Michelin-starred fine dining
Jespal Soor, 32
What? Restaurant manager
Where? Tamarind restaurant, Mayfair, London
Give us your potted history. I've been in hospitality for 12 years but have been at Tamarind for just two years. I started as assistant manager and then was promoted.
Why did you choose hospitality? I haven't had any formal training. I sort of fell into hospitality by mistake - I was a lost person. My career before that was bar-orientated. I was bar manager at Bam-Bou and looked after the bars at the Cinnamon Club and Daphne's, but I kind of picked up restaurant responsibility along the way.
Tamarind was one of the first Michelin-starred Indian restaurants, so you must be under pressure? Well, I work Monday to Friday, start at 9am and leave once evening service has begun at 8-8.30pm. It's about a 50-hour week. Working fewer hours would be nice, but I don't have the time to take time off, if you know what I mean. I don't go out socialising when I get back from work, although I do spend time with my future wife.
What makes you jump out of bed in the morning? I love the industry. I like going out to eat, so I want to make sure people enjoy coming here as much as I enjoy going out. It's demanding physically, and I like that. I also like the people I work with. We are a good team.
Are you looking for further promotion? This is my first real restaurant manager position and I feel I still have a lot to learn, so I'll be here for a while yet. They are guiding me and they offer me courses - it is just up to me to decide where my weaknesses lie.
How easy would it be for Europeans to work in a restaurant with such specialised cuisine?
There is scope for Europeans to work here. We are always open to it, but not many people apply. I suppose one of the challenges of working in Indian restaurants is that communication can be difficult between people of different backgrounds - but it never really is a problem.
Michelin-starred Moghul cuisine.
94-seat restaurant plus event catering arm.
45 staff front and back of house.
www.tamarindrestaurant.com Tel: 020 7629 3561
Trendy mid-spend Dinah Meister, 34
What? Operations manager
You've had amazing career progression with this company. Absolutely. I joined Wagamama on Streatham Street London] in July 1997 as a front-of-house team member, performing basic duties such as seating and table service. By April 1998 I had progressed up the ranks to assistant general manager, and by July 1999 I was made general manager of the same branch, overseeing everything: recruitment, staff development, financial accountability, such as payroll and profit and loss, quality control and compliance with food hygiene and health and safety legislation.
But when did you get this job? Well, I moved around as a general manager until 2003 when I took joint management of the Citypoint and Old Broad Street restaurants. Then in January of this year I was promoted to operations manager with responsibility for nine restaurants.
Was hospitality always your goal? Not really. I'm from Switzerland and studied cultural anthropology there, but I initially took the job at Wagamama because I wanted to work in the UK. I feel the company has given me tremendous opportunities to progress. They recognised my potential even before I did and kept moving me along.
What next, then? I expect I will have to move from Wagamama at some stage as the next step up is operations director and that vacancy doesn't exist yet. I am open to other industries as I feel the skills I am acquiring now are not limited to catering - they are business skills.
What opportunities do you see for ambitious newcomers to the industry? There seems to be a trend towards a more corporate environment in catering. Although people object to superbrands, they provide opportunities that allow people to progress further. You don't acquire such huge skills working in a company with just one branch.
What makes this job wonderful? I love the independence this job gives me. I organise my own day and am free in how I bring in the results.
38 restaurants throughout the UK - and counting.
Expansion plans mean there is particular scope for managers, sous chefs and head chefs.
Five reasons for working in the restaurant sector
Great team spirit.
Good career prospects (with the right company).
Transferable skills for other industries.
Portable skills if you want to travel.
It's a growing industry.
Workers get short shifts What about a career in a hotel restaurant? Hotel du Vin, for instance, is as renowned for the good food and ambiance in its brasseries as it is for its stylish rooms. And the good news is that parent company Malmaison & Hotel du Vin Hotels has hatched a plan to slash the hours its staff work.
Group director of people development Sean Wheeler says the traditional long hours in the hospitality industry need to be tackled. At the moment the longest hours at the company are notched up by chefs - often 50-55 hours a week - either for overtime or out of necessity.
"We want to get people to do 40-45 hours a week in all departments," says Wheeler.
The company's plan in the next 18 months is to open nine hotels with restaurants and bars under the Malmaison and Hotel du Vin brands in Liverpool, Cambridge, Reading, York, Durham, Cheltenham, Chester, St Andrews and Dublin.
The more attractive hours are part of a number of initiatives to aid staff retention, crucial to Wheeler's aim that 80% of staff at the new hotels should come from within the company.
One in five meals is now eaten out of the home.
There are 55,700 restaurants and take-aways in the UK.
Britons spent £34.5b in 2004 on eating out - 31% of the total amount spent on food and drink.
Beyond the capital Those of you who aren't based in London will be cheered by the fact there has been huge growth in the casual-dining market outside the London and South-east arena.
Sally Wigg, the Berkeley Scott Group's national development manager - hospitality and leisure, says companies such as Strada, Loch Fyne, Tragus and Nando's have been opening new sites and developing new concepts around the UK, specifically in the South-west, West Midlands and North.
"This has created some great management opportunities and buoyancy from a recruitment perspective," says Wigg. "Salaries have been good in these locations, in many cases in line with the London market, which can make internal moves an attractive proposition."