If you love food and people, and you want to grab responsibility while young, then a career in restaurants is for you. Rosalind Mullen reports
What stands out about the restaurant industry is that it involves team work. Front-of-house managers, chefs and floorstaff alike all get a buzz out of the fact they are part of something bigger than themselves.
Quite how big, probably few really know. To dabble in statistics for a minute, restaurants employ more than 526,000 full-time and part-time staff throughout the UK (Trends & Statistics, 2008, British Hospitality Association). And the industry is growing, partly fuelled by the prospect of the 2012 London Olympics.
In recent years there has been a noticeable increase in the launch of casual dining concepts, but there are also exciting job opportunities to consider in fine-dining, gastro pubs and fast-food chains. While you may start out as a waitress, your hard work will be rewarded with promotion. In large restaurant chains, you'll also find opportunities to progress to HR manager, business manager, finance manager or another operational role.
Who? Adam Arzberger, 27
What? General manager
Where? Jamie's Italian, Oxford
Give us some background I have a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Oxford Brookes, but I was geared towards restaurants because I'm interested in F&B. I did a year's management training with Carluccio's. After my degree I worked for Loch Fyne because I wanted to get a different experience under my belt. And then I was headhunted by Jamie's in 2008.
And it was the launch of Jamie's Italian as a brand? Yes, Oxford was the company's first restaurant - I think I was employee number seven or something. I was just thrown into it and developed from there to deputy general manager and then a year ago to general manager.
What new skills did you learn? I took charge of training, finding out what we should be concentrating on, but really there are too many to mention. It was a learning curve going from working at smallish restaurant sites to one of 230 covers.
What qualities do you look for when you recruit? I guess to do well in this business you need to be passionate about it. Employees who have it stand out. Things can happen quickly in this business if you decide it's what you really want to do, because a lot of workers are transient.
What do you love about your job? The fact that there is great support and investment and that I work with a great bunch of people
What next for you? I'm loving what I'm doing. It's perfect for my life. I am ambitious to progress - I'll probably go into operations at some point - but I can't imagine working anywhere else at the moment. What we're doing is different.
Jamie's Italian in a nutshell
â- There are 17 Jamie's, with eight opening this year and more in 2012
â- Every restaurant employs between 80 and 100 staff, so the planned openings will generate jobs
â- Some 22 departmental managers started as a team member and nine of the 17 general managers were promoted from within
The Michelin-star gazer
Who? Rob Rose, 28
What? Restaurant manager
Where? Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London
Where did your career start? With a small company, FJB Hotels in Dorset. I was a trainee manager at their Haven and Harbour Heights hotels. I worked up to F&B manager, but after four years I realised I had progressed too quickly.
So how did you make sure you had the right skills? I took a step down as a commis waiter at Midsummer House in Cambridge and then worked up to head waiter a year later. I've been at Gordon Ramsay Holdings for the past five years - again, I started as a waiter and then worked up to restaurant manager a year ago.
Did Gordon Ramsay help with your career development? He did. There's a lot of internal promotion here. He had asked me what I wanted to do from a career point of view and I said I wanted to go to New York. He organised for me to spend a year at Gordon Ramsay at the London in 2010. It was a learning curve because they have different work ethics there. Then I came back and started as restaurant manager.
You seem to get a buzz out of your job Well, standards have to be excellent every day. You can never have a bad day or relax. Every service has to be good. I love it because of the pressure. I enjoy the challenge. And at the end of the day you feel proud. It's great to see guests leaving happy and to know that you have helped make their day better.
Give us the lowdown We only work Monday to Friday as we are closed at the weekend. The hours are long, but we only have one team so we are tight-knit and all know our jobs. Every day is fully booked. There are 15 waiters and 14 tables.
What qualities do you need to work in this type of restaurant You need to be self-motivated, energetic and driven, even when you're tired. You also need a passion for good service because if you don't love what you do you just couldn't do it.
Could you imagine working in a more casual restaurant? I believe you can achieve good service in any type of restaurant or pub, but I'm interested in Michelin-starred food and service.
So, where might your career go next? Good question. I need more time doing this.
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in a nutshell â- The London flagship of Gordon Ramsay Holdings
â- Head chef Mark Askew has maintained its three Michelin stars since 2001
â- Sister restaurants include Pétrus, Savoy Grill and Maze
Who? Jamyla Asloudj, 43
What? General manager
Where? Yo! Sushi, Harvey Nichols, London
You've worked at Yo! for nearly 15 years Yes, I arrived in London in 1997 and needed a job. I love sushi and was amazed at this new company, Yo! I visited as a customer and saw they were madly busy so I asked to see the boss. I said: "I've never worked in a restaurant before, but I speak six languages and you're busy - you need someone like me." Within a week I was working as floorstaff in the Selfridge's Yo! Within a month I was team leader, in two months I was supervisor and by three months I was duty manager.
What about your current role? In 2000, I became general manager. I've been at the Harvey Nichols branch since 2008. We have 79 seats and 26 staff and we are open seven days a week - and after the store shuts.
How did you progress up the ladder? I did all my training with Yo! - food costs, gross profits, food labelling - everything to help you understand the business. I still do refresher courses.
But this wasn't how your working life started out? I am French. My father was a chef for the French Army, but I never thought I would go into catering. I did do a stint with the army catering division but studied for a marketing secretary diploma and a marketing insurance diploma. I've also worked in children's holiday camps, and for a taxi reservation service in Paris.
So why stick at restaurants? If I don't feel it for something I usually let it go. With this job I just loved the sense of opportunity. Our CEO Robin Rowland really listens to the team and gets the best from us. Under him the company has grown and is focused on quality not quantity.
There must be some downsides? Well, it's not easy to be a general manager. You have to have a business head but also a heart. You don't get praised every day. And it's not just about you - you are part of a team and you have to work together.
Will you stay at Yo!? Yes. My future is to motivate and develop the team and pass the message on to the new generation behind me. Eventually, I would like to work in head office.
Yo! in a nutshell â- The iconic Japanese sushi brand launched in 1997 in London
â- There are now more than 60 conveyor belt restaurants in the UK, Ireland and Middle East
Who? Khrystyna Hromosyak, 24
Where? Cote Restaurant, Hay's Galleria, London
You're fairly new to restaurants? I joined Cote as a waitress two years ago after I arrived from the Ukraine. I had worked in a restaurant in the USA and I became a big fan of hospitality. I like looking after people.
And you're rising fast I was promoted to supervisor 10 months later. I trained while I was a waitress. It's all about helping and supporting each other. As a supervisor you also have to look at the restaurant in general - get involved in staff training and recruitment. Hay's Galleria is a training base so we need strong staff here to set standards.
What do you love about your job? This is not boring; it's fun. Being with people is interesting. I have friends at work. My husband makes fun of me because it is like a home to me.
But you work hard I work between 40-45 hours a week, say three evenings, three mornings and one double shift. It is varied so I can manage my personal life.
Is there more scope to progress with Cote? I am definitely staying with Cote because if you work hard here you get everything back. I would like to become an assistant general manager one day.
Cote in a nutshell â- Offers simple, value-for-money French cooking
â- There are 22 bistros in the South
â- New openings expected in Reading, Salisbury and Bath
progress your career - hot tips for a cool CV
â- Compare words and phrases on your CV - make sure it's easy to read and to the point
â- Don't be a serial applicant, only apply for jobs you have an interest in or a relevant skills match
â- Always send a cover letter
â- Use formal writing not text language
â- Always check spelling
â- Make sure it's up to date
â- Your CV should not be longer than two pages
Source: Emma Kelleher, managing director, Caterek Recruitment