Hearty Hospitality: Making your start in the Restaurant Industry


Getting busy in the heart of the West End!


Today I sit down with Jack Matthews, Duty Manager at a major restaurant chain in the West-End of London and an experienced and committed member of the bar and restaurant industry. We talk the highs and the lows of working in a role that demands a great deal of your time with long hours and often tricky clientele! What are Jacks tips for dealing with the ups and downs and what does he enjoy most about his role?


Jack made the decision to try out life in this industry 8 years ago after leaving a previous role in the charity sector. It’s an area he had always been interested in and he felt it would be something he could excel at and enjoy. It’s an industry that demands commitment and a high proportion of your time as it can require you to work long and sometimes unsociable hours. Yet it’s something that Jack is passionate about so we join him today to find out how he made the transition into this career and his tips and tricks for making it a success.



Q: What is your current role and what are your responsibilities?

I am currently Duty Manager for a major restaurant chain based in Leicester Square handling the entire Management for whichever restaurant I happen to be in charge of at the time, I work on a relief Management basis at present depending on what restaurant in the chain needs the assistance.

My responsibilities include everything that a Management role entails. I will be there for the full day from opening to closing taking care of all staff queries and issues - overseeing up to 30 staff at any one time, handling all deliveries and ensuring we do our utmost to obtain complete customer satisfaction.

Q: What drew you to working in the hospitality industry?

I kind of fell into this industry having always enjoyed being the host even as a young child! I had worked previously in the charity sector for The Rainbow Trust. I enjoy helping people and doing my best to provide them with the best service and cater to their needs and I think this skill has been present throughout all of my job choices and my career path.

Q: How did you get into this industry and get the role you have now?

I was looking for a change in roles and had a keen interest in training as a Butcher, a bit of a change I realise but something I had always been interested in. I was introduced to a family friend who owned local Butchers with a view to getting onboard with that career. However he also owned a restaurant locally in Surrey where I was based at the time. When we met it was decided that I would help out on both fronts.

As things got going the restaurant picked up immensely but the trade at the Butchers wasn’t enough to require me as an extra member of staff so I stayed with the restaurant and things took off from there.

I worked in this role for 3 years learning new skills and taking on more and more responsibility before being headhunted to move to a new startup restaurant then subsequently being put in touch with my current company via a recruiter and making the move to London.



Q: What are the best bits about your job and what makes it all worth it after a long and busy day?

  1. The people - the staff and the customers
  2. The environment - happy and buzzy, it keeps you very busy
  3. Customer satisfaction – it is always rewarding when a customer comes and thanks you personally at the end of a very long day

This job is one of the best and most rewarding jobs - when everything is running smoothly!



Q: What are the challenges that you face in your role?

Dealing with staff issues can be very challenging.

Q: What are the bad/tricky things about the industry and how do you handle them?

The kitchens are very high-pressured environments – it’s the one job I don’t think I could ever do as it’s so stressful. It can be a challenge balancing the needs of your kitchen staff that are under extreme pressure with the needs and expectations of your customers, especially during a very busy service.

It can be a true test of your Management training and skills.



Q: What would you like to do in the future with the experience you have gained so far?

Next I aim to become a General Manager with the ultimate goal to then move onto being an Area Manager overseeing a number of restaurants within the same group.

I also love the idea of coming up with my own concepts and ideas for the environment I am working in so progressing to a more senior point where I can have that kind of input or finding a role or venture that allows for that kind of creativity would be fantastic.

Q: Do you have any funny stories or situations that you have found yourself in (in your working life) that you can share with us?

This job provides daily laughter. Every day there are at least 2-3 things that take you aback, be that odd queries from customers or strange staff behaviour! You're working with people after all and they can be very unpredictable but it always makes the day more enjoyable.

Q: What are your personal tips and tricks for success in your role/industry?

A tip for dealing with tricky customers – empathy and understanding even at the most awkward of times.

You can't take things personally and if you learn this then you can always provide great customer service. Rise above the little things and don’t let them bother you.



Q: What has been the most important thing you have learnt whilst working in the role you are in now?

Anything can happen – and everything does happen! Every day is a surprise so you have to be adaptable.

Q: What have been the biggest surprises?

In my first few weeks in my current role I broke a lot of records for sales, which was a fantastic feeling and a happy achievement in such a new environment.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone thinking of getting into hospitality? What are the biggest things to consider?

This industry requires you to commit to working long hours and it’s not always easy. There’s a lot of hard graft, late nights, working weekends - you have to have a passion for the role and build your life around it.

Q: Are there any major no, no’s – pitfalls or situations you would tell people to avoid?

Be selective as to the type of restaurant you want to work in. Everyone is different so work out what works for you. Fine dining, gastro pub, fast food chains etc. – they all offer a different working environment and will teach you different things. If you are going to spend so much of your time there you have to be focusing on the right area for you and the direction in which you want to go.

I know it might seem like an odd point to make but it’s very important to consider the location as well. If you are going to be working long hours and until late at night you must make sure you are able to commute quickly and safely to and from your job otherwise you are just causing yourself a lot more hassle. Travel is a big issue to consider.

If you're ever thinking of setting up your own restaurant or hospitality venture then you need the right experience - it’s hard work, very expensive and very challenging. Many people think they can take that step and venture into the industry without that knowledge behind them. I’m not saying don’t give it a go but be aware of the immense challenges that it will pose.



Thank you to Jack for giving us this insight and for what I think are some really very useful tips on what to take into consideration if choosing this challenging yet ultimately rewarding career path. Expect long hours and a need for extreme patience but also enjoyment and satisfaction at the end of the day when all has gone to plan and your customers walk away with smiles on their faces. A great look into a key industry - if you're considering taking this path then I'm sure that Jacks tips will come in very useful.

That's all for now and have a happy Tuesday everyone.