Mike Hicks has been with Outback Steakhouse for five years.
As proprietor/manager of the company's Romford branch, he is responsible for the day-to-day running of the restaurant as well as juggling marketing and sponsorship deals with local sports teams.
However, his first taste of the hospitality industry came almost by chance while travelling in Australia.
After leaving the UK, he initially worked in construction, but fell into bar and restaurant work in order to make more money.
Returning to Britain in 1993, he spent three years as restaurant manager at the flagship TGI Friday's in Haymarket, London, before being promoted to general manager.
In 1997 he moved to the Rainforest Café in London as executive chef and enjoyed having a real hands-on role in a new and busy environment, cooking for up to 10,000 customers a week during peak times.
He moved to Manchester in 1999 as general manager of the Rainforest Café. Being back on the floor again day-to-day proved an eye-opener.
"Sometimes things would get on top of you, and all you'd want was a helicopter to take you away from it all," he says.
In 2000, he saw an advert for opportunities with Outback Steakhouses, and contacted managing director Phil Broad.
A meeting scheduled for half-an-hour stretched to more than four hours, and the rest, as they say, is history.
His decision to become one of the integral figures of the UK Outback team was "done on faith" and has launched him on a real journey. Each Outback restaurant manager is a partner in the business and enters into a five-year agreement, so they have a personal stake in making a success of it.
This year his commitment to the cause was duly rewarded with a company pin commemorating five years' service.
Overall, Hicks feels that his time in the industry has taught him the importance of looking after his staff.
"I'm a big believer in people working for people. If you build a successful team and look after them, you are then able to fully motivate and lead them," he says.
"Plus, the passion you have for your job should eventually rub off on to your team."
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