Liam is a familiar face around the BDC. As the General Manager across our catering partner’s services, we wanted to talk to him about his role in the building, his relationship with Jack’s, and his thoughts on sustainability and eco-consciousness – something that’s part of the BDC ethos.
I: How long have you been working at the BDC?
L: How long is a piece of string? Let’s try 19 years, 19 years in the BDC. Originally I came here as a chef, and I spent quite a few years doing that. Then the general manager went on maternity leave, and they needed someone in to cover her role. I have to be honest, I stood in that kitchen doorway over there with my sous chef at the time, and watched the interviews. They were rolling in all these chaps in suits, and I thought “No way”.
L: So I went down to HR, and said I’m gonna apply for the job. What job? He said. And I said, I’m gonna apply for the job as GM covering the maternity leave. When Sam comes back, I’ll step back in the kitchen, I said, I don’t mind, or I’ll do the two jobs.
I: As General Manager, what does your typical day look like?
L: Well – when I get in in the morning, I make sure everyone else is here, make sure all the deliveries are done. I do a lot of meeting and greeting throughout the day, and I do a lot of making sure everybody gets what they need when they need it, and preferably they get it with a smile. And if they can’t get it, they need to be told that with a smile too. Because at the end of the day, what we do – it’s not rocket science and it’s not brain surgery – it’s hospitality. To be hospitable – I try to make sure we’re doing that to the best of our abilities, as often as we possibly can.
I: Do you have a favourite part of your job? Or perhaps, a least favourite?
L: Oh I love it. I absolutely love it. I get a great buzz off it, because I like people. I just like people.
L: I do a lot of financials as well. I spent four hours yesterday doing paperwork for the Good Eating Company – bottom lines, sales projections, all that. Listen – I absolutely hate it. But it’s part of the job that I love, so I do it. I always get it written down though, so when I have to look back in six months I can remember. The part I love, like I said, I do genuinely enjoy people. I love interacting with them, and I love sprinkling a little bit of gold dust on their day. I know nearly everybody in the venue, one way or another. And I like surprising people.
I: Surprising people? Do you get to surprise people often?
L: Oh I get to surprise people all the time!
I: What do you surprise them with?
L: You can surprise people – we have a thing in the BDC, it’s called empowerment. It’s called enriching people’s lives, it’s called looking after people, I suppose.
L: You see people having a bad day, when they come up for a coffee, and they’re in the queue. When they come up to pay, you say no no, you know what, the BDC will pay for you. Sit down at a table, switch your phone off for two seconds, whatever’s happening – yes it’s bad at the moment, but it will pass. Give yourself an opportunity to just drink your cup of tea in peace and quiet, if you wanna have a chat let’s have a chat, if you don’t, the BDC will still look after you.
I: That must be a lovely part of your job.
L: It is, and that’s what we do at the BDC. We look after people. I know it’s a line thrown out by a lot of companies, oh we’re a family, we look after each other. But the BDC really does. The BDC threw comfort blankets around a lot of people during Covid – a lot of contractors got looked after, a lot of staff got looked after. There was good communication. It’s a great community. And I do think you can tell – there’s always someone who’ll give you a chat, who’ll give you five minutes.
L: I describe this place to people as being like a little village. Not even a little village, a small town. You’ve got everything under one roof. If you’ve got a problem with your knees, you go to the physio, if you want to lose a few pounds, Revolution is just down there. If you need a solicitor, you go to that fella, Mr Remus Robu, if you want financial advice, you go to the lads at the back. So we are a little village, and we’re a good bunch of tenants.
I: I know the BDC is really focusing on sustainability and their environmental impact… Do you have anything to say about that? Does Jacks take any measures to be sustainable?
L: It’s funny you should say that actually – I just got off the phone, at the moment I am, shall we say, investigating some new cups. Look – seven million disposable cups are used each day in the UK. It’s a shocking number. At a busy show, such as last week, on Thursday and Friday, we went through 4,000 disposable cups. And sure, they’re biodegradable, they’re compostable, but they’re still single use. It takes seven minutes, on average, to drink a cup of coffee. Seven minutes, for something that gets used once and then thrown away – it’s just wrong. So I’m working on something else…
An interjection; the details of Liam’s plans aren’t ready to share yet, but take it from us – it’s a good idea.
L: We also do Meat Free Monday, and we introduced a meat free menu at our conferences – it’s gone down amazingly well. We call it our Green Package, and it’s been very well received. We’ve got all the old favourites on there – it’s a lasagne, but a vegetarian one, it’s a curry, but it’s meat free.
I: That sounds delicious.
I: Final question – a fun one, to finish. If you could have your dream event at the BDC, what would it be?
L: Oh. Oh my god. Okay. I would have to have an event – really and truly, you want to know?
L: It would have four different areas – sports, with bikes, and maybe a little bit of archery, some rugby, stuff like that. Part of it would obviously have to be food, and then, and this is going to sound naff, but stay with me, I’d have a DIY hacks area. DIY that anyone can do. I’d get the general public to submit questions months in advance, and shortlist the questions, and then you’d have someone who knew how to do it, who had a hack for that issue. That would be great.
L: So, I’ll have my food, my sports, my DIY hackers, and the other section… It’s got to be an aquarium show. I like aquariums. I think you’d have to keep it to four areas, but I’m torn…
I: Remember, this is your dream show. You can have anything you want.
L: I love Lego. Love it. I might have to have a lego place as well. I could have it in the back, in the conference rooms. So there we go. Food, sports, DIY, aquariums, and lego. It could be a full family day out.
I: I think you should make this happen. I’ll be keeping an eye out.
L: Do you know what, it’s not a bad call. I’ve got this friend in the industry, he’s always ringing me, asking if I’ve come up with an event yet. Do you know, I think we might’ve just come up with it.