More Optus Stadium staff to avoid repeat of long queues
Optus Stadium will put on more staff for Friday’s AFL preliminary final to avoid a repeat of last week’s disastrous fan experience.
Fans complained of waiting for up to 40 minutes at food and beverage outlets during last Friday’s semi final between Geelong and GWS Giants, taking to social media to express their frustrations.
Optus Stadium Chief Executive Mike McKenna said recruitment challenges for hospitality staff were a major cause of what he described as the “most difficult night” since the 60,000-capacity opened in 2017.
Speaking on ABC Sport's Footy Forum radio program, McKenna said the Perth stadium has historically attracted overseas students and backpackers seeking work, but travel restrictions have led to an “extreme labour shortage” in the hospitality industry.
“(It was) probably the most difficult night we've had since the very first event of the stadium, which was a big ODI.” McKenna said.
“There certainly was reaction, and probably fair reaction too … it was not a great performance.
“We had lots of people working very hard, but we didn't have enough of them. And so we didn't provide the experience that we normally do.
“We had people queuing for far longer than they should have to get a beer or a pie. And in some cases, we didn't keep up with the demand at the point of sales, so we weren’t cooking fast enough, we weren't getting it out to people fast enough.”
Even Mr McKenna’s media manager was “pulling beers” to help make up the staffing shortfall.
A 40 minute queue for a single beer or meat pie at the footy. What is going on #optusstadium!? We don’t deserve to host the GF. Many many unhappy fans. #CATSGWS @AFL @OptusStadium @6PR @TheWestSport pic.twitter.com/AhJh0f7Ui4— Karl Hunt (@F18Aviator) September 3, 2021
Explaining the labour shortage facing the hospitality sector, McKenna advised “we’ve had demand for people who normally work these jobs, casual workers throughout the hotels, restaurants, bars, and up and down the state and tourist locations, and we just don't have enough people anymore.
“We've lost the backpackers and the overseas students who put in so many hours in these type of jobs and last night really came to a head for us and it was a disappointing performance.”
He advised that the 5.50pm local start time for the match increased pressure on staff to get to the venue in time, with many coming from other commitments, saying “I really feel for the casuals who did turn up last night and really worked very hard to keep the queues moving, keep the food up to the customers and they were absolutely whacked by the end of the night.”
He also said the time of the game was an issue for fans, with around 15,000 ticket holders not inside the venue at the opening bounce.
Optus Stadium hosts the preliminary final between Melbourne and Geelong on Friday night, with tickets sold out and an additional 10,000 fans expected than the 44,091 that were on hand last Friday. The venue then hosts the 2021 AFL Grand Final on September 25.
McKenna said fans would receive an improved service, “we’ve been short on staff before, we’ll probably be short on our ideal roster next week, but it won’t affect the customer service that we deliver.
“The grand final is another level above that to, you know, probably talking about 2,500 jobs by the time we get to the grand final … and that’s a challenge.
“We've had State of Origins, Bledisloe Cups, we’ve had other events dropped on us including Dreamtime on a six-day notice and we managed to cover those, so I'm pretty confident that we’ll rise to the challenge.
“It will be much better by the time we get to next week in the preliminary final because we've just got that extra week to get the roster done, and people to adjust to what time they've got to be on site.
“And we're very confident about that.”
A third of Optus Stadium’s workforce has been lured from rival venues for Friday’s game, including staff from RAC Arena, and even local governments to make sure the required 2000 workers are on hand for the game.
Free parking and meal incentives are on offer for people willing to take up shifts for both Friday night’s game and next Saturday’s twilight Grand Final.
As an additional sweetener, workers at the matches will also be entered into a draw which will see one lucky staff member flown to Melbourne and given tickets to next year’s grand final.
Optus Stadium is recruiting additional casual staff for the Grand Final on September 25, including bar staff, functions services staff, chefs and cooks, promoting it as ‘a once in a lifetime opportunity to work at the World's Most Beautiful Stadium at Australia's most iconic sporting event’. More information and applications can be found on the Optus Stadium website.