A finalist in the first Gold Service Scholarship, Daniel Crump, is bringing his style of service to the newly launched Oxford Blue pub in Old Windsor as general manager. He talks to Piers Zangana
Tell us about your new role.
I basically oversee the running of the business. Whether it’s looking after training, marketing, recruitment or payroll – I have a broad role which covers a lot of disciplines. Who knew a young lad running a café out of his mother’s garage would be doing this today? It really is a dream come true.
How did the role come about?
Steven [Ellis] and I used to work together at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. He was the senior sous chef and we always used to talk about opening our own place together. When he bought this place, I jumped at the chance to help him develop it.
We’ve really formed a great relationship over the years, based on mutual respect and trust. I think that is really important between front and back of house.
How would you describe the new place? Is it very different to other restaurants you’ve worked in?
This place is pretty unique. I’d say its fine dining with the comfort of a country-style pub. The food is exceptional and we are very keen to ensure that the service here is as good as anywhere in the UK.
Service is my passion and it feels unbelievable to be able to develop a style of service which taps into the great experiences I’ve had over the years.
What is your style of service?
It sounds a little clichéd, but I genuinely just simply like to look after people. I want people to leave here feeling like they’ve been treated like royalty.
I don’t like stuffy and, given the style of the pub, it’s really important that people feel comfortable. Although the setting is very different and the product is different, it is always all about making the guest happy – that won’t change wherever you work.
So who or what has been
the biggest influence on
your style of service?
I’ve been very fortunate to learn from some real legends of the industry. Whether that’s Jean-Claude Breton at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay or any of the fantastic contacts I have made through the Gold Service Scholarship, I’ve been able to tap into some brilliant minds. This has really helped me develop.
It has been nearly five years since you made the final of the Gold Service Scholarship – how does
it feel now as you look back?
It was such an amazing experience and one I will never forget. Not only was I able to learn so much about myself through the experience, but I also made some incredible friends, including fellow finalists as well as the trustees. They have all been so helpful and they are a real support network, where we can all share best practice and tips.
Do you feel people are beginning to take front of house more seriously as a career?
I think things are improving, but we still have a long way to go. The good thing is that, for those who do see this as a career, they are going to be fast-tracked and will progress up through the ranks if they work for it. These people are also those who can really make their guests happy.
You can quickly see who is in the profession in order to pass the time and those who genuinely want to develop. This can be such a rewarding job and it can really open so many doors.
What sort of person can progress?
To be honest, it’s no different to any other profession. I think you have to work hard, keep learning and keep being interested. I’m trying to instil this into my team, too. If they truly aspire to progress to the next level, I will always give them the opportunity to learn. My team studies extremely hard. I give them an exam on weekly basis, whether it’s about wine service, cheese, tea, coffee or cellar management.
How difficult is it to progress?
The world moves fast and you have to keep proving yourself on a daily basis – that’s the mantra I work towards. It’s not always easy. My granddad, who was a professional footballer and later worked in sales, taught me that the world isn’t always hugs, kisses and high-fives. You have to be prepared to work hard. Nothing falls into your lap.
How do you feel about the Guardian article a few months ago that criticised the industry?
I have to say that, in my experience of working in 13 different pubs and restaurants, I haven’t seen or witnessed the things mentioned in that article. Of course, there are good and bad practices in lots of places, but the article wasn’t a fair representation of what we do in hospitality.
This industry has created some wonderful experiences and lifestyles for so many people. Given the challenges we are likely to continue to see in the labour market, these articles aren’t helpful.