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Chapter 05


Professions at Roland Garros

to explore
Potel et Chabot
The challenge of excellence every day
This famous caterer rises to the incredible challenge each day of serving 4,000 meals in a multitude of dining and reception areas spread throughout Roland Garros stadium.

Gourmet event catering is the expertise of Potel et Chabot, the catering service that has provided guests at the French Open with delicious meals since 1980. However, serving 70,000 meals in two weeks at numerous locations, all while upholding a standard of excellence worthy of the tournament, is a true challenge that requires the services of 1,800 company employees every day.

Accustomed to creating ephemeral restaurants or occupying a building or complex for the duration of an event, Potel et Chabot and its staff must be active on all fronts.

In fact, the Roland Garros complex has a large number of hospitality areas that allow partners to welcome their guests with a level of comfort and class that measure up to an event of this size and stature. Among the services offered in these areas, catering is a must.

The new partner village, inaugurated for the 2018 edition, includes 17 dining areas that each provides daily seating for sixty. There are also 20 at Court Central, with total seating for 1,200, and 12 at Court 1, where 450 meals are served each day.

The restaurant Le Hameau, located on the site of the old Roland Garros partner village and exclusively for members of the French Tennis Federation, has just been added to this list along with four large dining areas at Court Suzanne Lenglen that offer a variety of options, from buffet service to a five-course haute cuisine experience. "Due to its duration, the number of dining areas and seats served, and the high level of quality expected, this is one of the most complex events that we work," explains Stéphane Lévêque, Potel et Chabot's Marketing and Communication Director. "For other exceptional events, we may be asked to organize a cocktail party for more than 5,000 people over the course of one or two days, but rarely do we provide as much seating for eight consecutive days."

Although the matches are all scheduled at the same time on different courts, not knowing how long each match will last adds to the difficulty. Potel et Chabot's teams must anticipate the end of each match, the incoming flow of guests and manage up to three sittings for lunch. In addition, public relations events or other evening parties and receptions require the company to serve 2,000 breakfasts and 4,000 dinners over the entire two-week period, which stretches out the length of each workday.
Menus prepared starting in January
Roland Garros is a prestigious tournament steeped in history whose elegance must be experienced even through the meals served there. As does the tournament's reputation, the amount of money invested by the partners also imposes very high standards. On the strength of its 37 years of collaboration with the French Open, the Potel et Chabot teams have a lot of latitude when preparing the menus to be served. A total of thirty menus are created for each edition, with Gold and Silver versions offered each day over the two-week period. "Even though the guests change from one day to the next, we still have to update the menu daily for the partners, our primary customers, who rightly wish to vary the delights offered," states Lévêque.

Potel et Chabot’s chefs present thirty menus to the French Tennis Federation as early as January, and together they adjust them as necessary, mainly in order to perfect the balance and modify their sequence so that the different menus are spread out over the two-week period and alternate between meat and fish.

Then, two months before the tournament, the partners participate in a tasting, during which a selection of dishes to be served on the menus is presented for their approval. Indeed, many more positive marks are received than critical comments, but some adjustments can result from the tasting in terms of taste, the presentation of the dishes or the amounts served.
When opening day finally arrives, the challenge will be to successfully find fresh quality ingredients in sufficient quantities to prepare the 4,000 meals served daily within the complex.

Potel et Chabot's services at the French Open don't stop at just catering however: "We provide far more than just food," Lévêque indicates. "We offer an entire range of services, particularly in terms of table presentation and service, by proposing a large selection of place settings, plates, tablecloths, chairs as well as floral decorations."

Anxious to welcome their guests under the best of conditions, each partner wants their reception areas personalised by recreating a brand universe. Florists and other decorators are thus mobilised to satisfy their every need.

The new village, like the other structures currently being built within the Roland Garros complex, will most certainly optimise the working conditions of the catering teams.

Regardless, treating all the guests at the tournament to a delicious meal will always remain a challenge – that of excellence every day.
Service winner
For racket stringers at Roland Garros
Babolat, the official racket stringer of Roland Garros since 2011, takes special care of the players during the two weeks of the tournament. Their goal: to provide the best service possible so the competitors can play under the best conditions.
During post-match press conferences, you often hear players talk about the different sensations they experienced, both good and bad, during the match. They frequently refer to the racket and the strings, which are made from a natural material that stretches over time and is sensitive to the weather, with heat relaxing the strings’ tension.

In these conditions, a stringer’s role becomes crucial. They are entrusted with more than just simple rackets; these are work tools, game partners and instruments of victory or defeat.

The 18 stringers from 12 countries working flat out deep within the Roland Garros complex can restring up to 480 rackets a day during the busiest moments of the two-week tournament. This service is offered at each tournament on the ATP and WTA circuits, but the French Open is the only tournament with three desks for collecting rackets, as this allows players to move about as little as possible.
The work done by the Babolat teams goes well beyond just installing new stringing. At the reception desk, a player’s preferences are recorded first, such as the number of rackets required, string tension, racket pick-up time, or the specific time the strings must be installed. Since strings do stretch over time, players may demand that their rackets be strung at a specific time based on their match schedule so that they arrive on court with the optimum tension. "I remember a request last year from Kei Nishikori, who wanted to pick-up his racket at 8 a.m. but needed it strung on the same day," explains Éric Ferrazzi, manager of the stringing team at Roland Garros. "I had to send someone in at 6 a.m. so that the racket would be ready on time."

In fact, it takes twenty minutes to install new strings while carefully stencilling on the sponsor’s logo, and thirty minutes total to completely prepare the racket. In addition, a complete, meticulous cleaning is often useful to remove dirt, especially at Roland Garros, where the clay gets into the smallest nooks and crannies. "We can even customise rackets on request and change grommets, grips and overgrips," says Ferrazzi. Finally, the rackets are wrapped up and put into poly bags while they are waiting to be picked up.
Hidden behind all this activity lies an incredible logistical operation, primarily due to the volume of rackets serviced, with 5,003 passing through the hands of Ferrazzi and his teams during the 2017 edition. "Lately, we’ve noticed that players are changing rackets faster than before. A player like Roger Federer, for example, uses a new racket every nine games, and an increasing number of players are doing the same. We’ve had to adapt and increase our workforce by hiring two more people than in 2017."

The week of qualifying rounds and the first days of the final schedule are the most intense since the number of players battling it out is at its peak. "On these days, we may have to work until 2 a.m. if we have an urgent case or very specific requests. We don't do it because we’re forced to, but because we want to provide the best service possible."
Urgent requests are commonplace and require the Babolat teams to be very flexible. For example, if the temperature forecast is 30 degrees but it only reaches 20, the players will ask us to change the tension of their strings. Also, players regularly ask to have their rackets quickly restrung in the middle of a match so that they can continue using it. Richard Gasquet has a habit of doing this, and when he’s scheduled to play, Ferrazzi knows that he’ll need to keep his stringer available. Players have their own ways of doing things off the court as well and some, such as Lucas Pouille and Albert Ramos Viñolas to name just two, request that one person in particular care for their equipment throughout the tournament. This is due to the affinity created between players and stringers, who routinely work with each other during the numerous tournaments on the circuit. Players will also request different string tensions depending on how they play, be it an offensive attacking style or a defensive counter-attacking style. These technicians are specialists who know what the players want even before they ask. It is thus important to be familiar with the attributes of each in order to provide the best service possible.

Anticipating the needs of players also means increasing capacity, which is hardly trivial considering that 58 kilometres of string will be installed by the Babolat teams over the course of the 2018 edition.