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How I got here

19 July 2004
How I got here

Ray Weeks, 33, is marketing operations manager for Whitbread-franchised TGI Friday's. He spends half his day working directly on drink development for the 41-strong American-theme chain, which has a drinks directory of more than 600 cocktails.

Weeks's job also involves marketing the chain, and arranging promotional events such as the company's Bar Team Challenge, which he won in 1995 before taking the world title in Florida.

But his current role hasn't come to him without plenty of graft and personal ambition. His first job was with Hidden Hotels at its Brands Hatch Place hotel. He did everything from sweeping squash courts to working in the kitchen and bar as he studied a BTEC management diploma.

In 1989 the company opened a new-build property, Nutfield Priory in Surrey, and Weeks transferred there as assistant spa manager. Although the events side of the spa grew in importance, he became frustrated with the limitations of his role, so he saved up holiday allowance and £1,000 to attend Bas' School of Bartending in Streatham, London. He attended the course by day, working nights at the hotel once his holiday had been used up, and completing his homework after his shift.

In September 1992 he left the hotel and joined Junction 13, an American bar in Wraysbury, Buckinghamshire. Three months later, an advert in Caterer announced that TGI Friday's was opening a new bar in London's West End. The Haymarket outlet was to be a flagship example of the brand.

This worked against Weeks initially, as the company decided it would transfer experienced bartenders in to make sure the launch was a success. Weeks took a job as a bar back - a person who helps out the bartenders by filling up the chillers and clearing tables - on the understanding that when a bartending role came up he'd be first in line. Ten months on, Weeks got his opportunity, gradually working his way up to the busier and better-paid shifts at the bar.

In 1994 he became head bartender. Success in the Bar Team Challenge had brought him to the attention of Carlson Restaurants, which owns the brand, and Weeks went to Brazil to turn around a site that had failed to hit its stride.

In 1997 Weeks started to organise the TGI competition to avoid becoming stale. Keen to retain his services, the company offered him a management role. The food development manager needed someone with expert drinks knowledge to help him, and this led to his current role.

Career highlights

1989 Assistant manager, Nutfield Priory, Hidden Hotels

1992
Joins TGI Friday's as bar back

1997
Marketing operations manager, TGI Friday's

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