Q & A with Tony Giardina, Manager, National Account Programs
Delaware North Companies
TG – I have been with Delaware North for 16 years. I began in 1993 as a bartender at a ski resort near Buffalo, N.Y. I was sold on the fact that all employees received a free season pass. It was a great way to spend the winter. As I got farther away from school – at least in terms of time – I knew I would have to get more serious about my career goals. I was lucky enough to be able to stay with Delaware North in a full-time position that took me all over the country: Detroit, Providence, Arlington, Seattle, Las Vegas, New York.
ITM – What are your current responsibilities with Delaware North?
TG – I now work at Delaware North’s global headquarters in Buffalo, where I manage all national food and beverage accounts for the company.
ITM – Well, that sounds like a big job. What does that entail?
TG – It can be challenging at times, considering the diversity of the company, the number of locations we have and the hundreds of millions of guests we serve, but I have a great team in place. We negotiate contracts with F&B suppliers from which Delaware North locations throughout the country purchase. And I get to spend a lot of time on our adult beverage programs, which is how I started in this business, if you think about it.
ITM – It’s been sometime since Delaware North started the top shelf program. How is it going?
TG – I think the program is working well. The obvious evidence of that is the amount of product we sell every year at our many locations. Perhaps the more intriguing questions involve how it got going and why it works so well.
First, how it got going. The Top Shelf program began at Delaware North in 1998 in our airport locations. The main goal was to raise brand awareness at airport points of purchase in order to create and increase impressions. As we know, the days of simply placing a bottle on the back bar are long gone. The Top Shelf program allowed us to establish standards, as well as quality and consistency throughout our airport operations. Then, like all of our programs, we decided to take it across all company lines and include ballparks/arenas, national parks and gaming venues. That’s when the program really started to expand. We soon needed many, many more products to meet the demand of our Delaware North operations.
I think it works well because our operators see value in it. Secondly, it helps us stay on top of and adjust to changes in the industry. And finally, we have amazing support from our partners. The relationships we have built over the years has really helped, I can’t stress how important that is.
ITM – What do you see for the future of the Top Shelf program and Delaware North?
TG – I’m confident the program will continue and continue to evolve. Even in a challenging year, we have looked at ways to improve and make it better. For example, we took our environmental management system, GreenPath®, and worked it into our beverage program with “green” products and menus. We focused on building supplier relationships at a local level to help activate programs and promotions at our properties. We also developed more signature cocktails at locations throughout Delaware North. Recently we have begun to re-evaluate our bar standards, not from a brand perspective, but more from an operational/functionality aspect. This includes reviewing glassware, back-bar merchandising and the design of our bars to make them efficient and functional for our bar staff. It’s been a busy year despite the soft economy.
As for the company, there’s always something new and exciting happening, which is why I enjoy my job so much. The coming year will be a memorable one, given the opening of the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field and the New York Jets and Giants’ New Meadowlands Stadium, and the recent takeover of all lodging, special events, and food and beverage on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. I think 2010 is going to be a great year for Delaware North.
in the Mix thanks Tony for his time and wishes him the best of luck in the coming year!