How we got to where we are today:
Hazel (31, operations manager for Signature Pub Group): I worked in a bed and breakfast when I was 15 years old. Two major companies in Edinburgh – Saltire Taverns and Montpeliers – were my first real foot in the door from a supervisory and management point of view.
I helped to open Opel Lounge which really ignited the cocktail bar phenomenon in Edinburgh. I then went to London for a few years and worked in a variety of places there - nightclubs, members’ clubs, restaurants and cocktail bars – I’ve covered most of the hospitality spectrum.
Murray (34, general manager at The Rutland): My father is a hotelier, so I started working for him when I was 12, part-time in a property in Wales. My family then moved to the US for six years, so I spent my teenage years there.
I then came back to Scotland, had a brief flirtation with university and started working full-time at a restaurant in Glasgow. Ever since then, I’ve been involved in the management side of various businesses. I spent 11 years in Glasgow and then I was offered a position at Tigerlily, which is how Hazel and I met – I bumped into her outside the venue and offered her a job.
Hazel: I came here to the Rutland Hotel just over three years ago and Murray joined seven months later. When he moved here, I was still very much operational but I was eventually given a more central role.
Our working relationship:
Hazel: To be honest, it can be tough at times because we’re both very strong-minded people. If we do disagree it is very hard to not let that carry through. I might be a little bit more vocal sometimes about my opinions but we want to stick up for ourselves – it’s a good thing that Murray occasionally backs down!
Murray: The desired end result and the way we want to get to it is usually very similar. Although there may be occasional disagreements about operational procedures, we’re always moving in the same direction.
Our biggest challenge and greatest achievement:
Hazel: I think working here at The Rutland has been both the biggest achallenge and the greatest achievement for us. I’ve worked incredibly hard at a number of places in my life but what we’ve done here has certainly been challenging. But we’ve turned it into something that we’re incredibly proud of.
Murray and I have taken this business to what is now a really viable business. Our director really trusts us and we really believe in what we’re doing here. It was a great attraction for us to be able to put our mark on this place – the restaurant and downstairs bar have both been refurbished since we’ve been at the companyand we’ve had a huge say in how that’s happened.
Murray: The Rutland has always just been seen as a big pub – we’ve changed those perceptions which I think has been a great achievement, but it’s been a lot of really hard work. To see the restaurant take off has been terrific.
What we love about hospitality:
Hazel: For me, it's those challenges. I wouldn’t want to work in a job that was easy. I like the constant development of trends and products – you can’t stand still in this industry, but I love that.
Murray: I definitely agree with that and I also really love service, the front end of everything that we do. I’ve always been a bit food-biased and the satisfaction of being in control of a fast-paced, vibrant service and providing people with great food is fantastic.
What we’ve found difficult:
Hazel: One thing I’m finding hard in Edinburgh is the way that people have become a bit less excited about travelling here and they often stay for less time. It’s much easier for the people of Edinburgh to leave and go elsewhere now as well – people seem to be disappearing, we don’t get that same scenario of someone working their way up the ladder exclusively here in Edinburgh.
Murray: Edinburgh’s quite small though, there comes a point when you might have worked for the main, best companies here and have nowhere else to progress.
Hazel: I don’t completely agree with that – I think there are so many good, smaller operators now, which you didn’t have many years ago. But even they’re finding it hard to recruit.
Murray: We are losing people to Australia, to London. We have a family here, but there are plenty of younger guys that look to move out of Edinburgh for jobs in hospitality.
The other thing that I find very challenging is this 'discount culture' – you struggle to sell much at full price in the current climate and it just seems like a bit of a downward spiral. Of course discounting has a place but ultimately I think it’s damaging for the industry.
Our advice for young entrepreneurs:
Hazel: Do your research and get yourself into a company that invests heavily in training. And find yourself a mentor - someone that you can work underneath to learn what they know. Too many business don’t invest in nurturing people.
Murray: Work hard, don’t be afraid of the hours and don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything that could influence your role.
Murray and Hazel Ward will also be featuring in next month’s ‘Hospitable Cities’ special feature, which includes a focus on the thriving city of Edinburgh.