The recipe for success in a business where no one is older than 35
Opportunities to expand their knowledge and earn promotions drive the young team.
In under a year, 20-year-old Steven has gone from inexperienced new recruit to general manager of a Belfast restaurant.
“I started off in the job with no real experience whatsoever,” he explains. “I didn’t know how to carry three plates, didn’t know what wine was, knew nothing about it.”
Shortly after taking the job Steven abandoned his university course in international hospitality management, tempted by the suggestion that he could learn more on the restaurant floor than he could over several years of study.
Steven works for Six by Nico, a business with several restaurants around the UK. Its young employees are continually learning; the menu changes completely every six weeks and both the kitchen and front of house staff must get to know it inside out.
The servers must also familiarise themselves with the ever-changing wine list. In order for the staff to understand the food and wine pairings, 24-year-old manager Ailsa leads them through tasting sessions.
For many, the sessions can be eye-opening. “A lot of them don’t even know how to open a bottle of wine," admits Ailsa. "You really have to take things to absolute basics."
But investing her time with the team pays off.
“After a few months, some will come up to me and say, 'I know so much about wine now, my dad lets me pick it when we go out for a meal'. At that point you feel like a proud mum because you’ve taught someone who didn’t know what a Falanghina was and it’s now their favourite wine.”
Friends with business benefits
The man keeping faith in employees like Steven and Ailsa is chef and entrepreneur Nico Simeone.
On Nico’s Menu Mission cameras go behind the scenes of his restaurants to follow his keen young team - the oldest of whom is the executive head chef, aged just 34.
Working at the restaurant involves hard graft and long hours, but Nico rewards dedication and talent by promoting from within. And he fosters a culture of camaraderie among his employees which is good for morale as well as being good for business.
“[It’s about] creating that culture, creating those friendships," explains Nico. "Because you’re going to work harder for your friends.”