"We don’t call senior management programs ‘training’; it’s ‘strategic planning.’ But it’s still learning," says Jack Kealey, senior vice president of ARAMARK Harrison Lodging. That might sound like a tongue-in-cheek remark, but in fact it shows that ARAMARK Harrison management gets it. They understand what training is, whatever it’s called, and whatever the level of attendee. And with 50 conference centers nationwide, they’re set up to meet a full range of training needs.
"The scope of our facilities and the geographical spread can make a meeting planner’s or training director’s life very simple," says Rory B. Loberg, executive vice president of Philadelphia-based ARAMARK Harrison. For example, The National Conference Center (formerly Xerox Document University Training and Conference Center) in Lansdowne, Va.,has 1,000 guest rooms and 250 meeting rooms--more than a million square feet--spread among three major buildings. In contrast, Harrison Conference Center at Lake Bluff, near Chicago, has 83 guest rooms in a three-story Mediterranean-styled villa, and 11 meeting rooms. "That’s CEO territory," says Loberg.
"There’s a big price range--training facilities are less expensive than executive conference centers," says Kealey. "But the level of service will be the same throughout. The difference will be the characteristics of the product. And a meeting planner can get 50 locations through one point of contact."
ARAMARK’s purchase of the 11 Harrison Conference Center facilities in June created a combo with impressive credentials. ARAMARK, a $9 billion company, provides managed services including food, facility, and other support services. It now operates more than 70 conference centers and university hotels in North America and Europe, plus 48 conference centers in Japan through a joint venture. This year it was ranked in the top 50 of FORTUNE magazine’s "Most Admired Companies in America." Harrison, a leader in the conference center industry for more than 30 years, introduced CMP (Complete Meeting Package) pricing, and helped develop the criteria required for certification by IACC (the International Association of Conference Centers).
The new company is "concentrating on the training environment," says Loberg. "We’re just starting in the hospitality area. But we want to be sure we can deliver the hospitality and not disrupt the training business."