Career Profile: Debbie Hinckson

By Becky Paskin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cha cha moon, Management

Debbie Hinkson, operations manager, Giraffe
Debbie Hinkson, operations manager, Giraffe
Debbie Hinckson has spent the majority of her career operating airport restaurants for The Restaurant Group. Now, with just two months under her belt as operations manager for the 40-strong casual dining chain Giraffe, she told BigHospitality why her organisational and people skills have got her where she is today.

How I got here:

I originally trained to be a chef – I wanted to be a patissiere, but whilst I was training at college I worked as a Saturday girl at BHS. When I left college I enrolled in a full-time management training programme in the retail catering part and never looked back.

I was there for six years as restaurant manager at a number of stores but when the chain was sold to Philip Green I was made redundant. I managed to get a job at Bentalls as assistant restaurant manager, but became restaurant manager after a year or so.

I then left to join Haagen Dazs in the busy Leicester Square, which was a joint restaurant and takeaway, again on a fast track management scheme. I worked my way through to GM and was there for two years.

I was then poached by The Restaurant Group to operate its seven sites within Heathrow Airport, as they knew I could cope with volume and was hard working.. I stayed with TRG for 15 years, working across Gatwick, Stansted and Glasgow as well, before returning to Heathrow to open Terminal 5.

But after 15 years of airport life I wanted to get back to the High Street and joined Alan Yau’s Cha Cha Moon as operations manager. But when he left the business I did too, and that’s when I found Giraffe.

Life in airports:

It was a challenge and an eye opener in terms of security passes and restrictions, but it was my role to make sure there was structure so the restaurant staff could just concentrate and run a business. It was never boring with TRG at the airports. I was involved in project management on new openings as well, working with designers and menu planning too, so there was never a dull moment.

Working with Alan Yau:

Alan Yau was the main draw for me when I went to Cha Cha Moon. He’s well ahead of his game, aspirational, detailed and passionate in his job role. He took me into a completely different cuisine. The attention to detail is completely different from TRG. You have to work harder to get customers through the door rather than have a captive audience already there for you. There was also an attraction to doing a bit of travel and exploring new ideas. It was nice to get stuck in.

Why I am successful:

I’m very much a people person and I like to create a team of people around me to succeed in whatever they and I do - that’s the first thing I do when I take on a business. I show organisational ability and people motivational skills, as well as good customer-focused front of house skills.

My greatest achievement:

Opening Terminal 5 was phenomenal. To realise that while working with so many people to get it there was a great achievement. It’s difficult because you have to alter your mind set terribly. If you’re a perfectionist it doesn’t always work in an airport because there are so many barriers in your way. But if you’re smart you’ll find a way to deliver business expectations.

My future:

I would like to be operations director for a nice company. Excelling and doing exciting stuff while working with someone with a strong entrepreneurial sprit, who’s good at creating brands and pushing cutting edge ideas forward. I love real challenges like that.

Related topics: People, Restaurants, Career Profile

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