Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2013, 8:20 pm

Jumer's excited to be part of global family

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By Jonathan Turner,

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert
Jumer's general manager Therrin Protze takes a moment in front of the casino sign, on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, on the casino property in Rock Island.
If you want a fatteningly tasty example of how Jumer's Casino & Hotel has changed since it was bought by Delaware North Companies, order the "Lambeau Heap" from Blue Square Cafe.

Directly from the menu of Green Bay Packers' Lambeau Field, the four-pound, $20 sandwich features a pound of steak burger topped with cheese curds, bacon, coleslaw and barbecue sauce served on a pretzel roll.

DNC -- which acquired Jumer's in April 2011 -- opened its first Blue Square Cafe last March and has concluded its first season as food service provider at Lambeau.

The cafe menu includes items prepared by DNC at places such as Soldier and U.S. Cellular fields inChicago, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Miller Park in Milwaukee, Rangers Ballpark inTexas and TD Garden in Boston, which DNC owns and operates.

Blue Square is a new restaurant concept DNC plans to duplicate at its other properties, Jumer's president and general manager TherrinProtze said.

"As a leader in food service management, Delaware North operates busy kitchens at some of themost famous sports and entertainment venues and travel destinations in the world," he said. "The company servesmillions of people each year at everything from quick-serve concession stands to elaboratebanquet catering to some of the finest restaurants in the country."

Slot machine attendant Pete Santee, who's worked for Jumer's for eight years, said DNC's operations at more than 55 of the world's most popular sports spots is exciting, especially when he sees the framed company "World Class Venues" poster that includes Jumer's.

"It's really cool Jumer's is next to Melbourne, Australia, Soldier Field, Busch Stadium and Wembley Stadium. That is huge for Jumer's. I'm just so proud of that picture to see, that's us. As an employee, it's such a source of pride to know we're part of that. I'm part of that family now."

Mr. Protze joined DNC in 2006 and has 20 years of experience in the gaming industry, including senior director of operations for the Majestic Star casino in Gary, Ind. The Marine Corps veteran was vice president of the company's gaming operations at seven locations in West Virginia, Florida, New York, Arkansas, Arizona and Oklahoma before moving here.

"From a gaming standpoint, Jumer's is our showpiece," Mr. Protze said. "It sets the bar for us, how we want to build other casinos."

Largest capital purchase in company history

After more than 16 years in a small boat on the Rock Island riverfront and the state's smallest casino, Jumer's opened its $151 million casino with a 205-room hotel, four restaurants, salon and day spa, and events center in December 2008 at Interstate 280 and Illinois 92.

DNC closed on its $180 million purchase in late April 2011, the biggest acquisition in company history. Mr. Protze said DNC always is looking to expand its gaming portfolio in mid-sized markets.

The company hasgrown from a theater and ballpark concessions business founded in 1915 by three brothers in Buffalo, N.Y., to a global leader in hospitality and foodservice. The owner of hockey's Boston Bruins and their home arena, DNC providesfood service, hospitality management, lodging, travel hospitality, retail, sportsfacilities management, gaming and racetrack operations at 200 properties worldwide.

DNC is building a $215 million gaming facility outside Dayton, Ohio, in a partnership with Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, scheduled to be complete in early 2014. DNC also is doing a $10 million renovation at its gaming complex in West Memphis, Ark.

Jumer's is now the third-largest casino in Illinois, but the second lowest revenue generator, mainly because of the size of the market, Mr. Protze said.

Jumer's took in$87.9 million in adjusted gross revenue for 2012 (the most of the three Q-C casinos), compared to the $416 million of the Rivers Casino near O'Hare International Airport, which opened in 2011.

"Our offerings are very competitive. We're much more lucrative (in winnings). It's location," Mr. Protze said. "By far, Jumer's, from a property standpoint, is the best in Illinois. The way the family built it, it's beautiful. I fell in love with it. When they asked for somebody to run it, I raised my hand.

"I tell every associate, this place is beautiful but it means nothing without the people," he said of DNC's focus on customer service. "It's our philosophy. They won't remember the pretty lights, but they'll remember Pete."

Customer service a top priority

Mr. Santee, of Rock Island, is one of seven Jumer's employees trained by DNC to train the other 570 Jumer's staffers on DNC's "GuestPath" customer service program, which includes 10 universal service standards which apply to every property.

"What's neat is, it's not the directors training. They had me -- a slot attendant -- train. It's colleague to colleague," Mr. Santee said. "They give us leeway. We don't have to go to a supervisor if we have problems. I can resolve it right there on the floor."

He's very happy with how DNC treats the staff. "There's more employee appreciation, there's more programs. The benefits are better. When Delaware North came in, we were a little apprehensive -- is my tenure, seniority going to go away? And it didn't. That was a good step. They didn't come in with their own management team either."

Tables games dealer Bryan Buhman, of Bettendorf, (who's been working there since 1992) said Jumer's always has been known for friendly customer service, but now "other employees have stepped up, so everyone is more uniform."

"We're being rewarded for it, and the level of expectation is a little higher now," Mr. Santee said. "When we were little, we had a great staff. Now (customers) come and they expect it, and we still deliver."

Since DNC has come in, staff wages and benefits are better, including incentives to earn employee of the month and year, which carries cash bonuses. DNC also hasmore regular performance reviews, with the potential to keep getting raises.

That directly improves the customer experience, Mr. Santee said."It's the relationships we built in Rock Island. The bricks and mortar is nice and glitzy and fancy, but it's Bryan out there dealing, it's me out there talking. It affects tips, and that's great for us. It brings the morale up, too."

BillRenk, director of public relations, said DNC surveys customers every week, and the company responds to everyone within 48 hours. "This is a program by which, from what I've gathered, it would rank up there against Harrah's, who was a trailblazer in that regard. It's not something that's trained and forgotten. It's every single day."

Jumer's has been honored in the casino and travel industries with many awards, includingCasino Player magazine, which last year gave Jumer's 14 first-place awards for the "Chicagoland" region, including best overall casino.

Nongaming amenities vital to success

Aside from Blue Square (named for the DNC logo) andcontinuous new slot machines, the owner is not making major physical changes to the complex. Last summer, a golf driving range was added behind the hotel, and Mr. Protze is looking at other design enhancements by end of the year. "It's so new, there's very little to do to this place," he said.

DNC is planning to partner with the new development across the highway, and may be part of an outlet mall at Jumer's Crossing, on 90 acres the city is buying.

"What we want to do there is very exciting for every associate," Mr. Protze said, adding that it will help create jobs in the area and attract more visitors to the 1.3-million plus who play at Jumer's each year.

"I want to focus on the nongaming revenue," he said. "It's quality, good food and good amenities. If they want to play (at the casino), that's great. I want to be more than slots in a box. We need a reason for them to drive from the outer market. Adding a development like that across the highway is a huge benefit."

"We're trying to enhance and improve what was already a solid base to begin with," Mr. Protze said.

That high standard includes DNC's "GreenPath" environmental management program, which became ISO certified at Jumer's this past year. "That was very important to us," he said of ways to boost "reduce, reuse and recycle" efforts, and improve energy efficiency.

As talks continue in Davenport for the purchase of Rhythm City Casino and the possibility of a new interstate casino, Jumer's is taking a "wait and see" approach.

"Competition is the way of business," Mr. Protze said. "That's why some of these developments we're trying to do to enhance the overall location here are very important."

One thing that hasn't changed at Jumer's in 21 years is that it's a family-run business -- DNC is still in the same family; it's just much larger than the former Jumer family.

"Maybe our associates really have that great relationship with our guests because it was all family. Delaware North comes in, it's the same thing," Mr. Renk said. "It's all about relationships. The scope is different, but it's still family."

Delaware North at a glance
-- Headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y.
-- 55,000 employees
-- $2.6 billion in annual revenue
-- 200 properties, 500 million guests served a year
-- Of its six operating companies, the most revenue comes from Sportservice (at 31 percent), followed by gaming and entertainment, and parks and resorts.
-- Its gaming facilities include:
- Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, West Virginia
- Daytona Beach Kennel Club & Poker Room, Florida
- Southland Park Gaming & Racing, West Memphis, Ark.
- Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, Farmington, N.Y.
- Hamburg Casino at the Fairgrounds, Hamburg, N.Y.
-- Other DNC contracted food-service, retail and hotel locations include:
- Wembley Stadium
- Kennedy Space Center
- Yosemite National Park
- Yellowstone National Park
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Niagra Falls State Park
- Lambeau Field
- Busch Stadium
- Soldier Field
- U.S. Cellular Field
- Miller Park
- New Meadowlands Stadium
- Target Field
- Oriole Park at Camden Yards
- Los Angeles International Airport
- Atlanta International Airport

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