Optus Stadium boss Mike McKenna blames hospitality staff shortage, Friday night timeslot for long queues

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Catherine HealeyThe West Australian
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Many outlets were closed during the match, resulting in long lines at others.
Camera IconMany outlets were closed during the match, resulting in long lines at others. Credit: Bryce Steele/Twitter

Optus Stadium boss Mike McKenna admits Friday night’s semi final was the “most difficult night” since the $1.6 billion venue opened as angry Perth footy fans endured a 40-minute wait for food and drink.

Despite holding a host of marquee events since the stadium’s opening in December 2017, including an AFL Dreamtime clash, a Bledisloe Cup clash, a State of Origin match and finals football, on top of sold out concerts for superstars like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, McKenna said the venue “just didn’t deliver” for fans at the Geelong-GWS semi final on Friday.

“It was not a great performance last night,” he said on ABC’s Sports Talk.

“We had lots of people working very hard, but we didn’t have enough of them. We didn’t provide the experience that we normally do.

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“We had people queuing for far longer than they should have... we weren’t cooking fast enough, not getting it out to people fast enough.

“(It was) probably the most difficult night we’ve had since the very first event at the stadium.”

The “disappointed” McKenna stopped short of saying sorry to fans who missed large parts of the game due to waiting in lines, and blamed an “extreme labour shortage” in the hospitality industry for the poor performance.

Footy fans reported waiting up to 40 minutes for food.
Camera IconFooty fans reported waiting up to 40 minutes for food. Credit: Twitter

“We just don’t have enough people anymore,” he said.

“We lost the backpackers, the overseas students who put in so many hours in these types of jobs. Last night it really came to a head for us.”

The venue has a staff pool of around 3500 casual workers, with approximately 2000 needed for games.

McKenna said the Friday night timeslot was “difficult” to attract staff while the game’s short notice contributed to the lengthy wait times.

But he expects a much better performance for the remainder of the AFL finals series, with around 2500 staff to be employed for the grand final.

“I really feel for the casuals who did turn up and work last night... they were absolutely whacked by the end of the night,” he said.

“Even our media manager was pulling beers... IT people were working in corporate suites, (we were) just getting all hands on deck.

“We’ll probably be short on our ideal roster next week but it won’t affect the customer service that we deliver.”

Optus Stadium staff will get two more chances to rectify the lengthy wait times, as the venue hosts the delayed Bledisloe Cup clash between Australia and New Zealand tomorrow. Next Friday, there will be another preliminary final in Perth before the AFL grand final on September 25.

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