How many times have you participated in the Dakar Rally and what fascinates you most about this great adventure?
I have been a Dakar lover since I was a little kid. It’s the taste of wild adventure: heroic men and women racing in a very hostile enviroment, incredible travel images. Now through Sodexo I’m living this little kid’s dream. Today my fascination is more with using Dakar to try new concepts, working together with the team and clients. Dakar is the perfect event to promote and test new processes and production tools, new techniques and dishes, and innovate in purchasing and logistics. This is a definite inspiration for our day-to-day work.
What is the main challenge for the Sodexo teams in this new edition?
Every Dakar is different with new challenges every year – new tracks, bivouacs, pilots, local complexity, climate and terrain – which makes this event so exciting, but requires careful planning and preparation. Sodexo prepares this event 8 months in advance, and there’s no room for mistakes. For us, Dakar is “won” before it begins by adapting to regional differences since we are generally present in more than 2 countries throughout the race. Our team includes Chilean, Argentinean, Colombian, Peruvian and Brazilian members, and such diversity is a tremendous help when communicating with all the different nationalities of pilots and organizations. Year on year the challenge is to continually improve and develop the service to deliver a better experience for each pilot or guest served in the bivouacs.
How does Sodexo cope with the environmental challenge?
We are helping organizers Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) comply with local regulations, but we are also going further. This year that means special biodegradable plates and cutlery. Also, every day we clean and sort all waste material to ensure that we meet our own Sodexo Better Tomorrw Plan objectives.
How do the Sodexo teams improve the physical environment of the Rally participants? What quality of life service you think is the most outstanding one?
The Dakar is a very physically demanding event for everyone involved. Receiving a meal served with care in the desert after 15 hours of a rude bike ride is definitely seen as a quality of life experience for the pilots. And every day our team tries to surprise our customers with something special that meets their dietary requirements but with a gourmet touch in the middle of nowhere. Often the quality of life experience is as simple as a positive gesture or comment from our team when a pilot arrives at 2am after 13 hours of driving and mechanical problems!
Dakar is also demanding for the Sodexo team, so last year there was a special bus for them to rest on an air-conditioned bed. It had a great impact on the quality of life, productivity and efficiency of our team. It’s also very rewarding for us to receive thanks from the pilots or organization after a day of hard work.
Do you have an anecdote to share with us from a previous edition?
Since my first Dakar in 2009, I make a point of joining the Sodexo team at the bivouacs for 5 days and nights to fully live the backstage experience of this incredible race. In 2013, Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, a Qatari prince and one of the fastest drivers in the race, came to eat in the restaurant and asked me to join him. I thought he wanted to complain about something, but he wanted to know all about how the food service logistics and deployment worked. I was amazed that such a top competitor was interested in what our team was managing to achieve at each bivouac for 15 days. This is proof of Sodexo professionalism and ability to provide a unique experience in the middle of the desert. It’s thanks to our engaged, motivated and dedicated team that we receive such motivating words.
Despite the tough environment and conditions, I think that with services like the laundry, the bar, and the VIP dining we will be able to improve the environment for them. And our service attitude and equipment make a difference too.