Celebrating International Women’s Day
In support of International Women's Day 2020 (IWD), Black and White Hospitality (BWH) - which has a high number of female members of staff - is keen to praise not only those who already work in the sector but to highlight that a career in hospitality is both rewarding and offers great career prospects.
With Brandie Deignan heading up the franchise arm of the business, the charismatic MD sees IWD as a means to laud the efforts of all women, not only in hospitality but business in general.
She said: "The women at Black and White Hospitality are recognised and highlighted and so are the women in our MPW restaurants, and we use IWD to celebrate the women across the whole business.
"We use the day to 'hear' and showcase all our women at every level. For us, it's about using this special day to provide insights and tools for all our women to support balance in their own lives, have the courage to challenge when needed and encourage everyone to do and be the best they can.
"We confirm the balance of our male-female ratios in our restaurant by participating in all women coffee chats and lunches and top up with group selfies around our MPW chairs across all the restaurants - a bit of fun but also a way to remind us of the tilting gender balance within workplaces all across the country!
"It's also a chance to highlight the impact of women within hospitality and also in people's lives in general, and to celebrate how far hospitality has come (especially back of house and leadership) when it comes to women while showcasing the further opportunities there are or may be, as well as the difference this is making.
"For me, IWD is a day to reboot women's get up and go attitudes everywhere and to rediscover all our worth."
Another board member, Jade Mallia, has been with Black and White from the very beginning and, having just returned from maternity leave, is as passionate and excited as ever in her role as marketing director.
She said: "At BWH I am responsible for creating and implementing the company's marketing and communications strategy, as well as the branding and image for all our different restaurant concepts. I prepare annual marketing plans, create a calendar of campaigns and events and manage the department's budget. I also guide the marketing department to ensure we effectively deliver and execute our campaigns.
"I've been a part of the company's growth and influenced how the business has developed from two restaurant concepts and five restaurants to eight concepts and nearly 50 restaurants.
"It's been a very busy and rewarding six years. No one week or month has been the same and the diversity makes it a very exciting business to be a part of."
In terms of what key challenges women face in 2020 in the work landscape, Jade believes flexibility is key.
She added: "I've spent the majority of my working life believing that women can overcome obstacles and the only barriers we place are those which we put on ourselves. That all changed, when I became a mum. For the first time, I understood the phrase 'as women you can't have it all.'
"Suddenly becoming the best marketer became secondary to being there for my son. A strange scenario given that I'd spent the last 15 years building my career and looking for the next step to develop, to make more money, etc.
"My ambition remains huge and there is absolutely no slip in work ethic. In fact, I think I'm more productive and able to make better decisions now. However, work-life balance is far more important to me than it ever was. Enjoying this starts with me but you also need an employer that provides flexibility. An employer who understands that getting the job done is primary whilst providing you with the flexibility to hit a deadline working around home-life commitments.
"Equality is still a huge barrier. I know far too many stories of promotions not being made because the woman has just got married or she's of childbearing age and the employer is concerned they will lose her to maternity leave or part-time work. This isn't just men making these decisions. Women in senior positions are sat within board rooms making these decisions too.
"We need decision-makers, both men and women, to truly move forward with equality.
"For me, IWD is a day to honour the women working across our business and also to consider the great women who influence and inspire me.
"It's a day to reflect on the work that still remains to progress the opportunities that exist for women. To break down barriers, highlight the challenges and progress the practices that will help women in business."
Elsewhere Heather Thornton, who is director of sales and marketing at the Marco's New York Italian at the Yew Lodge Hotel in Kegworth added: "The hospitality sector offers so many varied career paths, opportunities for progression and responsibility. For example, you could start off as a pot washer earning minimum wage but develop and grow to become a general manager, potentially earning a six-figure salary.
"Someone who reaches this level is, in essence, a business owner who has to be multi-faceted and excel in all areas, from people skills to finance. That's what this industry can offer and why we need more women to get involved.
"Here at Marco's New York Italian, we have a fantastic team, a lot of whom are women who work across a wide range of roles."
With a strong female presence at the Packington Hill-based hotel, Heather is keen to highlight a number of her team.
She added: "Our chef de partie, Gabby Zdebska, is a really popular member of the team who recently won Marco's Team Member of the Year award and was an extremely popular choice. Gabby lives in the village on the same street as the hotel and is engaged to Steve, one of our chefs.
"Everyone across the hotel really respects Gabby, and her welcome platters for our VIP guests are just amazing."
Emma Stockwell, who works as Reservations Executive at the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill in Newcastle, said: "Working in a restaurant is such a fast-paced environment, making every day a great experience. The way restaurants work now gives you so much scope to enhance your monthly pay, with lots of incentives in place.
Her colleague Cassandra Mercer, who works as a Sales and Events Co-ordinator, added: "It's great to see all your hard work that has gone into getting bookings in by seeing our guest have a fantastic time in our restaurant with great food and service. I love it!"
Agnese Berzina, Food & Beverage Host at Wheeler's of St James's in Liverpool, continued: "Being a chef is perceived as being predominantly the realm of the male cook, but that is changing with more and more women taking up the challenge of running a kitchen.
"My view is there are no barriers, no boundaries. There's no doubt that the sector, particularly in the kitchen, can be notorious for its relentless work ethic and long hours. However, where there's a challenge, there's a reward and is this is certainly true here at Wheeler's of St. James Liverpool.
"Since I started at Wheeler's Liverpool, I can say one thing. This is my second family, which is the closest one for me in the UK."
Meanwhile, over at the Steakhouse Bar & Grill in Hinckley, the team is just as enthused, not only about the restaurant but also the hospitality.
Yasmin Burburridge said: "I love working in a restaurant. I get to talk to people and make their experience special which gives great job satisfaction. It's also really flexible and I can do it after college."
Evie Stretton, added: "I enjoy working in hospitality as every day is different and you don't know who is coming through the door each day, which is exciting."
Corral Fenton, who works here as a chef, added: "Being a chef is stressful but a very rewarding job. It's a great atmosphere in the kitchen and it's nice working so closely with a team, both front-of-house and back-of-house. I got into cheffing from starting as a kitchen porter when I was 16 and worked my way up to be a senior chef de partie. I enjoy the ability to be creative and passionate about what I am serving, and when you receive good feedback from a guest it's really rewarding as it boosts your confidence and makes you feel proud of what you have achieved."
And Abby Master, who works as a waiter, added: "I have worked in the hospitality industry for 6 years and I love it. When you make someone's night special it really gives you a sense of pride. It's hard work but so rewarding when at the end of a busy weekend you see customer reviews about you. It's a very active job which I like too as you are constantly on the move so the day goes so quickly."