Aramark’s General Manager for Fenway Park, Boston
Aramark executive Mike Melisi has been a fixture at Fenway Park for 13 years, ever since he was hired on the spot as an intern in the company’s finance department.
Melisi, 33, now serves as the concessionaire’s general manager at the historic ballpark, home of the Boston Red Sox. It’s a position he has held since midway through the 2017 season after being promoted from senior controller.
It all started in the spring of 2006. Marco DePalma, a friend and Suffolk University student (now a police officer), had just landed an operations internship with Aramark. DePalma contacted Melisi and gave him a tip that the food vendor had a finance internship to fill over the summer.
“On his first day, he called me and said if I could make it down to Fenway within an hour I’d have the job,” Melisi said. “I was going to school at Boston University and living on Commonwealth Avenue (a few miles from the ballpark). I put on a shirt and tie, hailed a taxi and headed to Fenway. I talked with the regional finance director and the controller on site, and within 30 minutes I had the job.”
Two years later, one day after college graduation, Aramark offered Melisi a full-time job as a junior accountant. He worked his way through the finance department and became controller in 2013 and then senior controller. Melisi took over as GM four years later, a position which had been vacant for a few years, he said.
For Melisi, there’s never a dull day working the food operation at Fenway, which has always attracted him to the business as one of the most celebrated stadiums in sports. At 107 years old, managing its food service offers challenges but also opportunities, he said.
“Over the past few years, we’ve done some significant renovations,” Melisi said. “We built a group suite next to the (Red Sox) dugout with full in-seat service, and developed a few grandstand bars which accommodates those fans sitting in the upper grandstand that don’t necessarily have direct access to food and drink.”
Melisi has a unique perspective on all the upgrades Fenway has gone through over the past decade. As controller, he crunched the numbers to ensure a return on investment for both Aramark and the Red Sox while keeping in mind the need to improve the fan experience.
“It helps knowing the concrete numbers on the back and now seeing them on the front end and what it means monetarily,” he said.
In addition to the 81 Red Sox home games, Aramark stays busy servicing about 10 concerts and 500 catered events annually. On May 14, for example, the ballpark held a job fair for military veterans on the Big Concourse, the 38,000-square-foot space beyond the outfield bleachers.
Keeping up with new technology and just the churn of daily operations is another challenge Aramark faces at a ballpark that opened in 1912, the same year Thomas Edison designed an electric battery for Henry Ford’s Model T automobile.
“Power is always an issue,” Melisi said. “We don’t have readily accessible electricity, so we always need to run power (through generators). We have tight warehouses and we’re getting five to six deliveries for inventory every game, and with all the catered events we do, storage becomes an issue.”
About 10 years ago Aramark started taking credit cards at all food and drink locations, and the vendor has in-seat service for roughly 6,000 seats.
“Boston used to be a largely cash market, but it’s slowly changing,” Melisi said. “Credit cards are taking over the lion’s share of transactions.”
Over the past decade, Fenway Park has extended its season over the winter months to include the Harvard-Yale college football game, the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and Shaun White’s Big Air extreme action sports event.
“We know that for events in December and January, we could have temperatures below zero where pipes could freeze and water is already shut off at the ballpark,” Melisi said. “It also depends on if the Red Sox extend their season, whether their last game is in September and we close down the ballpark for a month or two, or the last game is Game 6 of the World Series and it stays open through October. That makes life a little easier.”
Apart from his job, Melisi has competed in seven Boston Marathons and raised more than $100,000 for both Boston Children’s Hospital and the Red Sox Foundation. He started running the marathon to help raise money for the hospital after his sister’s son Kyle was treated there for complications shortly after he was born.
Melisi doesn’t bother to track his personal best time.
“Working at a ballpark and having chicken tender and pizza tastings over the winter, it’s a good way to keep the weight off,” he said.