Heather, General Manager, Whitbread Inns
When you are ready to change there are lots of factors that can hold you back – from interview fears to the big leap into something new. At the UK’s leading hospitality business, we are proud to have developed an award-winning induction programme that makes it easy for you to #ChangeYourStory and fulfil your career ambitions.
“I didn’t want to be a General Manager.
"I’ve been in hospitality since I was 17 with various restaurant chains, working my way up to Area Chef and I’d seen some good GMs and some truly awful ones. One thing that they all had in common though was they all struggled.
"I’d chosen a career in the kitchen, spending 12 years with a well-known hospitality business where I’d always seen the GMs run ragged. They’d work all hours and miss out on special occasions like family birthdays but not just that, some had missed out on weddings and funerals and I just thought it wasn’t for me. It looked scary.
"That said, I’d reached a point where I wondering where else my career could possibly go. I’d left the business briefly, for a rival who promised the world but delivered little. I was sold the dream – better pay, better hours, development. It didn’t play out that way and I went back to the employer I’d always known.
"Although I was back in an environment I felt comfortable, I just couldn’t shake off the feeling that I’d done all this before. Nothing had changed. The business hadn't moved on.
"My wife’s also in hospitality and worked for Whitbread. She could see I was coming home from work unhappy and told me something had to change. Despite us working in the same industry, she was never grumpy after a shift, so I started to think maybe it’s not me, it’s the company. She spoke of her experience with Whitbread but made the point of saying ‘look, don't take my word for it - you need to find it out for yourself.’
"So I did. I found a Kitchen Manager role on Indeed at the Bridgewater Arms. We’d visited before as a family and I liked its feel of a real local pub at the heart of the community, rather than a brand. The recruitment process was totally reassuring. The Whitbread Recruiter called me and got me really excited for the role but the interview was with a Regional Operations Manager. This threw me, as I’d only ever needed to interview in front of a GMs, and I was a bit intimidated by hierarchy.
"I needn’t have been. Ian, my ROM, made me feel so comfortable to the point when I thought ‘I am who I am’ and a 30 min interview became a 2 hour one as we spoke so easily. It was my first proper in-depth interview. He wanted to know what I was about inside and out of work. He wanted to know about me, my goals and ambitions – and did a great job of telling me about Whitbread.
"I came off the call feeling like I wanted to work for him. I was cautious, because I’d been here before. But this felt different, exciting – so I took the leap.
"The Whitbread difference was there from day one. I had a great induction – 2 weeks off site training with the Area Chef who made me feel so welcome. Ian came to meet me, to check in, see how I was doing – I didn’t see the ROM my whole time at other restaurants I worked in for years. The welcome pack you get, the team at the site, it all just felt warm and heartfelt. I knew there was a place for me here.
"Only a few weeks in to being the KM, there was an opportunity to step up. I’d said when I met Ian, that this would be my last KM role, but when he called me, the conversation wasn’t one I was expecting. He said he rated me, he felt I had the required behaviours needed and wanted me to apply for the vacant GM role.
"I haven’t looked back, since. I love being a GM – don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work – but I’m really seeing something happen here at the Bridgwater Arms. As a team we’ve come on leaps and bounds and I’m so proud.
"When I began as a GM, I felt like a fish out of water. I was so used to the systems at my old company; now I had a whole host of new ones to learn and I had so many questions. But the support here is something else. Fellow GMs in my region are always around for you, it’s amazing. I was nervous about reaching out but you know what? People here want to help. Your mental wellbeing is actually discussed and looked after here and the Diversity & Inclusion networks like GLOW are so helpful in making you feel at home.
"Now I’m a GM, I want to role model that you can be a leader in this industry, work hard and still have a life outside of work! With Whitbread I believe I’m at the business to actually do it. I'm proud to be a GM."