Peter Czimback, Vice President of Digital Experience for Aramark Emerge, leads a team of technological innovators that gives Silicon Valley a run for its money.
Initially getting exposure to Aramark as a Sales Trainee, Peter Czimback, now Vice President of Digital Experience for Aramark Emerge, saw an opportunity to express himself creatively while building tools and tech solutions that would disrupt the food service industry.
“At a certain point early on, I had become one of the higher performing salespeople, but I always had a goal to be on the creative side of things, so I pivoted to marketing to focus on building new experiences with large brands and then creating our own. So about five years ago came over to the IT group, leveraging that marketing background, but with an understanding of technology that really helped me see technology differently – not as a tool, but almost as an engine that runs and can run faster. For companies today, it’s hard to be transformative, but the answers are out there everywhere. You’ve got to understand how to foster them, how to find them, how to nurture them, and again, you need to understand how to be creative and scientific at the same time.”
Peter founded and manages a small group of creative innovators within Aramark called Emerge, which has been responsible for dozens of technological and operational innovations that have kept Aramark ahead of the curve and connected to the needs of their consumers and clients. According to Peter, the secret to success lies staying focused on the consumer experience.
“We branded our group ‘Emerge’ after emergent properties – yes, nerdy I know, but a key principle in the evolution of everything. We call it the science of disruption because there is a creativity to it, but there’s absolutely a science to it as well. Sure, we could test technology, but most of the time that’s already been done. At Emerge we test business models. Programs. Solutions. Anybody can test our robot tell you if it works or doesn’t, that’s not hard. We really look at things very, very differently. And that helps because we are really solving problems versus showing off shiny bells and whistles, it makes an impact with the people that we engage with and the businesses that we work with.”
For Peter, the idea of innovating and creating real value always begins and ends with the client. Whether it’s innovations within our commissary business like iCare, automated convenience stores like QuickEats, or food-delivering robots on college campuses, Peter and the Emerge team lead with a vision and purpose centered around impact on the clients and employees he serves.
“As my dad always said, you know, if you want to be creative, start as close to the consumers as possible, and work your way back. But never forget to be close to your consumer. So I love being out in the business, in the kitchens, working with clients and our frontline teams. It’s so fun and so energizing and helps me see the things we can do to make a difference much more clearly. Ultimately, value is really defined by how you impact everything from the consumers to the frontline managers”
To hear more about Peter’s exciting team of creative problem-solvers, his approach to leadership, his game-changing innovations and more, check out the Q&A!
— Peter Czimback, Vice President, Digital Experience at Aramark Emerge
Hear more from our conversation with Peter in the Q&A section below.
What makes working within Aramark Emerge unique?
You get the best of working in a startup and a big company. I think there's always fun things to say about a startup. But, while you're not constrained, you've got nothing holding you up either. What's different about us versus other incubation labs and big companies is the fact that we are built like a startup, but we've got some folks to support us and catch us if we fall.
How big is the Emerge team at Aramark?
You know, it's actually very small. In fact, getting smaller by the day - and I'll explain why. As we build things, and things go beyond proof of concept and become ready to be programmatic or start to scale, the team members working on these innovations often move into the business. For example, we recently just did this with our autonomous store program, Quick Eats, which is one of the first autonomous, standalone stores in the country next to Amazon. And that program, which has been doing quite well since we launched it last March, was moved into our LifeWorks/Business Dining program. So that team is now part of LifeWorks as well to really see it through as a business. That's how we run things. So as we innovate and succeed, I need to add more roles, people that are going to look at new challenges and take them on.
Why is innovation so important?
Look, being in the business as long as I have, I’ve learned that without innovation, there wouldn’t be an Aramark, and the same goes for any successful company. I learned a lot from the idea that "nothing succeeds like success, and nothing fails like it either." You always have to be constantly changing, and Aramark is different when it comes to that. We’re not a 130 person team like some of our competitors because we take it more like a startup, and we leverage our networks in a more efficient and agile way. Because of the way we’ve leveraged those connections in the past – like launching Apple Business Chat as a commerce tool or our implementation of Mashgin technology - we’ve established really close ties in the startup/VC world that help us differentiate ourselves to clients, consumers, and talent every day.
What makes a candidate a good fit for Aramark?
We need intelligence and grit, and you've got to have both. What I look for on my team is that person that is comfortable enough to learn and unlearn at the same time. The more you know how to hustle and how to leverage information, the better. That's what really matters. And I go back to this all the time, but in some ways, it's important that you care more about the person on the other end than you care about yourself. I think if you can see that, and have that energy and that fire, my gosh, you can do anything.
Why have you stayed with Aramark?
Look, I didn't stay at Aramark just because I thought it was a comfortable place to be. That's not me. I stay because things are fun. It's not because of titles, I don't care about that. I stay because we get to do a lot of things and have fun. And there are people that we can impact and ways we can make a difference. And I think that's the part that makes it really cool. Though, with that comes responsibility. Earlier I explained that we have to innovate or we will not survive as a company, and I have seen what we do in our team matter. Most importantly, when I look back and reflect on my life, I've always said I want to make sure it matters. Not to me, but to people. And there's so much of that at Aramark that makes it really fun, that make it an organization you can believe in.