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Loving life in hospitality – Steven Strachan

18 July 2014

The deputy general manager at the Rutland hotel, Edinburgh, caught the hospitality bug from his family, says Janie Manzoori-Stamford

How did you find your way into the hospitality industry?
My uncle managed the Waterside Bistro in Haddington and, while spending time in that busy, frantic environment, I caught the bug. Caring people outside the industry questioned my sanity due to the reputation of long hours and thankless tasks, but I was determined. I wanted to work hard, earn money and learn my trade.

What are you doing now and how did you get there?
I am deputy general manager of the Rutland hotel in Edinburgh. My career thus far has been working with and for the chef or owners of restaurants, from countryside to city centre, gaining experience in very different environments. My role at the Rutland offered me the chance to develop my skill-set and manage a multi-faceted unit.

Did you know right away this industry was for you?

assistant manager of the Wheatsheaf restaurant with rooms under the tutelage of Alan and Julie Reid - names synonymous with quality in Scotland.

What training opportunities have you been given?
I have a Higher National Certificate in hospitality operations, which gave me the theory behind the skills. On-the-job training was a steep and fast learning curve with regards to responsibility and learning by example.

Have you had a mentor along the way, either formally or informally?
I have served in this industry from boy to man, and there have been numerous people I have learned from - both good and bad!

My three key influencers are Alan and Julie Reid, who welcomed me into hospitality, taught me and allowed me to develop my own style; Andrew Radford, who promoted me to general manager of Blue Bar, Edinburgh; and Martin and Cecile Wishart, who gave me countless opportunities and developed my skills.

What's the most inspiring day you've had in your career?
Serving celebrities is always fun, and one memory particularly stands out. While enjoying his meal at Martin Wishart, Sir Alex Ferguson called me over to tell me "I was running a great ship". Coming from the captain of the great footballing ship ever, I felt that was pretty inspiring.

What do you love most about your job?
Dealing with people: staff, customers and even the late Michael Winner. Every day is different and a challenge. Expectations vary, so meeting all those expectations is hard. The key to dealing with a complaint, be it from a member of staff or a customer, is to listen first, then respond.

What has your hospitality salary allowed you to do?
Travel extensively, dine out occasionally and purchase a few pairs of odd-coloured chinos.

What do you hope to achieve in your career in the future?
My long-term goal is to open my own business, but in the mediumterm, I want to continue to recruit, retain and develop green and keen staff and watch them
become the next generation of managers and entrepreneurs.

Who do you think is the best ambassador for the hospitality industry and why?
Love it or loathe it, it's TripAdvisor. It is every customer, or potential customer's, best friend and ensures transparency of service and standards. It's a great marketing tool, but can be open to interpretation and abuse. For example, a routine cleaning of reviews would ensure more current reflections and ratings.

Do you think TV shows help or hinder when it comes to recruiting new young talent?
They are great for exposure to cooking - MasterChef, for example, demonstrates the stress, pressures and skills needed to produce consistently great food. I would like to see more exposure for the front of house aspect, as there is nothing to promote service. Big Brother in a restaurant would make great viewing. The
downside of the celebrity chef boom is that everyone's a critic.

Would you recommend the industry to others?
Definitely, but one must have great support at home, as hospitality front-end is full-on and demanding of time and energy. It's not a job you can play at - it's 100% or nothing - but it is worth it, because the rewards are enormous.

CV

2008-2011 restaurant manager, Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond
2005-2008 assistant restaurant manager, Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond
2002-2003 manager, Blue Bar café, Edinburgh
2000-2002 assistant manager, Atrium restaurant, Edinburgh
1998-2000 assistant manager, Wheatsheaf restaurant, Borders
1997-1998 general assistant, Wheatsheaf restaurant, Borders

TagsHotels
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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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