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From pastry brush to painting brush, our hospitality team can do it all

25 October 2021
pastry staff re-painting a bollard yellow using brush skills
Our chefs swap a pastry brush for a painting brush to give these bollards a facelift

The past two years have been challenging, not least of all for our hospitality team, who have had to adapt time and time again to changing restrictions. We are incredibly proud of how they have persevered through difficult times, offered up their skills in new areas and continued to serve our community with the biggest smiles and heartfelt kindness. We reached out to our hospitality manager, Kristen Gillespie, to learn what the past 12 months have been like for the team, and how they are feeling as cafes begin to once again open up.

What is the biggest challenge the hospitality team faced during the pandemic?

We missed seeing each other every day and it has been strange to not have the large number of customers and bookings we had in the past. The hospitality team is full of social people - we love having lots of people around all the time! We are excited to open up once again and experience that feeling of rallying together to get through a busy day.

Wearing masks has also been challenging as we like to greet our visitors with a big smile, so we have become very good at smiling with our eyes. ‘Eye-smiles’ are a thing!

How has the team adapted through this period?

Despite everything, we’ve been quite busy as a result of our flexible approach. We have adapted our offerings quite significantly, designing a range of takeaway options for our on-site visitors, including our hugely popular picnic hampers. SMCT has supported the hospitality team through the lockdowns by providing re-deployment opportunities across other areas of the organisation. Because of this, we have been able to continue to engage in meaningful work, even when our cafes were closed or limited to takeaway only. We feel very fortunate.

hospitality team giving thumbs up in the kitchen
Our SMCT hospitality team welcoming the end of lockdown

What kind of projects did the team get involved in?

Through re-deployment, we’ve been able to assist in so many different areas. We’ve had chefs out on the grounds, painting bollards and inspecting pathways; café staff placing end-of-tenure stickers and checking monuments; our functions team clearing rubbish and replacing flower containers. The willingness of our team to get out there and give practically anything a go has been so impressive. Seeing the team decked out in high-vis and work boots and heading out into the grounds has given us all a bit of a laugh at times! The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve managed to tick of a few of those little projects that simply needed to be done and I am so proud of what the team has managed to achieve by moving outside their comfort zone.

We’ve found that working with other departments has also allowed us to gain some real insight into how we operate across the organisation.

pop-up outdoor coffee station ready for Father's Day
The team gets their pop-up outdoor coffee station ready on Father’s Day weekend

What’s something that surprised you?

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of regular customers who have continued to come in to see us. Almost every day we have been comforted by seeing some familiar faces. Their loyal support has been heartwarming. It has also been exciting to see new customers discovering us for the first time as they explored the options within their home radius. Most of all, I’ve been surprised by the amazing new skill sets we’ve discovered amongst our re-deployed crews!

What did the team learn from the year?

We learned that we really are all in this together. We learned the importance and value of our ‘one team’ approach at SMCT: it’s a unique and very special model that has worked so well through these challenging times. Our PRIDE values have truly kicked in as an organisation. We said, ‘we will get through this’- and we did.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the team for hanging in there and ensuring every single customer experience is special, despite the restrictions and changes to our offerings. I’m proud of them for opting in to all the weird and wonderful non-hospitality work, and for getting it all done with those big ‘eye-smiles’. They’ve done an amazing job of looking after each other and our visitors during a very tricky time. I’m very proud and offer my huge thanks to the entire team.