The co-proprietor of the Greyhound in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, talks to James Stagg about the value of front of house, building a team that feels like a family and opening in the face of a pandemic.
How did you get into the industry?
I applied for a kitchen porter job at the age of 13 in a local hotel and restaurant. My grandad actually accompanied me and gave me a pep talk in the car on the way there.
You've worked at a number of top UK restaurants – what have been the highlights for you over the years?
There have been so many. I've taken so much from every restaurant I've worked in. The real highlight over the years has been seeing the real recognition front of house is starting to get. Being in the final of the Gold Service Scholarship in 2013 was when I personally felt like front of house was starting to get the recognition it deserves.
Getting the job at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay was obviously an incredibly proud moment for me. But, the major highlight so far was opening my own restaurant.
Tell us about the Greyhound.
It's a dream come true. It's a pub and restaurant in Beaconsfield with a real emphasis on comfort, brilliant food and genuine service.
What made you decide to open your own place?
It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember – so much so that, when I was 14, I opened a café in my garage, selling snacks to local kids. It made a killing until the council shut me down.
When I was 14, I opened a café in my garage, selling snacks to local kids. It made a killing until the council shut me down
What is it like to work so closely with your wife?
It's amazing. We give each other confidence, support, reassurance. When it's hard, we are always there to push and help each other.
How do you think front of house is perceived as a profession?
Honestly, I think it has really improved in recent years, but it's not where it needs to be. It's still seen by some as a stopgap, but there are also lots of people who see it as it should be – an inspiring, motivating, beautiful industry.
How has the pandemic changed the way your restaurant operates?
There's no denying that it has made it more difficult. We had only been operating for 14 weeks before the first lockdown – things have changed so much. We were just finding our feet, and the ongoing restrictions have made things tricky but, as I keep saying to the team, whatever we do, as long as we are on the journey together – it will only make us stronger.
What did your time at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay teach you?
It taught me that the things I had obsessed about when it comes to service were what restaurants at that level were looking for and doing. It gave me the confidence to really kick on. The discipline and knowledge I obtained there will stay with me throughout my career.
How positive do you feel about the UK restaurant scene as it emerges from lockdown?
The UK restaurant scene is one of the best in the world but, given all that has happened, I do believe that the whole situation has been messy and it has caused no end of uncertainty for guests, our teams and operators.
The industry is strong and even a global pandemic won't stop it in its tracks. People are having to recreate themselves constantly and this, in the long run, can be seen as a positive.
How would you describe your management style?
I think I'm firm but fair. In our world, we have to be honest with each other to improve. I believe in giving everybody the best possible circumstances to succeed, whether that's through formal training, one-to-one development or otherwise. I think everybody has the potential to succeed, if they really want it.
What are your longer-term plans for the Greyhound?
I want to build a sustainable business where guests enjoy coming back time and time again. I want to build a team of trusted individuals who I would go as far as calling my family, and enjoy many years of working together. We have lots of big plans for the restaurant and I can't wait to keep building on the brilliant start we have made.
What do you think the future of service looks like?
It will be fundamentally the same as it has always been. Guests will always want to feel comfortable, looked after and special. The style may change, the food, the wine, etc, may change, but people will always be people. The goal will never be any different.
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