'We find someone’s passion and help them develop it' - What makes an award-winning team tick?

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Top tier team: Developing passion and practical training key assets of Dylans- The Kings Arms front of house team
Top tier team: Developing passion and practical training key assets of Dylans- The Kings Arms front of house team

Related tags Top 50 gastropubs Staff Recruitment Training Front of house

The owner of Dylans - the Kings Arms, St Albans, Hertfordshire, which bagged the title ‘Front of House Team of the Year’ at the 2022 Top 50 Gastropub Awards, said passion and enthusiasm were what made his team a cut above the rest.

Founded by Sean Hughes and Drew Knight, the pub was praised by judges for its front of house team experience. Each diner interacts with several staff all there to guide the dining experience and deliver upon the promise of a friendly pub atmosphere.

Top 50 judges noted that whether you are looking for a guest beer, eclectically curated wine list, or a non-alcoholic cocktail, you will find a passionate team member on hand to help with the dilemma of what food and drink to order.

“People are really passionate about what they do,” said Hughes. “That comes across with the level of knowledge they've got, and their personal passions on different products we sell.”

For instance, Sam on the front bar was a keen craft beer lover: he had his own Instagram and put on beer tasting evenings, which the pub supported him with as much as they possibly could.

Developing passion 

Another staff member, Roberto, and Hughes were wine lovers, with Roberto having a more global knowledge compared to Hughes’ interest in French wines. That the pair had different opinions on wine worked for the customer, as everybody would have different taste in wine.

“At the pub, we find the passion somebody in the team has got, then we try help them develop it,” Hughes continued. “That shines through to customer experience.”

“We want the whole front of house team to be completely enthused and excited about what they're doing because hospitality is not the easiest of industries to be in, especially over the last few years. People who with us have a massive passion for what they do, and that's what led us to winning this award.”

The front and back teams were small, and worked closely together. For Hughes, it was important to have the same attitude and goals across the teams.

“At the pub, we wanted to [create] somewhere to go that was relaxing, but with the same kind of feel you'd get from eating at a more formal restaurant. We wanted ‘casual fine dining’. We go out in London to the best gastropubs and restaurants to get excited and enthused about products and current trends,” he said.

Exciting and relaxing vibe

All of the chefs were trained to a really high standard, and everything was cooked from scratch, according to Hughes. The front of hose team relied on the kitchen staff to make sure their side of the bargain was kept with the quality of the food, then the kitchen staff relied on the front of house team to ensure the quality service was there.

The teams want the experience to be “relaxing and exciting” for the guest. “From the minute the customer arrives at the pub and sits down, the front and back teams work together to create this whole experience.

“Half the room downstairs is a bar, and half is the restaurant, so you’re not sat in cold silence, and it’s quite a loud and bustling atmosphere that most people love.”

Hughes believed people should come and work at Dylan’s as it was like working for a small family.

“We genuinely do care about people that work for us, and look to accommodate their needs. We look to nurture them, and train them and we want people to leave knowing way more about the products we sell and about different skills they can use throughout the rest of their lives,” he said.

He continued: “There’s nothing wrong working at a chain restaurant, but I hope people would want to come and work at the Kings Arms as we’re much more hands on. We spend time with staff to make sure they learn and be more confident in what they do.”

While winning awards was lovely, Hughes defined success as when every table left happy and said ‘that was fantastic’. “It’s all about the wonderful atmosphere, which is created by the front and back of house teams working together”, said Hughes.

He added: “Continuing to be open is also key. The industry is at a crossroads at the moment, with so many elements of cost increases. We’ve got to adapt and make sure people can still afford to come out, but also really enjoy it when they do, so that they come back.”

Looking to the future, the team were focused on getting in to the Top 50 Gastropubs list. Hughes concluded: “We are also looking to stock new produce, and are hoping for a really good summer. Hopefully, it’ll be nice weather, and people can come to us for drinks and food and look forward to a normal Christmas.”

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