Using days out to show how bigger businesses operate and where fresh produce comes from has been eye opening for the team at a forward-thinking pub and restaurant.
Holli Pike has only been in her role as general manager at The Victoria Inn for less than a year, but she’s pretty clear on what she thinks is important to build a great team.
She’s been using “out days”, opportunities to get out of the day-to-day of working in hospitality, to build knowledge and passion so customers keep getting exceptional levels of service.
Leveraging the fact both businesses are part of the same estate, Holli arranged for three of the team to join a larger, more complex hotel and restaurant for six-hour shifts. They came back full of enthusiasm and eager to implement new ways of working at The Victoria Inn.
“We sit down with everyone who is part of an away day afterwards to find out how it went. We want to find out if they enjoyed it, the observations they had and what they plan to do differently in their everyday job.”
Putting learnings into action saw The Victoria Inn trial a new front of house section. Holli isn’t worried if these experiments don’t result in permanent changes, it’s just about giving her team exposure to different ways of working.
Alongside the exposure to how other businesses take orders, communicate with the kitchen and cater to customer needs, Holli and The Victoria Inn have also looked to their supply chain for further learning opportunities.
“We’ve sent people to the farm shops we source produce from. They get to make sausages, pluck chickens and discover exactly where everything on our menu comes from. Lots of the team have absolutely no experience of being on a farm, so it’s really important for them to see where our dishes start from.”
Not afraid to put their money where their mouth is, Holli has targeted front of house service improvement by sending staff to other restaurants as mystery shoppers. They’re asked to write down everything about their experience, gaining exposure to how service should, and should not, be done. “We buy the meal and it gets them thinking about improvements,” she added.
As someone new to management, Holli has enthusiastically taken up the guidance offered by other managers working within the Inn Cornwall group of three pubs. Equally she sees great value in asking for feedback from the team she manages. “They are all brutally honest with me. I don’t hire for that, but their personalities tend to lend itself to it,” she said.
It’s this kind of “family” vibe, as she puts it, that creates an environment where junior members of staff aren’t afraid to pitch ideas, challenge how things are done or take on extra responsibility. “We always create a chance for staff suggestions, having meetings with staff through one-on-ones and in small groups,” she added. “At the end of trial shifts I ask the team they’ve been working with how they got on. This surprises them, but they like being asked and it all helps with staff retention.”