Sun City Retail Operations Manager Crawford Day has worked in iconic global tourist cities New York and London, as well as tourism mecca Bermuda, but there is no place quite like home.
“I have been in hospitality for over 30 years and have had the pleasure of working in five-star hotels across the world, however, I have always loved South Africa and returned ten years ago to assist with the opening of a new hotel for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.”
A year later Crawford moved up to Sun City as the Food and Beverage Manager at The Palace of the Lost City. Since then, he has also served as the Sun Central and Valley of Waves Operations Manager during which time he oversaw the conversion of the old Entertainment Centre to the current Sun Central space.
He was recently appointed as Retail Operations Manager, overseeing the operation of tenants, retail, as well as the famed Valley of Waves.
This qualified Scuba divemaster manages, as part of his day job, over 100 tenants and multiple service providers, along with the Valley of Waves operation. Key to his role is introducing new profitable activities and restaurants and retail outlets across the resort to meet the changing needs and demands of customers.
While the functions of an Ops Manager may seem hum drum, it is anything but, “While at The Palace we filmed the movie Blended, over a period of three months,” he recounted. “However, the hotel was still fully operational. We would serve dinner in the Crystal Court until 11pm, and then turn the restaurant into a movie set from midnight until 5am.
“After 5am we would reset for breakfast for our normal guests at 6am and start all over again. This went on for three weeks. It was a great insight into how movies are made.” And surely something to list on one’s resume under unusual job experiences.
Then there was the scarcely believable hail/snowstorm Sun City experienced in December 2018 that flooded the entire Sun Central and associated properties and caused enormous damage. Another movie set? No, this one was real life drama.”
Day to day though, Crawford engages with tenants and concessionaires and manages activities at Valley of Waves to ensure guests have the best experience possible while visiting Sun City. This means interacting with all stakeholders and handling everyday operational challenges which come part and parcel with the job.
So, what made Crawford decide to enter the hospitality industry? “I worked as a Barman when I was 16 while living in East London and was immediately attracted to the service industry,” he said. “After matriculating, I attended Hotel School and worked as a part-time student at Fish River Sun in 1991. During this time, I was drawn to the Food and Beverage department due to the wide range of products and the creativity of the Chefs and Bartenders.
“Working long hours under extreme pressure created work relationships that you do not find in other industries. Serving the last dessert at the end of dinner service or a gala dinner for a thousand people has an instant feeling of reward and accomplishment. Every day is different and presents new challenges and goals.”
His time at the Sun International resort has also coincided with the building of a local orphanage and raising over R500,000 at a dinner function for the upgrading of all the orphanage buildings is something he describes as “extremely rewarding”.
Crawford says he believes in leading by example but also involving team members in operational decisions. “I have always had an open-door policy for all my team members and do not believe in micromanaging, but I do enjoy having a ‘hands on’ approach in the operation.”
Seeing team members grow and flourish in his decade at Sun City has been among his most rewarding experiences.