For Priscila, the quality of the team members is the crucial starting point. Luckily there will always be some outstanding applications from candidates with years of experience. However following a hunch on a less obvious applicant is also so important; someone who has a quality which surprises you in some special way. They may not have done much hospitality but demonstrated commitment in other customer facing careers areas, such as sales or even community care work. What really matters is that they love working with people and are energised by that engagement every working day. Recruiting the talent is a never-ending story: “It sometimes feels like a Premier League football team,” says Priscila “there is a limited transfer window every year which you have to make the most of.”
It is also important to recruit a balanced team with complementary skill sets. A dedicated Commis who will not stop until every glass or piece of cutlery is polished perfectly is just as important as a Sommelier who can advise on a suitable wine pairing. For a team to function on the rigorous Three Chimneys seven-days-per-week schedule, the full portfolio of hospitality service skills is required, as well as serious commitment and stamina.
With a great bunch of people in place there is no substitute for intensive training of knowledge and skills. From some key basics such as making a delicious Gin and Tonic or an excellent Flat White. To meticulous knowledge of the Menu, the culinary story the Chef is trying to tell, the profile of all our local suppliers and very precise knowledge on allergens and assisting our guests with their dietary requirements.
Together with her two Assistant Restaurant Managers Petri Pentikäinen and Charlotte Poynton, the team have collectively worked out a precise service schedule from Breakfast to Lunch, from Bar Service and ofcourse the Dinner Service every evening. Then they have consistently maintained it, insisting on a high standard of performance every day. This is the real pressure at The Three Chimneys... not just knowing how to work at the top level but to keep delivering excellence every day. All of our guests arrive with extremely high expectations. We want to live up to these and make sure every guest has a satisfying experience and leaves with good and enduring memories.
This year a lot of work has been done on team bonding activities such as familiarity trips to places like the Talisker Whisky Distillery for a detailed tasting experience. The waiting team received Restaurant movement workshops in the local community hall to teach spatial awareness of one another and how to move around without collision. It has been interesting to watch how members of the team have supported one another, with everyone learning from individual strengths or specialist areas of knowledge. Sometimes the most motivating activity is to focus in on an area where an individual really needs development and then help them build confidence. “The Three Chimneys will always have that academy role of being a place where people can really train up to a very high level, build the foundations of a solid career but also move on to exciting opportunities elsewhere. This is the natural hospitality cycle.”
So what is the next step? In an ideal world, the best thing that can happen is for all of this learning and training just to sink in and be consolidated, so that it becomes entirely automatic. Rather than worrying about getting everything right, the waiters begin to feel entirely free to perform and enjoy their guests, like actors who know every word of their script. They can relax a little, improvise their approach to whoever they are meeting. Hopefully so enjoy the experience and the process that they really look forward to coming to work and spending time with their colleagues as well as their guests.
Pictured below: Priscila with hospitality students from UHI Inverness College.