Securing The Hard Rock Cafe

Facilities manager Howard Long talks about taking safety and security standards global for restaurant chain

When you talk security and life-safety to Howard Long, senior director of facilities for the global restaurant chain Hard Rock Café, you can talk all you want about gigahertz and megabytes, but that's not what his ears want to hear. "When we talk security or life-safety, it's about helping us with our business need," explains Long.

Long, who was in Hollywood , Fla., yesterday at the company's cafĂ© in the same-named Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, as a guest of ADT Security Services – the integration business which, incidentally, recently won the contract to supply Hard Rock CafĂ© with all of their security and life-safety needs. Like his quote above indicates, he's very focused on the business-level goals as he thinks about security. Part of that awareness probably comes from the fact that Long has to think globally.

Having started in London in 1971, Hard Rock CafĂ©s now span the globe from Melbourne, Australia , to Berlin, Germany. And along with that global expansion, the company has become a "trusted brand" – people trust it enough to the point that the Hard Rock CafĂ© T-shirt is the ubiquitous souvenir (and chief marketing item, as it flashes around the world on the chests of everyone from the very young to the hard-rockin' retirees).

With 68 corporate-owned cafés, the Hard Rock Café business is by no means one of the largest restaurant chains, but because of the nature of the brand, they have to treat it like it's a massive worldwide business. In fact, that's partially true, especially as the name has been expanded to everything from casinos to clothing shops. As not only a global business, but as an icon of the Western world, facility management and security is a very serious business for Long. "We have to stay focused on managing our risk profile."

But it's not gangs of thieves or International terrorists they're always on the look-out for. In actuality, the kind of thing that keeps him up at night is a café fire.

"We've had a few fires, including two in particular," he says. "Fires are just devastating to our business."

Indeed that was the case when a fire hit the Hard Rock Café London in 2005, shutting the company's flagship and original location for 5 months. The fire was never pin-pointed to a particular fire safety failure, but for Long, the fire was traumatic to the company, having taken down the company's cornerstone operation. Losing the flagship restaurant made management think about survivability.

This came at a time when the company was already dealing with the aftermath of a fire at the Hard Rock Café San Juan, one year before. In that fire, which also never saw its origins pinpointed, the building's facility burned down. It was made more challenging by the fact that the café had been housed in a building that dated back to the 1700s, and all clean-up and rebuilding response was tied with red tape due to the historical nature of the location. In terms of business dis-continuity, that meant the San Juan location was out of operation for a full 18 months, said Long. "It seemed like you couldn't sweep up the ash without applying for yet another permit."

The two safety and business continuity events were a major wake-up call to Hard Rock Café. Before that time, the only time a café had been off-line was when termites hit the all-wood structure of the branded café in Key West .

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