Leanne Mirrey, 25, is the food and beverage training manager at the luxury, 246-bedroom Raffles hotel in Dubai. She tells Janet Harmer why a challenging working environment will keep her overseas for some time
What does your position as food and beverage training manager entail? I provide all training programmes for my food and beverage colleagues across eight restaurants and bars, so they can perform their duties more effectively - and to ensure the utmost experience for our guests and diners.
What are the key challenges when training F&B personnel in Dubai? Training takes time, money and dedication and with so many five-star hotels now open in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, turnover of staff can be high. Finding skilled, enthusiastic and experienced colleagues is challenging.
How did you get your first position abroad? I applied to a few hotels around the world through Caterer Global at my local library and heard back from the Ritz-Carlton in Dubai within a few days. After two interviews, I was flown out four weeks later to start as a Lobby Lounge waitress.
How did you get your current position? I joined Raffles Dubai in August 2009 as an all-day dining supervisor and then transferred to the signature restaurant Fire & Ice, where I was promoted to assistant manager after six months. My enthusiasm, leadership, training techniques and relationship building made me a great candidate for a new position being created to lead the food and beverage training.
How did your earlier career prepare you for working overseas? I joined the industry - at the Carnoustie Golf hotel - while still at school, initially working part-time and later full-time in the restaurant, assisting at banquet events and special VIP functions, pulling pints behind the bar, polishing glasses, cashiering, inventory, scheduling and arranging training for new employees. While this provided me with a good framework, there was a lot I had to learn on arriving in Dubai. I did not realise you needed a three-day orientation and one week's training before you are allowed to take orders for a coffee and piece of cake. But as an enthusiastic 19-year-old, living away from home for the first time, I was ready to take on anything to keep me from getting homesick.
What are the key challenges of working in Dubai? Guests in Dubai are usually well-seasoned travellers and know exactly what they want from the hotel where they are staying - anticipation of guest preferences is key to constantly exceeding their expectations.
What do you like most about working in Dubai? I like the challenges - new opportunities, new competition, interacting with people of all cultures and nationalities and continuously learning something new every day. I love the social life - after work drinks with colleagues, all you can eat, all you can drink brunches on a Friday, concerts on the beach and amazing restaurants and bars to visit with friends.
What do you dislike? The summer heat and humidity.
As a woman, have you come across any difficulties working in an Arab country? I don't believe there are difficulties as such; however in this culture, men are normally the providers and women enjoy the luxuries of staying home and being cared for. As long as you are hard working, disciplined, offer solutions, honest, responsible, persistent, optimistic, focused, open-minded and confident, you will gain the respect and position you deserve.
Where else in the world would you like to work? I have many places around the world I would like to work, including Singapore, which is now seen as one of our biggest competitors when it comes to high standards, outstanding food quality and top of the line service. I am also keen to go to Sydney and Chicago.
Would you return to work in the UK? And if you do, what are the key things you have learnt in Dubai which you would be able to use within the hospitality industry in the UK? I would never say never, but definitely don't plan to be working back in the UK anytime soon. What I would take from Dubai, though, is the high standards of service delivery, and ensuring to always take notice of feedback from guests - whether it be positive, constructive or negative - to continually improve and stay ahead of my competitors.
CV: LEANNE MIRREY
Restaurant supervisor, assistant restaurant manager, then F&B training manager, Raffles Dubai, UAE
â- 2006-2009 Restaurant server, then restaurant captain, Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, UAE
â- 2003-2006 Waitress, then junior restaurant supervisor, Carnoustie Golf hotel, Carnoustie, Scotland