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May update: The Mulberry Tree

22 May 2009
May update: The Mulberry Tree

Proprietor Karen Williams oversees the front-of-house operation of the Mulberry Tree together with her daughter and 10 part-time staff. The kitchen is overseen by head chef Alan Irwin, who leads a team of one part-time and two full-time chefs as well as four part-time kitchen porters. Service is left to the customers' discretion and tips are shared among front and back of house.

Williams recruited Irwin through agency Red Star Associates, which she had used for her previous business, but she normally prefers to use local methods of advertising.

"Training takes a huge amount of time and I prefer to employ local people as they tend to stay around longer," she says.
The only staffing issue Williams has had since the Mulberry Tree opened two years ago was when one of the commis chefs suddenly left the day before Valentine's Day.

"He decided he no longer wanted to be a chef and just left, which created an enormous amount of pressure for the kitchen," she explains. A new commis chef was found a week later.

Regarding contracts and employment laws, Williams says legal back-up is imperative.

"I belong to the local Chamber of Commerce, which offers HR support," she says.

Mentor Roy Ackerman says: "At any level of restaurant I believe it is important for the customer both to be recognised and to recognise someone when they arrive - preferably someone in charge. Karen is in an ideal position to do this with both her and her daughter in front of house.

"Karen has a good mix of full- and part-time staff, which allows her flexibility. Despite this having drawbacks with a sudden influx of customers, the advantage is that staff don't stand around at quieter times. Also, using part-time help and splitting the duties helps ensure that someone is always available.

"Perhaps by necessity of location, Karen is using the right attitude to recruit local staff. Also, the more family/friends that can be employed the better, as this helps create a better atmosphere.

"Choosing the local route by signing up with the Chamber of Commerce helps Karen to network with other local businesses. However, she should also look at the Restaurant Association and the Academy of Food and Wine, who could give her additional back-up and help when finances permit."

Hermitage Lane, Boughton Monchelsea, Kent ME17 4DA
01622 749082
www.themulberrytreekent.co.uk


MAY UPDATE

Proprietor Karen Williams has been planning to develop the three acres of land in which the Mulberry Tree is set into a kitchen garden, and things have finally got off the ground.

As the restaurant has a focus on using locally sourced organic produce on its menu, Williams and head chef Alan Irwin want to take things a step further by growing their own produce and planting a fruit tree orchard.

After being granted a smallholding licence, they have brought six pigs from Colebridge Farm, Grafty Green, on to the land, to rear their very own Mulberry Tree pork.

"We have converted a section of our field at the back of the property, where there is a small barn so the pigs will have a wonderful, free-range life," Williams says.

"We also discovered a natural, overgrown pond that we plan to excavate, increase in size and use to rear our own ducks for the restaurant."

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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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