Up Close: Profile of the Director of Food and Beverage Operations
Rob Gordon has only been with the Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) team for 11 years, but what an impact he has had during this time. He was hired in March 2006 as an Area Manager for Hersheypark. Today, Rob is the Director of Food and Beverage Operations for the entertainment complex. He consistently seeks ways to enhance the food and beverage experience at Hersheypark, Giant Center, Hersheypark Stadium and Hershey Theatre. Despite having a packed agenda at Hersheypark, hockey games and concerts, we were able to grab a few minutes of his time to chat about why he chose Hershey, what’s his favorite food item at Hersheypark and much more.
Do you have a passion for culinary? Do you enjoy hockey games and concerts? Rob is looking for individuals ages 16 and older who are eager-to-learn and want to have fun to join his team. Apply here!
Q) Tell us about your career. Where did you go to school? What was your career path prior to joining Hershey?
A) I grew up in Western PA and graduated from Hempfield High School before attending Cornell University in New York to study Hospitality Management. While concentrating in Food and Beverage, I had great internship experiences every summer in Martha’s Vineyard and San Francisco working at private clubs in various culinary and leadership roles. Following graduation, I moved to Florida with my wife to work as a Sous Chef at the 50’s Prime Time Café, Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World resort. Over the next seven years, I had the opportunity to also work at Flame Tree BBQ and Restaurantosaurus in Disney’s Animal Kingdom as well as Backlot Express and Studios Catering as a Restaurant Manager. Following the hurricanes of 2004 – which did severe damage to our house causing my wife and me to live in a hotel for four months – we decided to make the move back north, and that is when I connected with Hersheypark.
Q) Walk us through your career so far at Hershey.
A) I started at Hersheypark in March of 2006 as the Area Manager of Concessions for Area 1 which included the front third of the Park. In 2007, I moved to Area 2 to oversee the opening of The Boardwalk at Hersheypark and the Nathan’s Famous location. I proceeded to move areas to manage Area 3, now consisting of the Pioneer Food Court, Kissing Tower Hill and The Hollow. Having managed all areas in Concessions of Hersheypark by 2008, I moved to the Sports Complex to oversee the operations at Giant Center and Hersheypark Stadium. Working with the Hersey Bears and experiencing the Summer Concert series added a new level of excitement after my time spent at the Park, which is already a high energy, demanding environment.
In 2012, I became the Assistant Director of Food and Beverage for the Entertainment Complex, combining all my roles spent in each division of the department into one leadership direction. I was blessed with an amazing team of individuals who were just as passionate as I was in the success of the Food and Beverage operations throughout the complex. I am currently the Director of Food and Beverage Operations for the Entertainment Complex and am extremely inspired by the direction of which we are headed as a department, and look forward to exceeding the expectations of our guests and employees with surprise and delightful experiences that are undeniably Hershey.
Q) Why did you choose to work for Hershey?
A) Once we decided that it was time to move out of Florida, I came across the opportunity to work at Hersheypark which would be an easy transition from my previous roles at the Walt Disney World resort. However, I have stayed with the organization for over 11 years due to the culture I have experienced while being on the Hershey Entertainment & Resorts team. The biggest difference in working at Hershey was the fact that it felt like a family and everyone supported each other to provide an amazing product. I was able to touch the operation and bring my input to life. Furthermore, I chose Hershey because it reminded me of my hometown growing up which I wanted to give to my two daughters, Rylie and Leah who were only 20 and 6 months old respectively when we moved.
Q) What's your biggest accomplishment since joining the Hershey team?
A) My biggest accomplishment was the impressions I was able to make on the operations of each venue, adding options, locations, process and products. I enjoy walking the venues and seeing what is still in practice and what has changed. As we look to the future of the Food and Beverage operations, I am excited to assist in shaping what that picture looks like.
Q) What's your favorite food item at Hersheypark?
A) I got a new favorite this year as I am a Chick-fil-A fan and am happy that we have added this to our options in the Park. You can’t go wrong with Pulled Pork BBQ and Smoked Macaroni & Cheese from Spring Creek Smokehouse. It is truly difficult to pick because I feel we do offer a plethora of menu options from Moe’s Burrito to Chickie’s & Pete’s Cheesesteaks. Specialty sandwiches at Overlook Food Court come to mind as well. I am certainly a Reese’s man and do indulge in a Peanut Butter Chocolate King Size Shake, especially when I am in the Park with my family.
The most rewarding aspect of my job is creating amazing memories for our guests.
Q) What's the most rewarding aspect of your job?
A) The most rewarding aspect of my job is creating amazing memories for our guests, especially the children. Days may be long and sometimes the impossible feels ahead, but at the end of the day it is great to look back and see what the team was able to accomplish. Especially when we knock it out of the park on big events. On a personal note, I do enjoy that my kids have the best backyard playground and experience the “Sweetest Place On Earth” daily.
Q) What advice would you give someone interested in a career in the food and beverage industry?
A) My best advice would be to follow your passion. A Food and Beverage career entails arduous dedicated hours and commitment to achieve the goals at hand. I would encourage getting experience from the ground level to gain perspective as you ascend the rungs of leadership and never forget who the most important person is in the operation — everyone from the director to the dishwasher! They all play a role. Be a servant leader and focus on achieving, better yet, exceeding the expectations of your guest, your employees, your boss, your family. Balance is essential to sustaining a productive personal and professional life.
Q) What's the best perk of your job?
A) The best perk of my job is that no day is ever the same. I thrive on challenging the team to create new experiences and embrace the search for the next best idea to execute. Plus I get to attend every Bears game, concert or catered event on the Entertainment Complex, taking in the sights and sounds of the engagement.
Q) What does a typical day consist of?
A) One of the most exciting parts of my role at Hershey Entertainment is there is not a typical day. Each day I am confronted with a new set of challenges based on what venue, type of entertainment or season of the year. One of the most “difficult” tasks is conducting the tastings to ensure we are serving the correct products and recipes. New desserts are tough! On a more serious note, time management is essential to ensure all areas are prepared, set and ready for our guests and prioritizing where to be first makes for easy flow for the day. Despite any well planned agenda, I am always prepared for the possible side step to address an immediate concern. Stepping in and working alongside the team lends for an insightful take on the operations and allows me to directly interact with our guests. Among all this, I must carve time for meetings, strategizing and research. I do like to say, “there is never a dull day in Hershey!”
Q) Tell us something folks might not know about you.
A) I grew up wrestling and came to Hershey for the state finals in the old, historic Hersheypark Arena with my father. He was the high school wrestling coach from the time I was in elementary school but I never visited Hersheypark until I started working here in 2006. I have great memories of watching the Bears practice in the outdoor practice rink, visiting Chocolate World and swimming at The Hotel Hershey. I would see the wooden tracks of Comet still covered in snow and always hoped that one day I could actually come to the Park to ride the Comet when it was open. I got the chance to wrestle in the state tournament in the historic Arena in 1993-94. I look forward to the day that I can hopefully watch my son Nicolas wrestle in the same tournament, now held at Giant Center.