Delaware North: Serving up quality food and consumer experiences

23 February 2022

Providing exceptional food services and retail management at many large-scale venues and attractions across the globe, it’s likely Delaware North has been behind the scenes of a recent event you have attended or a tourist destination you have visited.

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Welcome to another edition of Fast Five - our fortnightly series where we ask Victoria’s most influential and exceptional business leaders five questions to get a glimpse behind-the-scenes of Australia’s most vital and challenging operations.

Delaware North is a global food, venue and hotel management company, with operations on four continents serving half a billion guests a year at sports stadiums, entertainment complexes, national and state parks, airports and casinos.

In this edition we spoke to Gary Brown, Delaware North’s Managing Director, Australia and New Zealand. Gary spoke about the company’s big moves in Melbourne, its relationship with the local economy and its response to COVID-19.

#1: Delaware North may not be a household name to the average consumer, but it plays such a huge role at tourist destinations, events and other consumer venues throughout Australia. How does the company manage such a vast logistical operation?

Each of our divisions are led by subject matter experts with extensive in-market experience. This localised approach provides all our guests with authentic experiences and ensures we are truly destinational. Our venue managers play an integral role in knowing the offering and exceeding the expectations of our customers. Of course, all of our sites are supported by an agile and responsive corporate office, dedicated to supporting the diversity of our broad portfolio.

#2: In Victoria, Delaware North oversees sporting facilities such as the Australian Open, Olympic Park and the MCG. You recently won a significant contract with the latter – how significant is Melbourne (and Victoria) within Delaware North’s portfolio given the city’s reputation as an events capital?

This is a very significant moment in time for Delaware North. Providing hospitality services at stadiums is in our DNA – we have a 100-plus year history in sports and it is a core component of our business. Our connection to sporting facilities in Melbourne goes back more than 35 years and has always been built off this core value and our passion for ensuring exceptional experiences in stadiums. In this time we have developed a sophisticated understanding of the unique needs within the sporting and stadia environment in Melbourne.

There really is no place like Melbourne for sport and we are so proud to have a significant presence in Melbourne as an events capital, with recent operations at the MCG complemented by our local knowledge through our ongoing partnerships at Marvel Stadium since 2000 and Melbourne and Olympic Parks since 1988.

#3: COVID-19 was, and continues to be, detrimental to the events and hospitality industries. How has Delaware responded to this disruption?

Like all events and hospitality industries, we could not have predicted such disruptive change. Our entire business was shut down and we were acutely aware of the flow-on effects this could have for both our staff and local supply chain. Our top priority has been the safety and wellbeing of our team members and guests, and ensuring we could minimise longer term risk through careful attention to the needs of our people.

We introduced our Commitment to Care program across all divisions as an important strategy and as the industry rebounds we are seeing the benefits of this considered approach.

#4: How significant is the local economy, including Victorian producers and suppliers, to Delaware’s operations within the state?

It is key to our success. With a substantial workforce of 8,000-plus team members across Victoria, we want our people to be living and working in a thriving local economy. The wellbeing of our staff is a core value of the Delaware North philosophy – after decades in the industry, we understand the impact of staff wellbeing on the customer experience.

We are also committed to sourcing the highest quality local produce. Our culinary leadership team passionately advocates for our local supply chain and the benefit to our business is clear; without a thriving local economy, we do not have access to seasonal and fresh produce.

We are also dedicated to sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint across all contract partnerships in the state. These strategic priorities are only achievable through localised supply chain partnerships.

#5: How has Delaware seen the industry evolve over time? For example, the Australian Open’s dining and shopping offering continues to become trendier and more upscale. Is this representative of a trend towards an experience economy offering more sophisticated options for consumers?

As a global company, we do have our finger on the pulse with regards to global trends. A recent example is in tech. With the innovations required around contactless payment due to COVID-19 we have partnered with Amazon’s Just-Walk-Out technology, among others, which will revolutionise the in-stadia guest experience.

We are also conscious of the unique localised trends that the Victorian economy champions in the hospitality scene. We have seen a shift in consumer demand in recent years and our strategic focus has been to adopt industry innovations early. We have had great success working with innovative partners to bring food and beverage experiences to market, offering our partners brand exposure and our clients a sophisticated portfolio of new and desirable experiences.

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