Our Front of House Team is one of the most visible in the whole hotel carrying out a wide range of tasks many of which the general public do not see. We sat down with two of our longest serving team members Jane and Karen to talk about their typical day and what they love about working at the Petwood. Between them, Jane and Karen have over 30 years’ experience working at the hotel and it's fair to say that they have seen a lot of changes and met a lot of guests over the years.
The day starts very early for the Front of House Team and the first order of the day is greeting guests at the restaurant and seating them for breakfast. On an average morning at breakfast our waiting staff can serve 60 people with anything from tea and toast to a full cooked English breakfast. It’s a balancing act of seating new guests whilst at the same time ensuring that those already seated get their breakfast on time and hot!
Once breakfast has been served, the Front of House Team turn their attention to turning the restaurant around for lunch and dinner. This means stripping all the tables, rearranging them in the correct configuration and laying them up for service. After squeezing in a break, the team then turn their attention to serving lunches and catering for functions and events. Bar meals are incredibly popular at the Petwood and the team will be constantly on the move taking out food orders for guests and bringing empty plates back on their return to the kitchen. All of this has to be done at the right pace and with a smile for guests who expect nothing but perfect service when they come to the hotel either to stay or for a meal with friends. Karen says, “It’s a juggling act of ensuring that everything is where it needs to be behind the scenes whilst making sure the guests what they want in the correct time frame.” The hours are long and the work hard but the Karen and Jane both agree that it’s the guests that make it all worthwhile. “Guests that make your day and smile and laugh with you are the best thing about the job” says Jane “The familiar faces always make your day nicer and it’s lovely to see so many people keep coming back to see us year after year.” Karen agrees. “Seeing the regular guests is lovely and it makes you feel appreciated when they take the time to say hello and have a chat.”
The relationship works both ways. Our regular guests love seeing our long-standing members of staff when they come to visit and the team love seeing regular guests, it’s all part of feeling like the Petwood Family.
The job does have its challenges, especially on big event days like 1940’s weekend. Karen explains; “We know it’s hard to please all of the people all of the time, but we always go out into the hotel with a smile and do our best to make sure that people have the best time possible.” Dealing with guests who are unhappy is also a challenge. “We don’t always get it right.” Says Jane, “But we do make sure that we fix things as best we can when a guest tells us something is wrong. It’s difficult sometimes, but it’s part of the job and we want everyone to feel happy when they leave.”
With so much experience between them it’s not surprising that they have seen many things and changes over the years at the hotel. A hotel with as much history and character as the Petwood is always going to have some tales to tell and we asked Karen and Jane what their favourite ‘Petwood moments’ were. Jane remembers back to 2014 when the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum brought their Lancaster over to the UK for the ‘Two Lancs Tour’. “It was fantastic” said Jane. “We had the Canadian crews and their families staying here and it was lovely to hear them refer to the hotel as home. It’s exactly how we want people to feel when they come here.” Some of Karen’s favourite moments are when the veterans come to visit. “Seeing dear friends like Johnny Johnson, Benny Goodman and John Bell enjoy their time with us is always wonderful and I love hearing what they’ve been up to since we last saw them. They are an amazing generation.” The passion with which both Karen and Jane speak about guests is testament to how much they enjoy meeting them during the course of their day.
As they both stand in the kitchen wrapping cutlery and polishing plates for lunchtime service, it’s clear from talking to Karen and Jane how much they love the Petwood. Both have given so many years loyal service to the hotel, so we asked them what it was that they think keeps guests coming back time after time. “That’s easy” said Jane. “It’s the staff. They love seeing the same familiar faces when they visit, and they know that we know what they want when they come here. It’s that feeling of family.” Karen agrees. “The familiar faces and feeling of family at the Petwood make it what it is. Without it, we would be just another hotel.”
With that we leave Karen and Jane to their preparations. Today we have a number of guests booked in for Christmas Lunch as well as a function in the hotel. Preparation is also needed for the ‘walk-ins’ who may arrive for lunch as well as Afternoon Tea later in the day. It’s a non-stop whirl of activity especially at this time of year and it certainly keeps everyone busy.