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Interview with mr. Matthew Classen, Sales & Marketing Manager of Hard Rock Café (HRC) 

Interview with mr. Matthew Classen, Sales & Marketing Manager of Hard Rock Café (HRC)

Paola Aparicio Cavero, International Desk (TOT) with Matthew Classen, Sales & Marketing Manager (HRC) Oslo, Norway.

Short biography

Name: Matthew Classen

From: Eugene, Oregon, United States

Age: 40

Matthew has been living in Europe since 2001. From 2001-2002 he studied for an MBA degree in Utrecht, the Netherlands. From 2002-2006 he lived/worked in Bonn/Cologne, Germany and moved to Oslo in 2007. He started as the Sales & Marketing Manager in Oslo in November of this year. His specialty is building authentic, values-based organizations.


Paola Aparicio Cavero, International Desk (TOT) with Matthew Classen, Sales & Marketing Manager (HRC)

What has HRC done for human rights and/or charity?

CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) has always been a part of HRC’s culture. If one follows the information given on HRC’s corporate website, this list of partners for charitable causes is significant. For Human Rights our most recognizable partner is Amnesty International. But Hard Rock is also a strong supporter of charities that are involved in environmental protection, medical assistance for poor people around the world, helping drug or alcohol addicted people set a path to recovery etc. If you would like to read more information, check out this URL to the HRC corporate website.

As far as our local initiatives, we have a wide variety of fund raisers in which we engage. These include Pinktober in October (for breast cancer) and Imagine (ending child hunger) that we promote all year long. We also sponsor the Emma Cup at Rikshospitalet (raising funds for children’s illnesses) as well as bring Christmas presents every year to the children’s epilepsy center in Oslo (Spesialsykehuset for epilepsi – SSE).


Paola Aparicio Cavero, International Desk (TOT) with Stephen Tarbox, Server (HRC)

What kinds of facilities do we give our customers?

Thank you for asking this question. It gives the marketer in me the chance to illustrate what we can provide! We have two distinct focus areas – B2C and B2B.

For our B2C segment, Hard Rock Cafe delivers what one expects: high quality American cuisine in a super fun and informal environment. This would also include access to live music from local talent in Oslo, a fascinating international staff, pleasurable yet refined bar facilities and a high-energy night club.

For our B2B segment, we are able to host private breakfast, lunch or dinner banquets for 100+ participants for our corporate clientele, complete with all the office technology you would need to run a professional event (e.g projectors, multiple projector screens, high quality sound, dedicated staff and of course, high quality American cuisine etc.). Just this week we hosted a corporate breakfast for 80+ participants who made full use of the office technology that I just mentioned. In fact, the company that facilitated the event has made it an annual event at our place for the last few years. We have other examples of this, but for the sake of brevity….

In addition, if an organization wants to host an event at our location, we don’t stick only to our normal menu. We can easily prepare high quality canapés (aka tapas) for a more refined event.


Paola Aparicio Cavero, International Desk (TOT) with Matthew Classen, Sales & Marketing Manager (HRC), Stephen Tarbox, Server (HRC), Piotr Komór, General Manager (HRC) and Lina Wang, Server (HRC)

Why is HRC so expensive?

I can say with confidence that the quality of HRC’s ingredients is higher than that of a lot of its competition, which is of course reflected in our prices. For example, when you order a burger here, your server will ask how you want it done. More than a few of our esteemed competitors simply re-heat precooked burger patties, which of course delivers a lower quality product. This really is symbolic. Since we take pride in using as many fresh ingredients as possible, the quality improves dramatically, and therefore we do of course need to charge higher prices.

Why did you choose to work for HRC?

Simple. Its values. I’ve worked for enough uninspiring companies to last a lifetime. I had to jump through 5 interviews here before being hired. Each one began with the simple question, “Why do you want to work for Hard Rock”, and each time I responded that I was inspired by the values of the company. Every one of the interviewers responded enthusiastically that that was highly important as the HRC organization takes its values very seriously. This showed me the company meant what it said concerning its values, and I in turn knew this could be a place where I could work some magic.


Paola Aparicio Cavero, International Desk (TOT) with Matthew Classen, Sales & Marketing Manager (HRC), Stephen Tarbox, Server (HRC), Piotr Komór, General Manager (HRC) and Lina Wang, Server (HRC)

What are the values of HRC?

Well, think about what the essence of what rock n’ roll is (freedom of speech and self-expression, authenticity, democracy, inspiration), and that is what HRC represents and stands for.

The official Mission at Hard Rock has been to “do well by doing good” in our Local and Global Communities. Hard Rock is proud to say that its pursuit to Love All, Serve All® has been part of its DNA since day one. The wide range of philanthropic causes Hard Rock supports around the Globe is directly tied to its Mottos – Take Time To Be Kind (Humanitarian), Save The Planet (Environmental) and All Is One® (Entertainment Industry).


Paola Aparicio Cavero, International Desk (TOT) with Matthew Classen, Sales & Marketing Manager (HRC)

Why are you doing this exclusive interview?

This is a perfectly legitimate and fair question that absolutely needs to be asked and answered. Simply stated, I want to serve a purpose greater than myself. It may sound cliché, but I am a firm believer that private enterprises that maintain strong ethical and moral compasses, can affect great and positive influences on communities and entire economies. Of course, there is great cynicism in this ideal, and with good reason. Many organizations profess to embrace more ethical, human-centric values simply because it’s great for PR or seems right due to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) being a buzz term in today’s business world. Other organizations, like Hard Rock, embrace a deeper more meaningful value system because it clearly increases strategic advantages over organizations that are profit-based only. Being in business to only make money is a lifeless model for success. Such an attitude gives carte blanche for the most egregious violations against the common good that anyone can imagine. The financial crisis of 2008 is the perfect example.

So, to answer your question about why I am doing this interview, the answer is that I want people in Oslo to know what Hard Rock Cafe stands for. Everyone already knows that HRC is the place to find high quality American cuisine, live music, a vivacious bar and an engaging night life. We of course want to strengthen this association with each customer interaction! But underneath this, there is a deeper mission that I feel will add to the engagement our customers feel for us. This is the plan I have for Hard Rock in Oslo that I want to communicate, and thus the reason for this interview:

  1. I want to make Hard Rock Cafe Oslo an embassy for goodwill that embraces democratic values and the fundamental right of every human the freedom of self-expression. This is not a hard sell, because the pure essence of rock n’ roll represents these values perfectly. In the last 50 years especially, when walls that formerly separated whole human societies have fallen, rock n’ roll is played from the rubble and formal adversaries realize that their shared love of music unites them as human beings. This is one of the greatest diplomacies I can think of. This IS freedom. This is Hard Rock.

  2. I want to illustrate clearly that for-profit entities that authentically aspire to engage deeper human values as a part of organizational ethos, as well as embrace the value of CSR not as a luxury but a necessity, greatly increase their strategic advantage over organizations that do not. In other words, I want to prove that it pays to play nice.


Hard Rock Café, Oslo; Norway

And how do you plan on reinforcing this message?

Thank you for asking this. One of the special projects we are developing to communicate what we stand for, is a plan to engage embassies and Norwegian MPs (Members of Parliament) in Oslo, by hosting quarterly after-hour events here at Hard Rock. The umbrella theme for each event is the celebration of our shared democratic values. We want embassy staff and MP’s to loosen the collars of their shirts or blouses, relax, forget about sovereign or political posturing for a while and just enjoy their counterparts’ company. The best connections you make are when you take a beer, wine or cocktail with your counterpart(s) in a completely informal environment, relax, and let your most authentic side come out to socialize for a while. Deeper trust is built this way, and if we can provide a forum to increase the goodwill and trust within the sovereign diplomat or MP community in Oslo, we going to do it. It aligns perfectly with our values.

Along the same lines, we will host Anti-Networking events for the business community. The underlying message will be that society need more authentic, ethical and values-driven organizations. This is my baby because, in addition to my belief in the power of ethics/values-based companies to affect positive change for local and global stakeholders WHILE outperforming their competitors, I strongly feel that conventional networking events can be so stiff, intimidating and boring. We want to change that by hosting Anti-Networking events where business people can relax, enjoy some music, enjoy their preferred drink and get to know each other in a more authentic manner. If we can build goodwill within the local business community, we are living out our values.

We are in the midst of developing other segments of our business, but rest assured that all of these segments will celebrate Hard Rock’s values. These new segments will be unveiled in the 2014, so stay tuned!


Hard Rock Café, Oslo; Norway

What does freedom of speech/self-expression mean to you?

Personally, I am gay. This is not something I advertise, but when you ask me what the freedom of speech and self-expression mean to me, it is a deeply personal matter. Growing up, I feared every day for my physical or emotional safety. This story has been told before by countless others throughout time. Of course, this is not exclusively a gay issue. For any human being, or society for that matter, the freedom to speak or express one’s truth is wholly healthy, whether psychologically, emotionally or spiritually. In my own case, living in a free speech/free self-expression society allowed me to finally feel comfortable in my own skin.

Very unfortunately, there are literally 100’s of millions of people around the world who fear to speak their minds or practice their individuality without the fear of political, legal or social retribution. If I can play a role in breaking the chains of human bondage, and further the cause of the freedom of speech and self-expression, especially if it’s through a more enlightened form of commerce, I’m all in.

What do I think about the Oslo Times?

Any organization that stands for the promotion and furthering of peace, democracy and fair play among earthbound brethren has a friend and supporter in me. The subject matter it covers is smart, well researched and international with a local Oslo feel. It’s like I’m checking out Al Jazeera Oslo style!

IMG_8001History (Hard Rock Café)

Some companies have a history that stays firmly in the past. We’re fortunate to have a legacy that permeates our present like a classic song, not with nostalgia, but as the reminder of a timeless foundation and simple beginnings.

Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton were two shaggy-haired Americans who just wanted to find a good American burger while living in London. Their solution? They opened up their own American style diner in 1971 an old Rolls Royce dealership. They called it Hard Rock Cafe.

A fun fact about Hard Rock’s beginnings: Isaac & Peter were only given a 6-month lease when they first opened. Guess the landlord didn’t think it would last.

Hard Rock is also known for having the largest living rock n’ roll “museum”. Our memorabilia collection now has over 74,000 pieces and is growing every day. This entire idea happened almost by accident. Eric Clapton, one of rock’s most incredible and enduring guitar gods, was a regular of the Hard Rock Cafe in London. Eric asked Isaac to hang his guitar over his favorite bar stool to “mark his spot.” A week later, a package arrived with a guitar and a note that stated, “Mine’s as good as his! Love, Pete.” Pete was, in fact, the one and only Pete Townshend, guitarist extraordinaire for The Who. And so our collection began as a good ol’ fashioned one-upmanship battle between two of rock’s greatest guitar players. Not a bad way to begin!

Fast forward more than three decades later. In 2004, the Seminole Tribe opened two Seminole Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos in Florida. With the March 2007 acquisition of the Hard Rock brand, the Seminole Tribe of Florida added the prestige of one of the worlds most respected brands. It’s the perfect marriage of two kindred spirits. Like the Seminoles, Hard Rock’s philosophy has always been based on strong values, including the importance of being authentic and independent and a shared service for preserving our wildlife and protecting the planet.

Today, we have over 175 Hard Rock locations in 55 countries.

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  • The views and opinions published in this interview belong solely to the interviewee do not represent any view or opinion held by The Oslo Times International News Network. The Oslo Times practices, defends and promotes freedom of expression. The published interview is in accordance with Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.