Katy Wilmer, 23, always saw herself as practical rather than academic, and was delighted to learn that in hospitality, studying wasn't all about books.
She enrolled in a Hospitality Business Management degree at Leeds Metropolitan University in 2000 and opted for the USA for her year's practical experience. Her first destination was the Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island, Michigan, where she worked as a waitress at the resort's three restaurants.
"Working across the different styles of restaurants taught me a lot of about food and made me a more versatile person," Wilmer says. "It also made me realise that working in restaurants was what I wanted to do."
Back in the UK, Wilmer took on a waiting job at MA Potters in Leeds during 2002, where she was quickly promoted to part-time supervisor. She excelled in the position and was offered the role of assistant manager on completion of her degree. After graduating she moved to nearby Castleford, where the Ma Potter's Chargrill was in dire straits.
"Moving there was pretty daunting as it was my first real job and there was a lot to do to raise the standards of the restaurant. The staff weren't working as a team and service was slow with the organisation of the kitchen needing improvement," she says.
Her responsibilities included running shifts and team-building, and starting with the basics she gradually increased standards. After three months the branch manager left and Wilmer was promoted again. She ran the restaurant so efficiently that sales grew consistently week on week.
Thirteen months later, in August this year, she was made branch manager at the Ma Potter's Chargrill in Cardiff. There, she encountered similar problems to Castleford in terms of service, and again worked her magic, improving service and organisation in the kitchen.
"The best part of my job is that it changes every day. I meet different people and encounter new challenges all the time," Wilmer says.
Wilmer hopes the future will hold exciting opportunities for her. But for now she sees herself developing within the MA Potters group and growing with the company.
Salary Watch: what restaurant managers should be earning
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