Vicki, Regional Operations Manager, Premier Inn
Getting back into the working world after a while, or embarking on something new later in life can be daunting. Fear, self doubt and questioning whether it’s even possible is holding people back from starting a new chapter in their life. At Whitbread, we want to turn around the negatives and help you change your story – both the stories you tell yourself about lack of confidence, ability or employability, and your future ambitions too. You’re at the best place to #ChangeYourStory, with the UK’s leading hospitality business.
Whitbread has given me lots of different opportunities because there are lots of different opportunities to be had here!
It’s the benefit of owning these brands. It’s certainly one of the reasons I’ve stayed with Whitbread in my career, because it offers such different pathways for anyone at any time.
I started in 1997 with Café Rouge, which Whitbread owned. I was a Trainee Manager and it was the culmination of the calling I had to hospitality. During school I had a part time job in a restaurant and I loved it – loved the buzz of the kitchen, the team, speaking to the guests – I even liked being shouted at by the chefs! It felt like I’d found what I wanted to do with my career.
I embraced the Café Rouge concept; I was 24, loving my job. Meanwhile the building next to the restaurant was being transformed into a Costa – the first one in the Midlands no less! I became the manager there and got the buzz people feel for retail. I stayed for a while, opening more sites in the Bull Ring.
I had my son during that period and working at Costa suited me, we were only open til 9pm at night so I could come back and get hours that fitted around him. It meant I could be a mum.
From Costa I went over to Whitbread Restaurants in 2010. My son and I moved down to Cornwall to manage a Table Table restaurant which is actually a Whitbread Inns now. I adored the place. We had an amazing team and great regulars. That said, after a few short years my son was at school, living his life and it created time for me. I felt I wanted to do more with my career.
There was a secondment as a Regional Operations Manager available and I grabbed it with both hands. It wasn’t on my doorstep, there was a fair amount of travel involved but it gave me a taste of what being a ROM is all about.
My ROM colleagues were so supportive. They gave me guidance and advice. But I wanted it, so I was determined to go out of my way to prove I could run not just one but 17 restaurants.
I felt I’d achieved what I needed to in restaurants. I reached that point where I wanted to try something else. At every restaurant of ours you’ll see the big purple building next door and it interested me. The move across from restaurants to the Premier Inn side of the business was seamless. An opportunity arose to be ROM back in Cornwall and I took it. Gave me another side to Whitbread.
It’s a long career at Whitbread because you’re given the time and space to try different things. From 17 restaurants to 25 hotels - it’s certainly got its own challenges but I enjoy it. We took £50 million in sales here last year. £50million! Sometimes I think ‘how did that happen?!’
I would say that being older doesn’t mean you stop. It means you have different opportunities – utilise your skills, the experience you have had through life and bring it to Premier Inn.
You don’t ever think you can become a ROM – you think you must come in as a ROM because surely that won’t be available to you. They won’t spent all that time training you up or they won’t share talent about. But they do. And it is available to you. You’ve got the skills, maybe not even in hospitality but those life skills will be put to good use here.
Sometimes putting yourself out there opens you up to opportunities. It’s the confidence to say ‘I can do this, I’ve got lots to offer’.
Find a business that backs you – I did.