Like most every corner of the Encore Boston Harbor, the Boston entertainment market hasn’t seen anything like it.
Even the things that most customers will never see, such as the employee locker rooms, will still be things the Boston market hasn’t seen.
That’s exactly the case with the Wardrobe Department at Encore for employees, where some 5,000 workers will see a new standard for uniform design, durability and retrieval.
And it all starts with one energetic New Englander, Dan Ford-Hunt, who has been all about figuring out the what and how of outfitting thousands of soon-to-be employees of Encore.
At this Monday’s job fair in Boston’s Hynes Convention Center, a stellar display of uniforms was on display – from the dresses for female front desk workers to the red jackets for security workers – and Ford-Hunt has been behind those uniforms and their rollout since January of last year.
Having been born in Boston and growing up in the Merrimack Valley, Ford-Hunt was one of the first group of Boston-based workers to come onto the job last year. He said he was very happy with his job working with industrial uniform clients, and never thought of leaving. However, a family friend, Joe Marino, had been a founding member of the Encore-backing Everett United group. Over a holiday conversation in 2017, he suggested Ford-Hunt try for the uniform job at the casino. He said he didn’t think much of it, but soon enough he was interviewing for the position, and by Christmas 2017, he had gotten the job.
Coming from an industrial uniform background, he was more knowledgable of auto body worker uniforms and hospital scrubs than he was high-end luxury hotel duds.
But it is something he has quickly learned, and with his outgoing personality, he was a quick and easy fit for the Encore system. With plenty of uniform design help, he has been making sure the workers will be dressed to the nines on opening day.
“What I’m doing in Everett is something I’ve done a long time, but also something I’ve never done before,” he said. “Honestly, industrial uniforms are confined to a small box of choices. Auto dealerships and hospital scrubs only have a certain number of options available. When I got this position, it was quickly learning about everything from bulk suppliers to the vendors to the best fabrics and to the best designs. They allowed me, though, to use my knowledge in the uniform industry to find new vendors. For the first time in my uniform career, I was allowed to make the calls. I wasn’t the vendor. I was the customer. It was a very freeing.”
Now, as they begin to roll out what their thousands of employees will wear, Ford-Hunt said it will be a revelation for workplaces that utilize uniforms in Boston. He said he thinks it will be just another example of Encore setting a new bar for style in the Hub.
“No one in Boston has ever seen uniforms like what we have,” he said. “No one in Boston has seen a system like this. We are pretty excited and we took a lot of design influences from our Macau property, but using our own style too. You can be six feet tall or four feet tall and look great every day. They fit everyone’s style.”
Ford-Hunt, 39, said he has been able to contribute to the design of the Casino Porter uniform, but the overall favorite so far has been the front-desk dress for women employees. That dress features the common blue palette for all the Encore uniforms, but has a cream-colored faux ascot/bow that runs the full length of the front of the dress.
“That was a selection from Elaine Wynn,” he said. “It was a particular favorite of hers. She saw it somewhere and fell in love with it. Within a year, all the front desk workers at the service desk were wearing it. That really sets our brand and sets our resort apart from all the others. It’s going to look great on everyone. We say it’s simple, yet refined.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of the uniform program at Encore is the fact that uniforms stay on the resort.
Employees will not be lugging vests and pants home with them after a shift, nor will they be taking them to the dry cleaner before work. In fact, the uniform system at Encore is fully automated and like nothing else in Boston.
Ford-Hunt said employees will report to work and – using a color coded system – will report to one of five doors. Once they scan their ID badge at the doorway, an automated, interconnected computer system will retrieve the employee’s uniform and deliver it to them in quick time using a conveyer belt.
“No one in this city has ever seen any kind of system like this,” he said. “We have the most employees of any casino in northern New England. Employees in this region will have never seen anything like this. Having more than 5,000 employees, there isn’t any company that has seen this kind of volume…It’s a top of the line system. We have it at our other resorts, but this one is an upgrade of those systems…It’s going to be much more efficient so workers can get dressed and go to work.”
That system will be responsible for cataloguing and retrieving 79,867 total garment pieces, from ties to pants to vests to dresses. Each employee, on average, will have three uniform sets – one to wear, one that is being cleaned and one that is in reserve in case of an accident. Restaurant workers, he said, might have others.
Right now, in preparation for the opening, the uniform system is going through major tests. That started this week and deals with the computers talking to one another and practicing how to deliver things accurately.
In about one month, he said, they will begin the massive undertaking of fitting out all employees into their uniforms, and then cataloguing those uniforms in the system. It is pegged at taking six weeks or so and is expected to be done in early June.
Another important task for Ford-Hunt is to make sure the uniforms are dry cleaned, and to a five-star standard.
“We cannot accept it coming back from the cleaner and them saying they couldn’t get a stain out,” he said. “Every stain has to come out. We are working to solidify a contract with a local, large-scale cleaner, but that isn’t yet public.”
He said part of his last year of work was looking at the durability of fabrics, and doing wash tests to make sure the uniforms would stand up to hundreds of cleanings without fading or falling apart. The result was choosing a wool-poly blend of fabrics that he said will stand the test of time for workers at Encore.
“I’m truly an outsider to the hotel industry and the uniforms they use,” he said. “I’m learning and it’s been fun. I’m just truly proud to be part of this.”
Huge crowds flock to second Encore hiring event in Boston Monday
The Encore Boston Harbor held its second major hiring event in the Back Bay’s Hynes Convention Center on Monday, with lines that stretched far beyond the doors most of the day.
Likely more than 4,000 people came to the event, organizers said, and this time around, Encore extended on-the-spot job offers through a ‘Golden Ticket’ system.
Encore was to extend 1,000 of those Golden Tickets to prospective hires on Monday. All of the hires still have to pass a drug screening and a background check with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). Their hire is also contingent upon the license investigation process now going on at the MGC.
That said, the Hynes was a crowded space as applicants engaged in interviews, and waited in style while playing ping-pong or relaxing on leather couches. Encore was originally supposed to hold another hiring event in April, but with the success of the first two – and most recently on Monday – they may not need to.