At the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, spectators filled the stands to watch the best of the best in winter sports.
While the fans cheered for their favorite athletes and took in all the fun and excitement of the Olympic Games, another Olympic Games-sized event was happening behind-the-scenes involving countless cleaning crews’ hard work and dedication to cleanliness.
In fact, as the official supplier of cleaning products for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, cleaning crews used P&G Professional products to clean up after more than 5 million people, clean more than 2 million square feet of surfaces and wash more than 30,000 linens each and every day.
A cleaning effort of this magnitude takes months of planning and preparation to deliver the highest standard of clean.
As a consultant for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games and the former head of Catering, Cleaning and Waste for the London 2012 Olympic Games, I had the privilege of being involved in planning and implementing a cleaning program for the overall success of these events, and through this learned many lessons in cleaning and catering that can apply to any facility or industry, whether it’s an event set on the backdrop of a global stage, a local university campus or a high-rise office building.
To begin the enormous task of creating a clean and hygienic environment for The Olympics or any venue or foodservice operation, you must consider all aspects of your cleaning program and map out your goals and objectives.
First, consider any logistics to keep your facility or facilities clean.
At The Winter Olympics, even though it was a quarter of the size of the London 2012 Olympic Games, it was complicated by the location of venues and Athletes’ Villages halfway up a mountain, making access for cleaning and catering staff more difficult.
Catering staff needed to transport large quantities of food to these mountain locations, and we worked with several smaller local and regional companies to meet these demands.
As part of the planning process, it’s also important to address any key issues of cleanliness and hygiene.
For example, in Russia, there are different regulations for food preparation and food safety.
The kitchens had to have many “rooms” where some foods were separated, such as a bread room and an egg room.
And, all staff that work in catering in Russia had to show evidence of having annual inoculations against the flu and other illnesses.
Additionally, every cleaning program needs to account for the various pressure points.
At the London 2012 Olympic Games, where some caterers were serving 65,000 meals a day, we needed to consider the busiest times of the day so we were prepared to serve our customers and promote food safety at the same time.
We also had to consider the timing of cleaning the various stadiums.
Since the stadiums were packed with spectators during the day, we set up our nightshift employees to deep clean the stadiums overnight to ensure they were clean and ready for the events the following day.
With any proper cleaning program, you also need to “measure” your goals and objectives.
The old adage, “What gets measured gets done” is very true.
It’s extremely important to keep the premises of your facility, whether its stadiums filled with cheering fans or a hotel property, clean and tidy.
This has a huge impact on a customer’s perception of your business and their decision to return.
In fact, research shows that if customers think a business is clean then the perception of everything else will be better.
In our case, the taste of the food or the wait time in line or even the appearance of the stadium would be better.
Another lesson learned from my experience with the Olympic Games is establishing partnerships with suppliers and contractors that add value to your business.
It’s extremely important to choose partners who will help you and who will evolve with your business.
For example, our partnership with the official supplier of cleaning products for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games and London 2012 Olympic Games, added value to our cleaning program, through product recommendations to help our staff clean efficiently and effectively and employee training on how to use the products.
A great partnership can help you take your business to the next level and provide many benefits from cost savings to customer satisfaction.
Your staff members are your greatest competitive advantage.
At the London Olympic Games, I led a team of more than 25,000 people to deliver the Food and Beverage, Cleaning and Waste program.
These employees were my best assets.
If you get the right people and lead and train them correctly, they will give your business a competitive advantage.
Employees work better when they are motivated and feel valued in the workplace.
Create a rewards system to recognize cleaning staff for their hard work and motivate them to do a good job.
We followed this rule by handing out cards to employees who were going above and beyond, and at the end of the Olympic Games, we gave out prizes to those who had the most tickets.
Put a mechanism in place for employee and customer feedback, and be ready to act on it.
Whether it’s face-to-face interaction with customers and employees or a suggestion box, it’s important to solicit feedback and respond to it.
Ultimately, you should do more of what people like and less of what they don’t like.
Cleaning is a very important aspect of any venue or facility.
And, through these best practices of planning and preparation, understanding the perception of clean, establishing true partnerships, valuing people and soliciting and responding to feedback, facility managers can reap the benefits of a successful cleaning program that leads to guest and customer satisfaction.
For more lessons learned from the Olympic Games, please view my online videos.