As part of the Think Again campaign, Janie Manzoori-Stamford asks Sally Main, director of business development at Harbour & Jones, why she loves her career in hospitality
How did you find your way into the hospitality industry?
On my first night in Newcastle, where I went to study, I realised I would need a job to swell my student coffers so I got myself a job at Uno's restaurant, despite having zero experience.
I remember very little of my degree course, but my three years at Uno's were great fun, and when I graduated, I cried my heart out at leaving the restaurant.
Back home for summer, my mum had none of it. She cut an advert out of the Evening Standard for waitressing positions at Harrods. Once on board, my superb manager recognised that I had management potential.
She nominated me for the graduate training scheme: a year of working through the production kitchens, purchasing, pot wash, silver service, self-service and cafés, supported by various mentors. I won executive trainee of the year - my first real recognition within the industry - and much to the annoyance of all the trainees from the fashion floors.
Did anyone try to put you off?
Yes. I think there is snobbery in society that the hospitality industry is for those who are unqualified to do anything else. My friends and family were secretly horrified when I started waitressing post-university, but out of all of them, I know I have the biggest job satisfaction by a mile, and am rewarded well for it.
What are you doing now and how did you get there?
Harbour & Jones were looking for someone from outside the world of contract catering, and clearly my retail experience was an advantage. After my first year doing both sales and operations, I moved full time into sales.
My operations background means that I am not your archetypal sales person - I am a realist as I know someone is going to have to do what we have sold. We work so well as a team from the initial ideas and concepts, to the mobilisation day. Meeting a client, months and years after the sales process, who continues to be delighted, is greatly satisfying.
What's the most inspiring/rewarding day you've had in your career?
Among the many - a customer taking time to send me a copy of his book from Brazil to thank me for looking after him; handing out tea and biscuits through the night to the queues signing the Book of Condolence for Princess Diana; one of my staff winning an award I nominated them for which kick-started their own career; opening several new restaurants within Selfridges; and now you can't beat the buzz of gaining a new contract.
What do you love most about your job?
I love that we are encouraged to be ourselves, not part of some corporate animal. Harbour & Jones are like a family, albeit an ever-growing one, and we spend an enormous amount of time together, so getting on is critical. Fun is important, and I love that I have proper "tears running down my face" laugh-out-loud moments with my colleagues. If that ever stops, it will be time to move on.
Do you think TV shows help or hinder when it comes to recruiting new young talent to the industry?
Help. It has made the industry trendy and aspirational, but we needs more focus on good front-of-house role models to encourage new talent. We also need to show people the breadth and depth of careers that can be had across our industry.
Would you recommend the industry to others?
It depends on the person's tenacity. You have to put a lot in, especially in the beginning, work some long hours and take some knocks, but if you can handle it, I would recommend it without a doubt.
● 1997-02 Waitress, management trainee, restaurant manager, Harrods
● 2002-05 Food & beverage manager, catering operations manager, Selfridges
● 2006-present Sales & operations manager, sales director venues, director of business development, Harbour & Jones
Loving Life in Hospitality is a new series of interviews with young hospitality professionals who have started at the bottom and risen through the ranks quickly. It is part of Caterer and Hotelkeeper's Think Again campaign, which aims to show young people, teachers and career advisors the excellent career opportunities that exist in the hospitality sector.
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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