Choosing your career path is an important decision. We spoke to graduate member Chloe Coxhill AIH about what attracted her to a career in hospitality, why she enjoys working in contract catering, and how IoH membership is supporting her at this early stage in her career.
Tell us about where you are currently working.
I am currently an Assistant Manager reporting into a Group Manager at a BaxterStorey site. My role focuses on providing our client with the highest standard of catering service to their staff, whilst ensuring we are being creative, exciting, on-trend and financially sustainable. Whilst doing this I assist my Manager with taking care of our staff, providing them with a safe and enjoyable workplace and empowering them to share their ideas and creativity. The site we are at allows us to explore different retail products, menu items and provide our customers with an exciting and memorable experience when they simply ‘pop for lunch’.
You completed the BaxterStorey Graduate scheme, how did you find this experience?
The BaxterStorey Graduate Scheme was a phenomenal experience; the company truly invested in my development and provided me with support every step of the way. The training programmes that BaxterStorey gave us were invaluable and diverse, ranging from Barista Skills and WSET Level 1 to Financial Management and Managing Safety. Whilst completing these courses all Graduates were exposed to sites throughout the business.
My experience began in a student setting where I began understanding the basics of running a site and meeting client’s desires for the location. I was then given the fantastic opportunity to assist in a vast mobilisation. This experience allowed me to realise my passion for developing not only a team of individuals, but also developing a retail setting; watching it flourish into a phenomenal setting from a blank canvas. The combination of site exposure and training courses prepares you for the Management positions that open up to you, all of the experiences were needed to prepare me for my current role. The Learning and Development Team encourage you to take every opportunity that comes in your direction.
What attracted you to a career in hospitality?
From a young age I loved cooking at home and experimenting and gaining that sense of achievement, and I always thought that a career in food would be where I wanted to go. As well as this I loved working as a team, leading individuals and making people smile! Honestly, the opportunity to work with diverse individuals excited me, it provides you with new learning experiences every day; we are all constantly teaching and learning from each other.
Therefore, combining my passion for food and people led me to our fabulous industry – what other industry allows you to work with both?
What do you love most about working in contract catering specifically?
I love the versatility of it – every site is different, every client is different, everyone’s needs are different! We are given opportunities to be as creative as we like to create an exciting, fun and enjoyable experience for the client’s staff. We are able to provide them with an escape from their desk and an opportunity to unwind in our space during their breaks, but also organise and implement exciting hospitality lunches or events when requested.
Another part of the contract-catering world that I was far less aware of when starting in this part of our industry, was the relationship between our suppliers and us as a business. I suppose before I thought this part just happened! Working alongside our fantastic suppliers is thoroughly enjoyable, seeing what new innovative products come to market and providing them with a platform to promote their businesses to both us and our customers, whilst building a relationship that you can take with you wherever in the business you go to.
You clearly are ambitious and want to do well in your career, what do you think it takes to succeed in this industry?
Passion and commitment! Without a doubt! We have to love what we do, to do what we do! If you don’t have the passion it is reflected in the standard of service that you provide to your customers, but also the lack of passion is contagious and your team take this on board also. Being passionate enhances the enjoyment and the excitement of creating experiences and allows us to be our best selves.
We have to be committed to our business and our teams; we will get the best out of our business, our staff and ourselves if we commit to going above and beyond for all. I strongly believe that what you put in, you get back!
How have you remained motivated during the pandemic?
Much of my motivation has come from staying active, getting out in the fresh air, but also focusing on the positives; no matter how small they are.
What’s the best piece of advice you have been given by someone else?
As I have previously mentioned, I strongly believe in what you put in, you get back. This is a piece of advice that has always been there, but has only recently truly resonated with me. Particularly in the climate we are currently in, we have to thrive to be the best version of ourselves and by putting in the hard work and dedication, we will be rewarded in various ways; whether that is the effort we put in to a job hunt, to be rewarded with the role, or the effort we put into a project, to be rewarded with customer loyalty and client satisfaction.
How do you think we can attract more people to see hospitality as a long-term career choice like you did?
Talk more about it! When I was at school, hospitality was not an option; cookery classes were only open to the first couple of years at school and that was it after that. The career options we were driven towards were medicine, environmental, psychology or music. The opportunities for success were only highlighted to me once I had chosen to do Hospitality at College and then further instilled once I was at University. I believe we need to focus more towards the younger individuals and talk more about how individuals can progress and thrive in such a people-focused, creative industry. Show them the success stories and prove to them that it is a phenomenally diverse industry, there is more to it than serving tables.
How has your membership of the Institute of Hospitality helped you through the pandemic?
The biggest help has been the support that members have shown each other across LinkedIn, the sense of community and knowing that we are all in it together. Seeing how people have provided each other with words of support and opportunities really helped me see that although we are all individuals working amongst different businesses, everyone is willing to help; a huge positive in such an uncertain, negative environment.
Another aspect of my membership that helped me was the access to all the webinars, giving me something to watch that would assist my professional development and understanding of how other businesses were rising to the struggles and adaptations that we need to make.
Why do you think IoH membership is important at this early stage of your career?
The membership allows you to build your hospitality network substantially, crucial in the beginning stages of your career! It was at an IoH event in my final year of university that opened me up to the contract-catering world and solidified my decision to join the BaxterStorey Graduate scheme. If I had not attended this event, I believe my hospitality career would’ve taken a completely different path.
Also, the webinar and magazine access allows you to build your professional development by seeing what other businesses are doing to overcome challenges and keeping you on trend in this ever-changing world. The networks of people give you insight into other ways challenges can be overcome. Finally, another importance of the membership is the sense of community that it provides you with, giving you the opportunity to reach out to other like-minded individuals and communicate with others that have been in your position.