EMPLOYEE PROFILE: Gemma Richards, Team Member at Pizza Hut

With so many hospitality venues on the Isle of Wight there are a lot of opportunities available, but can the sector offer a long-term, sustainable career? This week we spoke with Gemma Richards, long standing team member at Pizza Hut in Newport.

When did you join the team?
I joined in August 2008. I took a break to pursue a career in banking but it wasn’t for me, and I came back to the hut in 2013 after having my first son. I’ve been here ever since! I progressed to bench shift manager in my first stint with Pizza Hut, but since coming back I’ve been happy as a front of house team member. I would definitely consider stepping up again in the future.

How have you changed since joining?
I’ve changed a great deal! When I started I was a relatively care free 18yr old, sleeping late in the morning and still having time for friends after work. Now I’m a 28yr old mother of two, and one of the oldest members of staff! The hours still suit, but for different reasons like childcare!

Is hospitality challenging?
It’s hard work. Shifts get very, busy, it’s physically demanding and you have to be able to multitask. We work long, unsociable hours at key times which can be tough, especially in the school holidays!

What are the best things about your job?
Pizza Hut always attracts fun, friendly staff! You also meet people from all walks of life. I’ve learnt so much, and heard so many cool stories from chatting to guests. I also like that we are a busy venue, I never get bored!

What does your working day look like?
On a day shift I get in straight from the school run, clean the restaurant and staff areas, then prep for the day. After set up and stock checks we have a daily review, discussing issues from the day before and planning the coming shift. I spend my afternoon serving customers, more cleaning and setting up for the evening shift before clocking off at 4ish. For evenings and split shifts, I’ll be given my section and get straight to serving tables, then if it’s not too hectic, try my best to help with clean down jobs.

What skills do you need to succeed?
Good communication is the biggest asset, talking with customers of all age ranges, nationalities and abilities and clearly communicating with the team. A good memory is also a must! Forgetting a person’s food can ruin their experience with you. Forgetting someone’s dietary requirements could be fatal! When you have the whole restaurant to cover alone or a section of 8+ tables to serve, there’s not much room for error.

What advice do you have for potential front of house staff?
Smile, be friendly and willing. Being able to talk with confidence is key. Be prepared to be flexible, the times where you’re needed most are often the most unsociable, but you get time off when others are stuck in offices, which is brilliant in the summer! Generally, a willingness to dig deep when it gets tough, all with a big smile on your face is the best advice I could give.

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