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The Caterer

Deborah Harper, manager of the Town Hall pub in Staines, Middlesex

21 July 2005
Deborah Harper, manager of the Town Hall pub in Staines, Middlesex

Deborah joined pub operator Barracuda in April to lend her expertise to the £1.2m transformation of Staines old Town Hall into one of the company's Smith & Jones outlets.

A year of so before the Town Hall's 8 June opening Harper, who has worked for Wizard Inns and was latterly with Wolverhampton & Dudley owned Pathfinder Pubs, was first approached to join the company by a former colleague who was now a Barracuda area manager.

Although initially reluctant, Harper and her husband visited the site and fell in love with it."

Before becoming live-in manager at Staines, Harper gained experience at pubs in London; Birmingham; Poole; Dorset; and Southampton.

However, her career began in hotels. After deciding she wanted to be an air stewardess, a career advisor recommended gaining customer service experience in a hotel environment. After two years of hotel study at college she was offered her first position with Crest Hotels as a junior receptionist in 1990 - and loved it.

A series of promotions and moves followed, but eventually the hours and night-shift work became too much and she wanted a job "where the doors closed".

In 1997 an opportunity to open the Hawley, a gastro-pub in London's Camden, presented itself and Harper has had the opening bug ever since.

At Staines - where she currently works a 65-hour week with a couple of days off to keep on top of the ordering and staff schedules - her largest challenge to date was assembling a group of more than 50 staff and gelling them together for the launch.

Harper advises anyone following in her footsteps to be sure they ask for help when they need it and to follow the advice of your area manager.

But when the work is at last done on opening night, "crack open a bottle of bubbly - or six -, toast the staff and say thanks," she suggests.

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