Springboard Ambassador

Don't wait for National Waiters Day: Get involved now.

“Anyone can cook and anyone can serve, but it takes time to nurture that into a talent.”

These were the words of a very smartly-attired waiter from The Landmark Hotel as he nervously addressed the gathering above a post office in Baker Street at the Continental Chef Supplies showroom for the launch of National Waiters Day. In attendance were a number of guests representing the Hospitality industry, the Springboard UK charity and some of the sponsors who have helped in getting the venture off the ground, not least our own company BaxterStorey since our Chairman Alastair Storey has personally supported the initiative from day one.

The team from The Landmark Hotel who really demonstrated what good looks like in our industry.
The brainchild of Fred Sirieix, General Manager of Galvin at Windows, on the 28th floor of of the Hilton at Park Lane, the event due to take place on Sunday 23rd of June is to raise the profile of all the brilliant Front of House people who work in Hospitality and often get forgotten in our rush to pay homage to the Celebrity Chefs gracing our screens these days. Think about it; without the waiters, the chefs would just oversee buffets!

There are lots of fun events booked all over the country in the lead up to the big day culminating in a hugely entertaining Waiters race around Brunswick Square
Matt Johnson, MD, Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division

I went along in my capacity as a newly-minted Springboard Ambassador to support my colleagues. There was certainly great interest in our BaxterStorey version of Fred's board game 'The Art of Servicewhich we use as training tool.

It would have been great to see a few more attendees at the launch itself, but these are early days and already it has captured the collective imagination of some of the biggest names in the industry. In any case, by live-tweeting the presentations (search for #nationalwaitersday), I was able to involve lots of people who couldn't be there in person. Certainly it generated lots of replies and retweets. The magic of Twitter! 

Well done Fred on a fantastic initiative. You may be at Galvin’s, but you’ve actually galvanised the entire industry around a noble idea: that waiting tables is a profession just as much, if not more, than cooking is.
The Art of Service, the fun role playing board game by Fred Serieix

Please visit the National Waiters Day website for inspiration on putting on an event or to take part in the race itself. You might want to put a special table in your canteen or workplace cafe that offers a 'posh' service. Or if you're more upmarket, then why not invite your senior management - or chefs! - to get involved in serving some of your customers. Any activity that raises the profile of our industry is a step in the right direction.

Nine inspiring quotes from Springboard Ambassadors

Thinking about those two days with my BaxterStorey colleagues while we were training to be Springboard Ambassadors, I can't help but be inspired by some of the things they said during their presentations. Here's a few of my favourites:

Presenting to a group of women returning to the world of work:
"Leaving my son with someone else to care for him while I returned to work was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. But I wanted to do the best for him and I needed to continue my career. Soon after joining BaxterStorey, I began to feel valued for being me and not just because a nappy needed changing."

Presenting to a group of 16 year olds:
"As a young lad walking into a kitchen for the first time, I was feeling very nervous. A Sous Chef came over and introduced himself with a firm handshake. We went on to become lifelong friends and he was best man at my wedding."

Presenting to a group of 16 year olds:
"I joined BaxterStorey as an assistant serving coffees. Seven years later I am a Manager in a prestigious law firm in charge of a team of 20 staff."

Presenting to a group of 16 year olds:
"We'll dress you, we'll feed you, we'll pay you. All we ask is that you turn up with bags of enthusiasm and we'll teach you the rest."

Presenting to a group of women returning to the world of work:
"I know as mothers and ladies you are multi-taskers who will do anything for your children and your families. You make them tea or coffee, you give them a cookie and you clear up after them. If you can do that, then I know you will be excellent at Hospitality."

Presenting to group of unemployed people at a job centre:
"For me, this was the first job I had where I didn't feel like a number. We called our new payroll system 'People Matters' because to us, people matter."

Presenting to a group of women returning to the world of work:
"When I re-visit a unit or site where I've helped out before, I am welcomed back with hugs from the team. It's like being part of a family."

Presenting to a group of 15 year olds at school:
"You might prefer to be revising for that dreaded exam coming up. Or maybe you want to put that off for as long as possible so you came to hear me. Well, if you give me 10 minutes of your time, it just might change your life."

Presenting to a group of undergraduates in their final year of college:
"Why do so many great companies choose BaxterStorey to provide their catering? Because I believe you get out what you put in. And we cook amazing food. Food for intelligence. Food for performance. Food for health and wellbeing. The recipe for our success is very simple. And you can be part of that."

So many great reasons to get into Hospitality. For me, it took only one and it has rewarded me ever since.

Shared Excellency, Springboard Ambassadors

Over the last few months, I have been mulling over how best to use my talent and passion for this industry to somehow 'give something back'. After sounding out some ideas, I was delighted to get an email saying that BaxterStorey was committed to recruiting a number of Springboard Ambassadors from within our business across the UK who could support some initiatives such as National Waiters Day and spread the word about what we do best and the Hospitality sector in general. That seemed like just the ticket for me and promptly signed up for the two days training on offer.
Springboard Ambassadors: (L-R) Scott, Cynthia, Renaud, Joanna, Ewa, Hannah, Kevin, David

Finally, on Tuesday morning we arrived at the gorgeous Blue Fin Building in Southwark. I guess one of the advantages of catering for some of the most prestigious companies in the UK is that you get to visit some stunning venues for your meetings and training. It was great to catch up with my friend (and fellow alumni from the Leadership Academy) Hannah who had travelled down from Nottingham. She's now expecting a baby. Luck girl. Meeting new colleagues within the business is always special and this was no different. Renaud for example was a very suave Frenchman who coaches kid's football on the weekends and David who is a part-time Police Community Support Officer go some way to demonstrating the calibre of professionalism in this roomful of Springboard Ambassadors-in-waiting.

Eventually Eileen, our warm and friendly trainer for the next two days, began the session with two simple questions: Who is our audience? and What effectively 'float's their boat'? If you identify those two aspects at the outset, you will build a very absorbing presentation that will really engage your audience. As Springboard Ambassadors, our target audience groups could be 15 and 16-year-old school children; unemployed people at a job centre; women returning to the world of work or perhaps undergraduates in their final year of college. Each group will be looking for different motivators. For example, friendship and feeling valued will appeal to women returning to work (very much part of our ethos by the way), whereas the potential to meet or look after celebrities might appeal to school leavers. (Some might laugh at that idea, but I still find that to be a huge attraction within this industry and was very honoured to be looking after the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago.)

During that first day, we had to make a five minute presentation to the group with Eileen giving us feedback, encouragement and guidance on areas of improvement. It was amazing to see nine totally different presentations based around just one set of audience/objectives criteria. Then we were given the dreaded homework: our task was to put together a ten minute presentation aimed at a different sector to be delivered to the group on Day Two. I don't like commuting if I can help it, but on this occasion I was happy to work on my slide deck during the two hour bus ride home and and again on the way back in the next morning. By the time I arrived back in that room, I felt I had something reasonably presentable.

One by one, my colleagues got up and made hugely compelling presentations that reminded me time and again of all the good things we do as a company and what our industry has to offer on the whole. Kevin for example described how he had considered being a van driver when he was leaving school, but his father counceled against it with the immortal phrase: You've heard people say; 'He's a great Chef', but who's ever said; 'He's a great van driver!'?

With this in mind, Kevin went on to catering college, but found he preferred the role of Waiter instead of cooking. Working his way up the career ladder, he now looks after the Executive Dining Rooms within the headquarters of a very large bank. And then Kevin said something very powerful.... "When the Chief Executive of the Bank is sitting down to lunch, he needs to present an image of responsibility and care on behalf of the Bank. Therefore the manner in which the lunch is served must reflect that. During those few minutes, the waiter presents the image the bank wants to convey to those guests. Professional and caring." Now that carries a lot of responsibility.

Eventually, we finished up our course and set off back home with aspirations of encouraging lots of new people to join our great sector. My enduring thought for anyone considering a career in Hospitality, is to remember Kevin's story. He chose to be a Waiter who delivers a great guest experience every day instead of just a van driver who simply makes deliveries. That's a journey worth taking.

If you want to get involved in volunteering as a Springboard Ambassador, contact Kerry Mabbley, Head of Ambassadors at Springboard UK on 07916 758775 or email her: kerrym@springboarduk.org.uk.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I haven't checked in with you in a few weeks, so here's a catch up with what's been happening. Every now and then a few things come along like proberbial buses that just tie up your diary putting life on hold for a while. In my case, they have all been very worthy projects or commitments and I will be sharing those with you in the next few posts. 

In any case, here's a few:

  • Applying for a Savoy Educational Trust MBA Scholarship at Cranfield University.
  • Training to be a Springboard Ambassador with Springboard UK on behalf of BaxterStorey.
  • Speaking at Conference Oxford about the benefits of working with a Foodservice Caterer and using Twitter to promote your venue or event.
  • The Professional Speaking Association continues to be a fantastic journey of discovery. The monthly meetings I attend in Reading never cease to amaze me in terms of inspiration and sound business advice from the best Speakers in the country.
  • Social Business: I have been really lucky recently to be invited to a couple of brilliant events that promote the benefits necessity of implementing a deeper level commitment to digital media within your organisation if it is to thrive.

A double rainbow on my walk home from work last week.
My running took a back seat as a result, ony managing a few half-marathons in the last few weeks. However, since I am now signed up to the Ealing Half Marathon in October and hope to get into the Oxford Half Marathon, I don't want to put it off too much. (And that weight-loss goal of 72Kgs still beckons.)

Which just leaves my day job! Well, this continues to be very rewarding with lots of events and intiatives to provide a rich pallette of challenges and rewards. My team have been so fantastic at what they do, that they have allowed me the confidence to put myself way outside my comfort zone with some of my other commitments. (Nothing like the prospect of a five minute presentation at an MBA panel interview to get you hopping out of bed in the morning.)

I guess at this point I really should say a big thank you to my Clients (you know who you are!) for being so generous and supportive. My three years at St. Cross College have been absolutely fantastic so far... and long may it continue. My line managers too have been hugely supportive. It really does make a difference.

Of course none of the above would be possible without the love and support of my wife and our beautiful daughter who turned 12 last week. Even now as I type, the wonderful aroma of a Full English breakfast under the grill is wafting through from the kitchen on this Bank Holiday weekend. A long time ago, it would have been to cure a hangover. Ha! How times have changed....