Elaine Higginson, Managing Director, First Choice Coffee
As managing director of the market-leading coffee equipment company in the hospitality industry, Elaine has a wealth of experience both in coffee and the hospitality sector. Starting her career as a junior receptionist at Forte, Elaine was promoted four times in five years, working her way up to guest relations manager for the groups' most luxurious hotels. Elaine was headhunted by First Choice Coffee in 1996, her talents swiftly landing her a seat on the board of this emerging force in the burgeoning coffee market. The launch of the Swiss-manufactured Black&White equipment in 1996 was central to its success and First Choice Coffee has since established the machine as the market-leading bean to cup solution in the UK.
People are at the heart of First Choice Coffee and Elaine has developed a loyal, hard-working team that is totally committed to working with its customers to maximise the commercial benefits of a great coffee offer.
Best thing about working in hospitality: There are exciting, challenging and varied career opportunities and talented people with a genuine passion for the industry.
Favourite coffee: Any well-prepared coffee served at the correct temperature with a smile and a freshly baked croissant.
Three things you look for as a customer when visiting a hospitality site (e.g. a hotel, pub etc): Freshly prepared, high-quality food & beverages in a comfortable environment, combined with warm hospitality.
Aimee Hughes, Key Account Support, First Choice Coffee Aimee started out as a First Choice trainer five years ago, giving her an in-depth knowledge of the products and equipment that the company has to offer. Now working with customers in the West Country to develop beverage solutions that fit their needs, Aimee brings a wealth of experience and a passion for coffee to the Best for Business project. Prior to joining First Choice Coffee Aimee worked at an ice cream parlour - so she knows just what it takes to deliver great customer service.
Best thing about working in hospitality: Meeting new people on a daily basis who are really committed to offering the best they can to their customers. It's fantastic to work with people and companies to help them grow and be a part of their success.
Favourite coffee: - As far as coffee drinks go I like the classics - either an espresso or amerciano.
Three things you look for as a customer when visiting a hospitality site (e.g. a hotel, pub etc): - Good service is really key - you need to feel looked after as a customer. Then it's important that there is a good menu on offer with quality, fresh food and a range of drinks. Finally, there's the general feel of a place - somewhere with a good atmosphere that makes me feel comfortable is always a winner.
Stephen Brecher, Key Account Manager, First Choice Coffee Before joining First Choice a year and a half ago, Stephen was a hospitality manager for Compass overseeing the organisation of over 160 meeting rooms, fine and executive dining and large-scale events. The exceptional organisational and management skills Stephen developed there have been put to good use at First Choice and his understanding of how to deliver quality, however complex the operation, is just as valuable for the Best for Business operators.
Best thing about working in hospitality: - Working with a team who are really passionate about what the do - both in terms of customers and internally at First Choice Coffee.
Favourite coffee: For beans I would always go for our Grand Café 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, it's got a really smooth taste and supports the environment. In terms of drinks I'm most definitely a cappuccino man.
Three things you look for as a customer when visiting a hospitality site (e.g. a hotel, pub etc): First off it's friendly staff, closely followed by cleanliness - this is an essential that no operator can afford to neglect. I also look for somewhere with variety in its food and drink offer - when I'm out with friends I'll want somewhere that can cater for all the different tastes in our group from ardent meat eaters to vegetarians.
Laura Turrell, HR & Training Manager, First Choice Coffee Laura has first hand experience of how HR and training works on a practical operational level, having been a pub manager at JD Wetherspoons for almost 10 years before joining First Choice Coffee. Her role also involved training and regional management of a number of pubs, giving Laura an excellent understanding of how to implement HR so that it benefits a business commercially - something that she will be sharing with the Best for Business operators.
Best thing about working in hospitality: Seeing just how hard companies strive to deliver exceptional service everyday - I think this is something that is unique to the hospitality industry and a strength that we should be really proud of.
Favourite coffee: In the winter it would have to be a latte with cinnamon syrup, it's a great winter warmer. In Summer I'll often pop down to the First Choice Coffee training kitchens and try some of the smoothies that the baristas are making when they are trying out new recipes. It's a great way to get to taste some of the latest flavours - and nothing is more refreshing than a smoothie in summer.
Three things you look for as a customer when visiting a hospitality site (e.g. a hotel, pub etc): Before I even walk through the front door I'll check that the cleanliness is up to scratch - details like clean windows really matter in terms of a good first impression. Then it's important to be greeted by someone really friendly who genuinely seems pleased to see you! Finally, as I have kids I always look for somewhere that provides child friendly activities and has quick service.