People at heart of hospitality industry

Building a team which is passionate about excellent customer service is vital, writes chef and restaurateur Jonathan MacDonald

 Jonathan MacDonald opened Glasgow restaurant Ox and Finch in May 2014.
Jonathan MacDonald opened Glasgow restaurant Ox and Finch in May 2014.

I have always had a passion for food and took the first steps on my career path in hospitality by landing a Saturday job when I was 15 in the kitchens of Glasgow restaurant, Yes.

It has been a steep, intensive and challenging learning curve, but, ultimately, a thoroughly enjoyable experience that has seen me work across the globe, allowing me the benefit of picking up ideas and sampling great flavours and ingredients along the way; and in May 2014 I opened my first restaurant, Ox and Finch.

One of the main things I’ve learned over the years is the importance of team development to getting customer service just right.

It is much easier to achieve your goals with a team who are passionate, enthusiastic and who understand and share the same goals and aspirations.

Before the restaurant opened, I established my core team through my events company and by staging a series of pop-ups called Street Food Cartel.

This helped us to hit the ground running at Ox and Finch from both a team and operational perspective as we had already spent about 18 months working together and forming a team spirit.

We had shared the same experiences, as well as the same goals and aspirations.

We had to do it this way because you don’t get many second chances in the restaurant business.

People expect great food, great service and value for money from day one.

Culture is also important.

Working in the hospitality industry can be tough.

The hours are long and unsociable and it can be high pressure when you’re cooking for up to 300 people on a Saturday night.

Managers have to do what they can to maintain a high level of morale.

I try to engage staff, get them excited about what we’re doing and ignite their passion to keep them invested in what we’re trying to achieve.

We make sure all our staff dine in our restaurant so that they can experience what the customer experiences.

That helps focus the mind when delivering customer service.

We also offer discounts to staff family and friends, which helps to instil a sense of pride.

Glasgow is doing a fantastic job of raising the bar for the hospitality industry.

Ox and Finch Interior. Photograph by Morag McLean (15)
Photograph: Morag McLean

It is true that we are the friendliest city – as someone who has lived and worked in other cities, it’s noticeable – and with the international spotlight falling upon Glasgow last year during the Commonwealth Games, and the Year of Food and Drink 2015 in full swing, it is helping hospitality businesses maintain that momentum.

It’s important that we build on that success and instil a sense of pride in Glasgow to raise that bar even further.

Initiatives like the Glasgow Welcomes programme are helping to bring out the best the city has to offer.

There are examples of great hospitality and great customer service across the city, and what’s so effective about a programme like Glasgow Welcomes is that it is bringing those businesses together, helping to build a common ethos and mobilise a joint effort.

Most importantly, it places people at the heart of it all.

People are central to success in the hospitality industry and investing in ways to create a sense of passion and pride in your people will be the best thing you ever do as a leader in hospitality.

Jonathan MacDonald is the owner of Glasgow restaurant Ox and Finch.