Desk jockey or front line?

Noel Dempsey, “The Customer Guy” at Pico Play, shares his professional experience from theme parks and tourism hot-spots to premiere resorts and popular restaurants.
Written by
Noel Dempsey
Published on
22nd May, 2020

I am fortunate enough to have had a wide range of experiences from theme parks, major attractions, fast food, casinos, resorts, horse-racing, tourism and hotels. Some would say that I cover all the vices.

That said, I am sometimes asked about my most interesting operational experiences. There are many but a very key lesson was learnt early on whilst working for KFC in Australia.

Part of the KFC executive and management training was to be hands-on in a restaurant and actually run the shop. My orientation was done at the KFC store in Frankston, Melbourne.

I remember vividly my first week in charge of the restaurant, leading into Easter. It was the Thursday before Easter and naturally, we were expecting a big one! Frankston was on the way out from Melbourne and the holiday-makers would be hungry for their journey.

It is a delicate balancing act running these small factories. Staffing, service, ordering, product availability, operational process: they all play a role in success. I felt prepared and early in the afternoon, the warmers were full of product and roster was prepared.

Then, things changed a little.

One by one, a number of my staff rang in sick. What to do? I need my frontline team but I also need a good labour result. I felt ready and decided not to replace any of the people that did not show.

You probably know the story from there – it was chaos and to this day was the most stressful operational day of my life. Demand exceeded supply and we were constantly running out of chicken.

Surely, the Colonel does not run out of chicken???

We did and for a number of hours I had customers annoyed, queues out the door, horrible service and potential sales that kept disappearing out the front door. This pattern was repeated across Easter with rosters always short.

So where is the learning?

The irony was the call I received from the state manager on the following Tuesday congratulating me on the outstanding labour result for Easter, particularly with holiday pay rates. He was not to know that more than likely we missed double the sales and also provided a level of service that would have a lasting impact.

From your desk, you will only ever see the output. Operational leaders need to see the frontline, understand it, work it and never lose sight of the customer touchpoints. Operations will always remain a balancing act between service, product, financial, etc. but when we forget the overall objective to provide a great experience in favour of a financial result, we will always under-deliver.

Noel Dempsey - Business Director at Pico Play
Noel Dempsey, “The Customer Guy” Pico Play | Themed Attractions & Entertainment.

From theme parks and tourism hot-spots to premiere resorts and popular restaurants, Noel Dempsey’s CV reads like a thrill ride through iconic global brands, leading Australian companies and emerging local players.

Noel has more than 20 years’ senior executive and leadership experience across the consumer leisure, tourism, hospitality, entertainment, accommodation and gaming industries. He has a strong commercial perspective, a laser-sighted customer focus and a commitment to operational excellence.​​ At Pico Play, Noel funnels his innate spirit of adventure and fun into growing the global reach of the company through brand strategy, rigorous business development, people leadership and world-class customer attention and service.

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