ReThink Productivity Podcast

Food, Business,WorkJam and Music: Aramark and a Garth Brooks Concert

September 17, 2023 Season 14 Episode 3
ReThink Productivity Podcast
Food, Business,WorkJam and Music: Aramark and a Garth Brooks Concert
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What happens when the global food service juggernaut, Aramark, meets the trials of Brexit, a pandemic, and the passion of a Garth Brooks concert? Join us as we delve into a conversation with Rachel Malyan, Aramark's Head of Workforce Management, and David Rogers, VP of Sales and Marketing at WorkJam. With three decades of experience under her belt, Rachel offers a unique perspective on the difficulties facing the food industry, from recruitment and retention to planning high-profile events. 

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Productivity Podcast. This is the third and final episode of our series of three, with our friends at WorkJam Delighted to welcome back David Rogers, vp of Sales and Marketing. Amir Hi, david, how are you?

Speaker 2:

Hi, Simon. Yeah, good to be back again. Thanks very much. Thanks for having me again.

Speaker 1:

You're welcome. We've got a special guest, so Rachel Malian, Head of Workforce Management for Aramark. Welcome, Rachel.

Speaker 3:

Thanks, simon, it's great to be here.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for taking the time out. So, just for clarity, you and your team in Aramark use WorkJam and you're going to join us and we're going to talk kind of themes in the industry that we're seeing at the moment, how maybe WorkJam's helping to support that, some of the things that you're seeing out there, Rachel. And then I would say randomly at this point and it will make far more sense when we have a discussion on it later we're going to talk about Garth Brooks, so I've been doing a bit of research on him. I feel like I'm going to be enlightened by the end of this conversation, but it will all make sense if you carry on listening. So, without further ado, let's, Rachel, find out a bit more about you. Just tell us a bit about how you got to where you are today In Aramark, maybe some of the things you've done in your career.

Speaker 3:

Of course, yeah, and again thanks for having me, Simon. It's great to reconnect and good to see you too again, David. I'm coming up almost about 30 years now in the food and hospitality industry. I'd like to say I started as a very young teenager, but I didn't, but I was at universities. It doesn't make me that old, but I started with young brands. I worked with Pizza Hut and Whitbread and a number of their brands across the UK and I say I started just prior to university and I stayed with them for 15 years. That culminated in a move from the UK to Ireland, which is where I'm since based, and I was leading operational franchise support for Pizza Hut. That's what brought me over to Ireland and that pretty much that culminated that part of my career and, incidentally, that was a one year secondment that I took to Ireland. So 23 years later I'm still here. So I think I'm onto a good thing. I moved to Aramark about 15 years ago and I've remained there. I've always worked within operations and, most recently, always within operational excellence and within functions connected to that. Aramark is a food service provider. We're a global food service provider of food facilities and uniform services across markets such as education, health care, business and industry, sports, leisure and entertainment. We have an annual revenue of approximately $16 billion and our core market is North America, but we extend to an additional 20 countries serving many of the fastest growing global geographies. Across the UK and Ireland, where I'm based, we have an annual revenue of approximately $1 billion from the provision of food and FM services to our client locations, not forgetting 14 of Oka retail locations across the island of Ireland, and I currently serve as the head of workforce management for Aramark and I lead workforce productivity initiatives and employee experience strategies across all the sectors.

Speaker 1:

Amazing. So some big numbers there, big business. And for those people that might not be familiar with Aramark, where would they have typically seen you? Would that be a kind of a stadium event? Or I think you mentioned schools. How would somebody have interacted with your brand?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so across the UK and Ireland, we are predominantly based, as I mentioned, across education, so we support a lot of universities, particularly in the London and the Midlands regions of the UK. You'll find us in health care, supporting hospitals, nursing homes. Perhaps we may be supporting your restaurant facility in your office, your place of work. And then, as you mentioned, yeah, absolutely Sports, leisure and entertainment. So we're connected with lots of big brands and big names across the UK and Ireland. We support theme parks. We're also connected with Croke Park, which is Europe's third largest stadium. Perhaps the Guinness Storehouse as well would be a place that they may have met with us. So we manage all of the food services with the Guinness Storehouse, which is, I think, within Europe's top five visitor destinations anyway, based in Dublin. So we've quite a broad spectrum of activity. So you may not have recognized us when you came across us, but we're definitely here.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so you'll have interacted at some point, knowingly or unknowingly, is my guess exactly. And I probably didn't expect anybody to ever say to me that pizza brought them to Ireland. So I think Guinness takes lots of people to Ireland, but pizza brought you to Ireland and then you've taken up residence. So amazing stuff, amazing stuff. So thanks for that background. Before we got on to the kind of the case study and we learn much more around Garth Brooks which I can't wait for, let's just have a reflection on, I suppose, the food industry in general and a lot of this applies across certainly retail, any of those customer facing environments. I think there's been a series of challenges, clearly COVID being one. I don't know, rachel, if things like Brexit, with you kind of spanning the UK and Ireland, have also given you a bit of a hangover in terms of let's just talk people first. So lots of people potentially left out to go home for COVID and Brexit. Those people I don't think or maybe wrong, you'll tell me have really come back. So recruitment retention how has that felt since those dark days of lockdown? From an Aramark point of view and I suspect your views pretty much will echo across the industry.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think you're right. There's definitely still a hangover from both Brexit and the pandemic. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, many people did sort of leave the industry and certainly our organisation, during the pandemic. Lots of people returned home and many of those have found it increasingly difficult to return to roles with us, particularly within the UK, due to these Brexit related regulations that affect the migrant workers, so it's been very difficult to sort of replace that area of the workforce. There's lots of uncertainties that still exist around hospitality. It was one of the first to close. It was one of the last to reopen. It's not perhaps the attractive opportunity that it once was, and that's certainly sort of some of the issues that we're still facing as a result of Brexit and the pandemic.

Speaker 1:

And David across kind of the wider client base. Are you seeing those similar themes and trends?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think exactly the same. I think that whole kind of hiring and retaining is really difficult. The resource pool has become really contracted and, as Rachel says, I think there's a definitely a move away from hospitality and a general retail. So we're seeing that across the board with you know, prospects and customers in the UK and beyond.

Speaker 1:

And we shouldn't shy away from cost. I mean it's never really off the front page, certainly in the UK, in terms of rising costs, whether that be food costs, whether that be people costs. Certainly national living wage comes back into play in in April in the UK. I think you've got the minimum wage in in Ireland, rachel. How does that cost challenge impact with, again, an organisation I assume, that has quite a high volume of seasonal business? So you talked about theme parks. You talked about events they're not necessarily open all year round or a point points and moments in time kind of needs for resource.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean, look it, this is an industry that operates on tight margins, simon, as I know you're aware, and I think it does make it really challenging. And certainly all four the increases in living wage for the UK and for the minimum wage in Ireland, and both governments think you're tracking towards sort of reaching that actual living wage and that is the right way to go. But I suppose within industry, as I say, that does operate on tight margins, that does pose a lot of significant challenges to us, you know, and quite often and not necessarily, I'm saying within our mark, but certainly the way that does manifest itself is that you know, this equates to less people within the industry, because the margins retain tight, so we have less people, but the overall workload is still the same, you know. So everybody has to sort of look at additional sort of productivity measures and how to be smart about managing the workforce moving forward. So you know it is a challenge but equally it's probably, in my opinion, the right way to go.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I agree, you've got to recompense people for a fair day's work that they can live off, otherwise, you know, we're kind of going backwards, aren't we to, to olden times, rather than moving forward. But that points around kind of organisations and again, typical in retail. We're seeing typical in manufacturing being asked almost to do more with less, so workload almost going up rather than down. But give me less people to do. It plays into, you know, our world and your world of productivity and reviewing process, stopping process, automating, digitising is that way kind of work jam helps to plug some of those gaps in our mark world.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely For us. It does. We're certainly moving and fast-tracking down that digitalisation roots, and it does allow us to task better and schedule better, along with all of the other additional aspects of Wordjam that we continue to use as well, which I know David will probably support as well.

Speaker 1:

David, I suppose following up on that, Similar themes, similar conversations across potential clients and common client base.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, everybody's trying to automate as much as possible, really to max out and use the praise doing more with less. That's been around for a while, but I think it really does make sense now. So, optimising the way. Often the biggest cost is people. Rachel knows that If you can optimise them. We're seeing, with Wordjam, people really focusing on the comms element to start with, because you get that immediate engagement and make it a little bit more fun and make it a little bit more interesting for people to make you an employer of choice. I think it's not just in retail, it's hospitality, it's across the board. It's really how do we get the most out of our people and optimise the way that we use them? So, yeah, absolutely.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think again, personal experience with shopping, the rate of change, not only from colleague turnover retention, but then, if you think about product new products coming in, new products going out, legal requirements for packaging and all the stuff in terms of ingredients that are in things the whole world, whether it be retail, hospitality is more complex and to get that information down, to get that compliance, to get that statutory piece to the front line, be confident it's been absorbed, understood, must be more prevalent than ever. Rachel.

Speaker 3:

Oh, absolutely, absolutely, Simon, and I think the last set of five years, if they've taught us nothing, they've taught us that we definitely need to be more agile in our approach. Everything is constantly shifting. We have a frontline population of approximately 16,000 employees and until we brought in work jam, we were heavily reliant on a cascade model, which obviously kinds of significant challenges, and particularly when you're working through pandemics and periods of time such as that as well. So when we brought in work down, it did allow us to remain agile and to build on that as well and all of those aspects of communication that are increasingly important to our business. We can now direct them immediately to the front line in real time and, more importantly as well is that we give them the opportunity to feedback directly to ourselves as well, and I think that's a really big part of bringing in the communications model. Through work jam that we've definitely enhanced how we communicate as an organisation and on all fronts.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's probably an important point that, because we've talked a lot in episode one and two around kind of the push models are getting information down. But, david, you just want to touch on kind of that feedback loop. So if I'm a frontline colleague, how I can feedback?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean that we talked about it in in episode two around the kind of target audience capability. So, you know, people only ever really seeing what's relevant to them and in our arts cases, obviously the comms that's relevant to them, the ships that are relevant to them, based on what skills and preferences they have, so they don't have to go looking, it's all pushed to them, which I think is very, very unique. Also allows you to kind of remove some of the shadow systems, that kind of Rachel references around, that kind of whole cascade model where you're reliant on, you know, whatsapp and Facebook and email. Having one one place to go and being, you know, optimized through the system is obviously one thing that I think that our marks benefited from excellent.

Speaker 1:

Okay, let's get to the main event then. Let's talk country, let's talk Garth Brooks, and so disclaimer before we start. Country I don't know about you, david isn't particularly high on my Spotify playlist. I must say I think that, ironically, the only country song that's on there is probably Garth Brooks. So I feel like this is going to be an education, rachel, in many things and work jam our mark and American single songwriter, garth Brooks. So over to you to set the scene thanks very much.

Speaker 3:

Great introduction, okay, yeah, so I guess Garth Brooks, this was the greatest show on earth, as I should suggest and for our mark, and this happened last year. Garth Brooks for the uneducated, and I certainly was, as you admit to. That's me, that's me and I was too, and and certainly I have to admit as well, outside of being uneducated last year, I was also highly uneducated eight years ago, when we went through something very similar and, with Garth Brooks and as those, the, the overall adoration and the fan base across Ireland for this gentleman is beyond compare and something, as I mentioned, I'm here 23 years. It's perhaps, in fact, the one and only thing about Ireland that I still fail to fully comprehend, and they are just mad for him and they love him, they love his music, they love his interaction with them. He's written songs about the country and you know it's just a national event. Anytime he has any sort of visits here or any concerts, etc. Everybody's behind him. So, as we mentioned, back in 2022, garth announced that he was going to bring his concert tour to Croke Park and, as I mentioned previously, croke Park is one of our site locations and we partner with Croke Park for over 10 years now, and it's the third biggest stadium across Europe. It has 83,000 capacity and so when Garth Brooks comes to town, it's a big night. When he comes to town for five nights, then that is the greatest show on earth and this is what we were posed with last year and so think about sort of early 2022 when he made this announcement. We're still definitely suffering from the hand hangover of the pandemic and we would need approximately 1100 staff per night to support these concerts, and our labour pool had been significantly ravaged at this stage and we've been working hard to re-establish the, the, the teams that that we had on site and, of course, across the rest of our business as well, and this was also further complicated by the fact but for the first time ever, because we've hosted many concerts and big names Bruce Springsteen, ed Sheeran, scripps, you know, we've had lots of concerts at Croke Park, and but Garth decided he was going to make it even more difficult for us by hosting his concerts out of season. So this is predominantly a sports stadium for us, and the National Sport of Ireland and GAA finishes in September and most of our staff would be laid off outside of that seasonal period. So he announced he was going to host these concerts outside of season and also a school had started and so we've lots of, you know, sort of late teens and early 20s employees across that workforce, many of whom are in school or back to university, and so, realistically, he probably couldn't have picked the worst time for us, and so the challenge was on and, as I mentioned, eight years previously, garth had also attempted to host a five night comeback tour to Croke Park, and this fell now to licensing restrictions. And you might be thinking, okay, that's no big deal, but it was every bit the big deal and, because of Garth extensive fan base, we sold out that tour in less than two hours. But that was 400,000 tickets we sold out back in 2014 for these five nights, and that's a country that had a population of approximately four million at the time. So you know those big numbers and probably gives you a really good feel for the extent of the adoration for this artist.

Speaker 1:

So if we pause there a second, so we've got almost was it? 10% of the population want to see him or can get a ticket in the last round. He's kindly or not so kindly decided that he's going to do it off season, so everybody's gone back to school, the workforce population in terms of your pools dwindled and he's going to do his five nights. Everybody's excited. David, did you have a ticket at this point?

Speaker 2:

No, I didn't have a ticket and, like you, although I did know of Gareth Brooks because I lived in the US for a couple of years, I did not have a ticket. Living in sunny Southampton, travelling to Ireland to see a country singer probably wasn't top of my list.

Speaker 1:

So it is set well, not set you personally a challenge, but it becomes a challenge. I assume that kind of falls on somewhere around your doorstep to work through.

Speaker 3:

Exactly, yeah. So we obviously went straight into Croke Park and started our discussions, and I mean, obviously, even just the team behind this is a small part of this overall experience that we're providing to support this concert. So there was obviously lots of other conversations that were happening at the same time, but to me, most importantly was the lack of staff that we had available for this concert and the predicament that we found ourselves in. And I think, just to sort of hark back to 2014 as well, and we were all very conscious of this the fallout of 2014, which was that Gareth wasn't given the licensing that he required to host his five nights, which ultimately culminated in him pulling the entire concert, even though he was offered three. He did give us the ultimatum, or gave the country the ultimatum, I should say, of it's either five or nothing, and he ended up with nothing and the country ended up with nothing, and the situation back then was subject to probably every news and current affairs program. It was just everywhere. You couldn't get in a taxi without the taxi man having an opinion on it. Dogs on the street were talking about it. It was just insane. The Mexican ambassador put himself forward for negotiations and to support mediation. Gareth was quoted as saying at the time that he would crawl and swim and run and do anything he could to our government, which was also having discussions about this at the time, in order to get this over the line, and even sort of the Irish examiner, which is one of our main newspapers at the time, like in the reaction of the nation, is only equal to having a death in the family. So this was all of the history that we were hoping was not going to repeat itself, obviously, and it seemed as though in 2022, enough time had passed that he could come back and I was being welcomed back to the country and everybody was very excited to see Gareth again. So again we're sort of talking an 80,000 seat arena, five nights, 1100 staff a night. That's equivalent to about half a million pints and bottles of beer that we're going to serve, quarter of a million measures of Gareth, hundreds of thousands of burgers, tons and tons of fries. So you know it's a huge undertaking for us to support that, but we refused to be declared we couldn't be. We knew that the eyes of the nation were upon us and at that stage was when we thought a solution that would engage our Croke Park team, both out of season because, as I mentioned, a lot of our team would have finished up by that stage. So we needed to remain engaged with our team outside of season and secure their skills and expertise for the concerts and, alongside that as well, something that would give us the opportunity to engage with existing Aramark colleagues across the Dublin region and beyond and engage with them and give them the opportunity also to work at Croke Park to support the concerts. And I think it's that stage, that Aramark QS that came to me and myself. Having met with the work jam team, probably about six or seven years ago, very, very early days, they came back to me and said look, will we look at work jam? Will we go down the work jam route? Is that something that you would like to proceed with? And, absolutely, having been a huge fan of work jam for the past seven or eight years, we absolutely bit that handoff. And so, really, the journey began with work jam.

Speaker 1:

So that that was kind of the catalyst that meant you could move on, get the software engaged without the software, would it? Would it have actually been possible?

Speaker 3:

That's a great question. It certainly wouldn't have been the success that it was, and by success I'm talking that we had no agency workers across any of our public locations. We filled all of our open shifts well in advance of the concert. So we were safe and secure in knowledge that we had the right team and we were ready to go from as early on as sort of four or five weeks beforehand. And I don't believe that we certainly would have been in that position without Workjam. And certainly, looking at some of the communications and the way that we engage both with the local team and the Greater Aramark team, as I mentioned, we opened our doors and asked them would they like to pick up new shifts across Croke Park, which was a very new thing for us labour sharing across the business. Ultimately, we were very cognisant of the fact that this posed a bit of fear and intrepidation across our workforce. And what is this stadium? And if you looked at it you would see it's quite a huge, large, imposing building and for our general front-line worker that's quite an imposing sort of consideration to think okay, what am I going to be doing there? How am I even going to get there? And we managed to communicate that out through documents and processes. We recorded some really great fun videos literally almost from the bus stop. This is where you arrive and this is how you're going to get through the gates, and all of those pieces too, and that absolutely we would not have been able to achieve without Workjam. So, yeah, there's a lot of success that we absolutely attribute to deploying Workjam specifically to support this.

Speaker 1:

So swift deployment. So Garth rolls into town for his five nights. How did it all pan out? Was there a happy ending?

Speaker 3:

Oh, absolutely. As I mentioned there, we had our Garth Brook dedicated channel on Workjam as well. So we were always providing great updates, fun updates Again, I did mention earlier and I know David mentioned that you've spoken about this on previous episodes but we found it really important to give our employees that platform to share their feedback. They can ask questions in real time, they can look for help and assistance in real time. We could support all of that through there as well. So it was a huge success operationally, financially, everything. Our client was absolutely delighted with the overall experience that we provided all of the visitors, the 400,000 of them that came through the gates across those two weekends and ultimately as well. It certainly led to us then deploying Workjam across the wider UK business as well. So, without a shadow of a doubt, it was a huge success.

Speaker 1:

Excellent and, david, that must be kind of really nice to hear in terms of a tangible story with a, now that we know, an amazingly big name in Ireland and across the world involved.

Speaker 2:

I love it when a plan comes together, I think is the phrase but yeah, it's well. I think the relationship's been great. I think we've listened really well, we've developed the solution to really work for our mark and when it comes to a really successful end like this, that's what we're here for really. That's what we love to hear those success stories, and that just helps everybody. So it's been great working with Rachel as well as a team. So I think we've learned an awful lot from it, you know, and we'll apply that back into everything else that we do with other customers as well. So love it.

Speaker 1:

Brilliant Thumbs up to Garth Brooks, garth Brooks, garth Brooks is somebody different than me. He's a football bundit, I think, anyway. So, yeah, well, garth Brooks is instrumental in Workjam and our remarks at Cess. Who'd have thought, who'd have thought? So I think we'll come to a close there on episode three, so our final one with the Workjam team and our special guest today, rachel. So it just leaves me to say thanks once again for joining. David really appreciated the chats on this one. Rachel, again, massive thanks for coming on. As I said at the start, love the stories, love the insight. Always great to hear kind of firsthand how things have worked and some of the challenges that are presented. So I know you're very busy, but I appreciate you giving up the time to come on.

Speaker 3:

Appreciate the opportunity Great to catch up.

Speaker 1:

Thanks everybody. Take care and we'll catch up soon. Thank you.

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