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Our winner Arjeta Arapi came to the UK from her home country of Albania at the age of 17 with her boyfriend. Her father owned and ran a restaurant in Albania, where she had worked while studying at school, so she decided to learn English and enter the hospitality industry in this country.
In 2003 she started working at the Montague on the Gardens. She now manages a team of 33 and seven outlets, ranging from formal dining in the Blue Door bistro to an alfresco barbecue at the beach bar in the summer, as well as the ski lodge in the winter, afternoon tea in the conservatories, the Leopard bar, garden terrace, the Montague cigar terrace and seven private dining rooms.
Arapi oversees the £2.2m budget assigned to food and beverage, which is split among the dining outlets. Her main responsibilities include training team members to industry standards, carrying out appraisals for the whole F&B team at three-month intervals, setting goals and objectives, and monitoring each team member's achievements, which in turn drives revenue in the department.
Her staff retention level is high, with savings in the region of £20,000, as many have been promoted and trained from within. This is also due to her support and appreciation of her staff through a variety of recognition schemes and internal promotion opportunities.
Arapi works closely with the events team and has recently had a hand in running themed events such as a ski lodge/beach bar experience, South African wine tasting, coffee experience, gooseberry juice experience (using produce from the Montague's garden), etc.
She came up with the beach bar idea two years ago as a way of employing the previously under-used outside decking area at the back of the hotel. Once the managers were on board she consulted with her team to come up with the cocktail list, menu and the equipment that needed to be purchased. When it launched in 2016, it was a huge success. Likewise the coffee experience is a pop-up venture that builds on the success of the ski lodge/beach bar to utilise the decking area. Her introduction of a safari afternoon tea took clever advantage of
the full refurbishment of the Leopard bar.
Nominator Liz McGivern, vice-president of HR at the Montague on the Gardens, says: "I was not surprised how worried her parents had been, but her character was such that they would have had little choice. Her determination runs through her like steel and her level of kindness and humanity parallels this - and this
is what has made her so successful in her role.
"She married a man who she followed over to this country and they now have two children. Her eldest, Sonia, came to do work experience in my department last year and she is a real credit to her mum."
In 2016 Arapi was awarded Food and Beverage Manager of the Year for Red Carnation Hotels globally at the annual staff appreciation party, and now this hard-working food and beverage manager, who always goes above the call of duty, has taken home the title of Food and Beverage Manager at the Hotel Cateys 2017.
what the judges said
"I really like her journey, her tenacity and her achievements. She arrived in the UK with nothing, and to be shortlisted and subsequently become the winner is well deserved."
Arjeta Arapi The Montague on the Gardens
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2010 James Clarke Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott hotel
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