byte people

A peek into the world of corporate catering from Elior Megabite's central kitchen in Bengaluru

A bite for the byte people

Five kitchens in Bengaluru, with its central kitchen in Doddanekundi delivering food to 27 corporate addresses, some of which have Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Goldman Sachs, Accenture, CISCO and McKinsey in the addressee line.

To give a clearer sense of the scale of its operations, this catering services provider prepares a whopping 16,000 meals every day in Doddanekundi.

That is a peek into the fast-expanding corporate catering empire of Megabite Food Services, a fully-owned business of Elior Group, a French food services company. (Not only corporate houses in and around Bengaluru, but those in Chennai and Mumbai are also on the brand’s clients list.) “Our kitchen never sleeps. At any given time, at least 160 employees will be at work, preparing dishes to be packed for corporates,” says chef Prabhakar N., managing partner, culinary development, Elior India Catering.

Prabhakar shows me around the kitchen at Doddanekundi. It is quite early in the morning, and the first consignment of the day has already left the premises.

"It leaves in the wee hours of the morning, as these corporates work on shifts and huge sections of their workforce report early," says Prabhakar.

To give a sense of what this pre-dawn work entails, at Microsoft alone, 1,300 employees are served breakfast made at the kitchen in Doddanekundi. The breakfast counters at Microsoft are open from 3 am to 11 am, which means chefs have a demanding deadline to meet.

A huge chunk of Megabite's business comes from LinkedIn, which explains why an entire section has been named LinkedIn Kitchen and dedicated to the company. There are several minor kitchens, each named after the chef managing it. So, I come across "Arjun Kitchen", "Dipu Thomas Kitchen" and so on.

Dishes based on various cuisines including Mexican, Mediterranean, Asian and South Indian are prepared and packed into containers.

These companies run various counters offering dishes from different cuisines. They also look for variety under each category of cuisines. For example, employees at CISCO have a choice of 13 varieties of dosa for breakfast.

After preparation, dishes are sent to the storage section where they are sampled before being readied for transportation to the clients' workplaces. In the rear section of the facility, rows of mini-tempos wait to be loaded with lunch packs.

While a major part of the cooking happens at the central kitchen, most of the companies have their finishing kitchens where the food receives the finishing touch before being served hot.

'Fitness' foods

With health foods gaining in popularity, many companies expect a healthy touch to their lunch counters, complete with a staggering array of salads, fruit bowls, oil-free items and steamed dishes.

“Cerner offers meals at subsidised cost for those opting for health food,” says chef Prabhakar.

The health counter at LinkedIn announces its intentions in a prominent display board ---- ‘No sugar, no salt, no oil’ ---- and offers a range of cereals, millets and seasonal fruits for breakfast. From mango tea to peach drink, its coffee bar offers a variety of healthy beverages from 8 am to 8 pm.

Feedback mechanism

The brand’s well-oiled feedback mechanism enables it to change quickly, whenever necessary.

For instance, when Megabite started its account with Visa, only thali meals were served for lunch. Based on inputs from the company, it added a combo comprising grilled chicken, mexican rice and a dessert, to the offering.

“Goldman Sachs wanted us to bring a food truck to their campus,” says Prabhakar.

“The western section of the menu at LinkedIn is designed in consultation with a corporate chef at Dale, United States,” says chef Antony Anandakumar, executive chef for LinkedIn.

Sanjay Kumar, CEO, Elior India, says exacting standards of cleanliness, hygiene and adoption of technology to track food consumption are also among factors that keep the corporate catering business going.

The article was published on The Hindu on July 11,2018