How did you get to where you are now?
I started in the restaurant business when I was 16 working in my uncle's restaurant. Then, between the ages of 16 and 18 I went to work for Handpicked Hotels before going onto university in Bournemouth where I studied hospitality management for four years. The highlight of the course was my placement year at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons. They were recruiting for one position, so I felt very fortunate to get picked. Everything else has spiralled from that year and I'm so grateful to have had a chance to work there.
After graduating I went to Chewton Glen and was there for a few months before I decided I wanted to build my career in London. Two years ago I got a job with CH&Co where I started in a law firm as assistant hospitality manager, before being given the opportunity to run the ClubLounge39 here at Canary Wharf a year ago.
What was it like winning the Gold Service Scholarship 2015?
It took a few seconds to sink in when Alastair Storey called my name out. I was overwhelmed and still shell-shocked the day after, but it was a proud moment, because I'd put a lot of work into it. I'd entered the year before and wasn't successful, but I was really determined to give it another go, because I knew winning it would provide a lot of opportunities, especially in networking with leaders in the industry.
Winning means I've got a chance to work with Diego Masciaga from the Waterside Inn. I'll also be doing a state banquet at Buckingham Palace and a placement at a Mandarin Oriental property. It's a great prize because it gives you a chance to develop yourself, see things and bring back what you've learnt to your business and your staff.
What are your top tips for delivering top quality service?
It all starts with the recruitment. People are the most important aspect and you need to employ people who have the same ambition and drive as you. They should want to provide good service in a genuine way. If someone has the correct attitude they can be trained in other areas, so that's the most important thing.
Good service has to come from the heart. I think it's noticeable from a manager and customer perspective if you're not doing that.
You should also treat customers in the same way you would treat your family, especially your grandparents when they come into your home. If your grandma visited you'd make a fuss of her - you'd take her coat, get her seated and ask her what she'd like to drink, so you should do the same with your customers.
And treating everyone the same is the key. In our business we deal with a lot of VIPs, but I've never reacted differently to any of our 86 members or members of our team who are having meetings - everyone is treated the same.
Where does the growth of the casual dining sector leave the future of service?
Casual dining is becoming trendy, but in many cases I think it's a perception that it's more casual as it's just the environment that has changed - the linens have been lost and the approach to customers is slightly more relaxed, it doesn't mean that standards are lower.
At ClubLounge39 we still have the linen tablecloths, but the approach from staff is softer. The uniform is more casual and staff are friendlier than in some of the Michelin-starred restaurants of old. However, the food is still at an amazing level and the service style is still high quality, it's just that here waiters will engage more and talk with guests if they want to. Before, it might have been plate down, explain the dish and then go away.
Here we know all our members by name, so we will always use their name in their welcome, but similarly are careful not to intrude too much if they are having private meetings.
For me, you should have good service wherever you go - it can range from going to a coffee shop where you are served the correct order in a polite way with no water stains on the teaspoon, through to chain restaurants and high-end fine-dining establishments. There is so much competition out there in every area now and everyone demands value for money, so it's important to get the service right. If you can't deliver good service for the most simple things then your business will suffer.
Do you think there is enough happening within the industry to promote careers front-of-house?
National Waiters' Day is a great initiative but there should be more. In hospitality you hear more about celebrity chefs, which is great as it has brought the industry into the spotlight, but there should be more quality TV programmes which show the rise of some of the great maitre d's. Some of them have made it from the bottom up and have worked hard to get to where they are.
I think it would be great to show these great managers and where they've come from, because they'd be great role models for people trying to make that choice. It worked for me, but I had to do a lot of research and work in a lot of places to appreciate it. For people who are not that sure about the direction they want to take, seeing them on the television and social media would help.
The few programmes that have been on have been good, but just haven't reached enough people.