We’ve all enjoyed the catering provided after a Rogaining event, maybe during a 24-hour one, and you might even have helped out in the kitchen at an event.  Have you participated in an event (particularly since COVID) where catering has not been provided?

Food or no food at events! Does it matter to you either way?

The reason I’m asking… is that we are at something of fork in the road as far as catering at Rogaine events is concerned.

Background

When I started Rogaining about 25 years ago, every event was catered for by our own volunteers using our own custom-built catering trailer full of equipment.

Over the years it has become increasingly difficult to get our members to do the catering and we have drifted into sub-contracting the task to other volunteer groups who use it as a fund raising exercise. We have had such a relationship with 1st Waitara Scouts for a number of years. However it is not at all clear that we will be able to continue this arrangement. Nor do we know of any other group who might be interested.

A second issue is that our catering trailer and much of the equipment needs to be replaced. The current trailer is large and heavy, and requires a large vehicle (Ute or Landcruiser) to tow it safely. We struggle to find volunteers with suitable vehicles to tow the trailer to and from events.

Up to now we have preferred, as an organisation, to have the assurance of knowing that we could provide a fully equipped kitchen for a bush event that could be used either by our own volunteers or a third party. But now that we are up for significant costs to replace equipment, the question needs to be asked, “Is it worth it?”

Mike Hotckis used the catering trailer for a podium – at Cookbundoon 24-hr 1998

Future Catering Possibilities

The following scenarios may not be exhaustive, but seem to me to be the options available to us:

  1. We try and find a third party provider with their own equipment. There is no guarantee we will be successful. Catering costs may rise or the service reduce. If we are unsuccessful, go to 3 and 4 below.
  2. We renew our catering equipment to make it more attractive for third parties to deliver catering for us. If we can’t find third party providers and our own members don’t step up and volunteer then we’ve done our dough and we have equipment in storage slowly deteriorating. We will probably need to hire a suitable vehicle to tow the new trailer if members don’t volunteer.
  3. We purchase ready-to-eat bakery items and don’t do any food preparation. And we don’t replace any catering equipment.
  4. We give up on catering at events. Maybe this doesn’t matter much at metropolitan events. Does it matter to you at bush events?

Please give us your views on this. We would like to to make decisions based on members preferences.

The matter has some urgency as we consider catering options for the Autumngaine on 8th May at Belanglo.

Richard Sage (NSWRA Committee)

23 Responses

  1. Having catering at events has always been great. At the end of a working week it’s great as a contestant to be able to take off to events knowing all the post event food is taken care of. Makes it a lot easier

  2. No catering would not stop me attending an event, but absolutely love coming to a hot meal at the end of a race!

  3. Can we just have a BBQ with cheese Toasted sandwiches… super simple, cheap, delicious and pretty much what I look forward to the most. Also agree catering is amazing but wouldn’t sway me from attending events if it stopped

  4. Food has been a big part of our family rogaining experience and was certainly encouraged our girls to continue to rogaine, and finishing an event with food is something to look forward too. It also helped attract other friends to try rogaining. That said I don’t believe full meal catering is necessary. Cheese toasties sausage/ vegie burger sangas, and cake/fruit is just as good. For that we would only require bbq equipment (all so suggest pier warmers as that allows commercial food to be bought and keep the snags hot). I believe this would cut down on the bulk/weight for the trailer

  5. Also there are food standards. From the FSANZ website:

    “Charity and community groups, temporary events and home-based businesses are exempt from some of the requirements in the food safety standards. These groups and businesses can contact their local enforcement authority for further information”

    Our local enforcement authority would be the NSW food authority.

    Getting definitive information from them on what is/isn’t allowed is difficult. Doing our own catering seems to be covered. Using external groups like 1st Waitara, the local RFS or SES, Rotary, etc, is much less clear cut.

  6. Thank you for explaining these logistics. My thought would be 1) no purchase of replacement catering equipment, 2) if possible hire catering equipment (as per portaloos, etc) in association with whatever a willing catering crew provides/requires, 3) provide alternative ‘cuisine’ based on capacity (volunteers, expertise and logistics of the site). Variation from event to event is ok. Warm meals on long, cold nights is heavenly.

  7. I have a couple of related questions … how much of our entry fee is related to the catering cost, and how much would our entry fee be reduced if food is not provided?

  8. I have very much enjoyed the food provided at the events I have attended. However, a cheese toasty and hot drink is really all that’s desired. I run a volunteer group and it is sometimes impossible to get helpers so I appreciate all the hassle relating to ‘extra’ services. If there are no volunteers or if it is more trouble than its worth, then its easy enough for people to bring their own things. I only do the 6 hour events and generally only those within a reasonable drive to home or accommodation (don’t camp). Maybe that makes a difference?

  9. For local, shorter events, basic catering is enough (jaffles, bbq, cold pre packed). People can get their own food nearby if they want. For longer events in the bush, hot meals are very welcome – possibly even an OH&S requirement especially when camping. Also meals are a social opportunity to interact with other teams.

    I wouldn’t replace the trailer. Plenty of catering companies around for the couple of remote events each year. Another thought, get a food truck or two, could be user pays.

  10. Out team travel usually between 4-6 hrs for the event and so would look forward to the BBQ But a toasty and a drink or soup wold be great also I think most teams would donate to the volunteer group providing the food. Love rogaining and no BBQ would not stop us from competing

  11. I’d be really disappointed to see the end of catering at Rogaines. Hot food in the dead of a freezing winter’s night has saved me more than once. It’s definitely part of the experience for me. Just knowing there’s a hot meal waiting helps me keep going. And All Night Cafes are the best, because usually we can fit it into our route plan and usually it’s in the wee hours of the morning.

  12. I am with the majority here hot drinks and a simple BBQ is all that is required and let’s face it any hot food is a godsend when you are out in the bush for a while. As a regular competitor I would be very happy to add to the very reasonable fees to cover this cost. It would definitely not stop me Rogaining but the enjoyment factor would be a little tarnished.

  13. We definitely love having hot food especially on the longer events. I echo comments above that soups/stews are much appreciated in the middle of a freezing night. Having volunteered as part of a catering team (in Victoria a long time ago, as MUMC used to organise an event a year), I acknowledge the amount of work that goes into it.

  14. While not a regular competitor, I do enjoy a hot meal at the end. Keeping catering simple such as a sausage sandwich, cup of soup, tea & coffee might make things easier. I would still compete if no food was provided but with a meal, the social aspect afterwards , is a nice finish to the day.

  15. For me personally if there is no all night cafe (or an obvious way to return in the middle of the night to the hash house for a feed ) then it is not really worth going on the rogaine at all . That hour or half hour feed in the dead of the night makes it all worth while. the best all night cafe ever was in Tasmania in Nov 2019 at the tiny historic community hall . Do i ever remember the long trudge up a ridge line in the dark ? No . But do i remember the All Night Cafe ? Yes

  16. It was great experience for me as a scout getting to volunteer at events like this and raise funds for my group. Great social scene at the end of the rogain. Worth keeping these networking opportunities as they hold the community together and creates opportunities for innovation in society. Brilliant idea to connect with the scouts and similar, and promotes the sport. COVID makes it hard to forsee the future of catering but it’s clear that hygiene is essential. So a good opportunity to get new equipment that’s really hygienic and clever. Win win win. Look for grants to get the funds.

  17. On the bush events when we get back late its great to have some hot food and drink and lots of cordial to rehydrate. I would usually be too tired to cook much myself.
    We always try and fit in the all night cafe if there is one. More than once they have re-energized us.
    Food at the end could be more basic if necessary – a bbq with sausage, egg and bacon sandwiches or buns, with an urn for hot drinks.
    In an ideal world things would continue as they have in the past, especially for longer events, but I can see that may not be possible. If anyone lives in a marginal electorate maybe they could get the government to chip in some money!

  18. I first heard about rogaining in Western Australia from a bushwalking housemate. She returned on a Sunday evening and didn’t mention the bushwalking or the navigation but this amazing thing where there was an all night kitchen, all the food you needed and a great atmosphere. Rogaining in WA had been instigated by Victorians who brought with them the ethos of the sport – not ultra marathoners going non stop for 24 hours but participatory, inclusive and above all social. Food has been one of the keys to that.
    At the Australian Rogaining Championships last weekend the volunteers of the Peterborough Historical Society did the event proud, gave competitors contact with the local community and put some funds into a local organisation.
    There are alternate ways to deliver catering both outsourcing to community groups or DIY, using rogaining equipment or that of others. I think it’s important to continue even if with simpler fare than at some past rogaines. The catering trailer may be quite heavy but over the years my 4 cylinder Camry always got it to the Hash House. The Association has the funds, the trailer which lives on my front lawn is getting old, for my book I’d would not hesitate to replace it.

  19. I’ve just returned to rogaining after a long (14 year) break while our kids were small. I’d prefer there was some catering but understand there are significant practical difficulties in making it happen.

    If the plan is to go with pre-prepared food like the Autumngaine then I think the association needs to source more ovens or give up and make everything cold – our pizza roll was warm around the edges which wasn’t the best. I don’t mean that as a criticism of the people catering – heating up food for hundreds of people in the bush needs a lot more oven space than they had.

    It may be possible to get (other) Scout groups interested. I write this as a Scout leader with some understanding of how our group and some others work. Most groups seem to have a few keen parents who will put in extra effort to help with things, some parents who are happy to come along and help on a weekend camp and quite a few who don’t help at all. It’s no different to most organisations in that sense.

    Scout leaders are unlikely to want to organise it – all the ones I know have their hands full doing the leading stuff. If there was a step-by-step manual and the equipment it should be possible for a group of newbies to run the catering. I’d suggest offering all the Scouts a free entry – that would introduce them to Rogaining and make it more likely that their parents would come along. If you want to get Cub’s along (8-11yrs old) you might need a shorter/simpler course for them. The Scout group could then treat it as a “family camp” and fundraiser together.

    In my mind the key things would be really simple catering instructions and enough equipment so that they can order the food, rock up and make it all work. That takes a lot of the risk out for both NSWRA and the Scout group. If groups are doing it regularly then it’s not such an issue – they can probably arrange the knowledge transfer internally. But if it’s a different group each time then it needs to be very simple. As an example, the first time our group ran a Bunnings BBQ we ran out of food about 10am… the Bunnings instructions weren’t clear enough. But it’s a Bunnings BBQ – a quick trip cleaned the local supermarkets out of sausages/buns and they were back in action. It’s a bit more difficult to source extra food at 11pm on a Saturday night when you’re 1hr from the nearest town which only has a servo open!

    I’m happy to chat with anyone about how to link in with Scout groups if that helps. Perhaps there are other Scout leaders, parents of Cubs/Scouts/Venturers/etc or Scouts/Venturers/Rovers linked in with Rogaining already who might be able to provide contact with other groups

  20. 1st North Sydney Scouts is looking after the food for the Paddy Pallin Rogaine event, which seems like a good way to build some experience. I’ve got a fond memory of the 2000 Aus Champs in Gundy, getting off the bus to be greeted by a cheese toastie on the bbq, expertly flipped by Richard. It’s time to return the favour :).

    We’re entering three teams of Venturers for the Paddy Pallin event and hope to get other Venturer Units involved in future events.

  21. Based on my experience I would say any Rogaine over 8 hrs really benefits from having hot food catering and I agree with many that on the 24hr Rogaines I look forward to the all-night cafe for a recharge, especially on wet and cold nights. Regarding the food, I think it should be warm but simple so that not too much equipment is required. BBQ, soup and pies would probably be adequate. Hot tea and coffee cakes and fruit is a must-have. Subject to the replacement costs if possible the club should buy some new equipment but try and spread the cost over several years. Based on having a fairly basic selection we could use volunteers (if enough are willing) or use the Scouts. I suspect trying to get a third party to do the catering in the middle of nowhere would be a challenge and expensive. For the shorter Rogaines hot drinks and cold food may be adequate.

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