Four stories from Manchester women in hospitality, from the restaurant floor to the boardroom

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As International Women’s Day approaches this weekend, we took the time to speak with four Manchester women working at all levels of hospitality, from the boardroom to the restaurant floor.

From a restaurant server looking for a job flexible hours so she can spend more time with her family to a company director and co-founder sacrificing her social life for 12-hour days, these are the stories of four local women working inside Manchester city centre’s iconic Corn Exchange building.

Crislaine Priestley, server at Salvi’s Mozzarella Bar

Tell us your story – what do you do and how did you get there?

I moved to the UK from Brazil in 2005, before beginning my career in hospitality in 2006. At the start it was quite difficult because I didn’t speak English, however over the years, I became fluent which gave me the opportunity to grow and develop.

I now work at Salvi’s Mozzarella Bar and am a mother of two boys. Being able to have flexible hours gives me the time I need to be a mother whilst also doing a job that I love.

Do you work with a lot of other women? Is your field typically male dominated?

I work with more women than men, I don’t think the field is male dominated, to me it has always seemed quite equal.

What are three valuable things you learnt along the way?

Put your health first before work.

Prioritise your family, especially if you have young children as you don’t get this time back.

Value a job that gives you the chance to be a mother and a professional.

Were there any women who inspired you to move into the field?

My best friend in Brazil inspired me as a woman in work. She started a small business which has grown into a large business with many branches. Her hard work and dedication whilst being a mother has been hugely inspirational to me.

If you had just one piece of advice to give to other women coming up in your industry,
what would it be?

Be patient, you’ll get there. Don’t take things personally, it’s a stressful industry to be in but it’s so enjoyable and you get to know so many different people.

Would you say that you’ve found Manchester to be a city that supports women and offers equal opportunities?

I would say so yes. I’ve never struggled to find work in Manchester and I have always felt supported by people that I have worked with here.

Liz Street, general manager at Roomzzz Aparthotels

Tell us your story – what do you do and how did you get there?

I am the proud general manager of Roomzzz Corn Exchange and have been since it opened two years ago. I was involved with the opening and the soft launch making this hotel my very own success story.

I left the University of Central Lancashire with a 2:1 in Sport Management. During my time on the course I took a year out to work in a hotel.

After completing my degree, I knew the hospitality industry was the right career for me.

I started off as a breakfast host in Manchester McDonald and then furthered my career as a receptionist within Premier inn.

During my time at Premier in a moved up from receptionist to hotel manager within three years. From Premier Inn I went on to venture into apart-hotels, successfully managing the Princess Street Roomzzz for two years and then moving over to the Corn Exchange.

Do you work with a lot of other women? Is your field typically male dominated?

I work with a mix a male and female hotel managers/operations managers and my team are also very mixed. I feel the hotel industry is very unbiased when it comes to hotel management and their teams.

What are three valuable things you learnt along the way?

Know your worth!

Make strong relationships- you never know who you will end up working with or who you pass to get to the top.

Don’t lose your confidence – there will be setbacks, but I had to remember that I was good at what I do and if your confidence shines people will respect your decisions.

Were there any women who inspired you to move into the field?

I worked with an operations manager when I first started at the McDonald Hotel. She stood tall. She had this autocratic power yet she was approachable and understanding. She stood out from the rest of the manages and I strove to be like her.

If you had just one piece of advice to give to other women coming up in your industry, what would it be?

There are no boundaries, so reach further than the stars. Be remembered for something you did do, not for something you didn’t do and enjoy your journey. Looking back at where I started keeps you me grounded.

Would you say that you’ve found Manchester to be a city that supports women and offers equal opportunities?

Yes. I would say Manchester has a very open approach to equal rights. I think Manchester is a very welcoming and a very nurturing city where we all look out for one another. I think the city’s history retells that story every day. Emmeline Pankhurst has a lot to answer for.

Jayne Castle, general manager at Cosy Club

Tell us your story – what do you do and how did you get there?

I came to Manchester to go to university many years ago, got a job to help me though university in catering and decided this was the career for me. I worked my way up from waitress to now being the general manager at Cosy Club Manchester, it’s been hard work but very rewarding.

Do you work with a lot of other women? Is your field typically male-dominated? 

When I first became a GM there weren’t many women in the same role, however over the past 15 years , I’ve worked with and helped grow a lot of women into catering as a career path and have seen a positive change in acceptance of the role for the right person no matter what the gender is. 

What are three valuable things you learnt along the way? 

To work hard to achieve anything you want to.

To respect everyone and be honest.

To say “thank you”, as working in a team environment it’s very seldom you work alone to achieve your goals.

Were there any women who inspired you to move into the field?

Probably, my mum and both my grandmothers, they all brought me up to believe “anything is possible” and to have a “can do” attitude. 

If you had just one piece of advice to give to other women coming up in your industry, what would it be? 

 Be unique and give your best to anything you want to achieve.

Would you say that you’ve found Manchester to be a city that supports women and offers equal opportunities? 

Manchester is a city of equality and we need to stand proud of what we have achieved and support the future generations. 

Laura Bruce, co-founder and director at Döner Haus

Tell us your story – what do you do and how did you get there?

I am the co-founder of Döner Haus and sister company, Döner Shack.  From what was a small and novel idea, I have helped to grow and transform Döner Haus into a national restaurant brand, with over 70 employees in our Glasgow and Manchester Corn Exchange restaurants. The brand is growing fast and we have two franchisees launching stores later this year with plans to expand the brand nationally and internationally.

This has not come without sacrifice of gruelling 12-hour days, and little time off – running a business means I am constantly dipping in and out of work. Growing a new business means you have to be on the ball 24/7 and sometimes I have great ideas at 2am. It’s about creating a balance and knowing what works for yourself. For me, I can work from early morning to late at night because I love what I do.

As a female in the hospitality industry, I recognise that women can face challenges and I have found that sometimes you need to work that bit harder for recognition. Things haven’t come easy and past business hurdles have driven me to learn from my mistakes and when things got tough, I learned to work harder. Above all else, it’s persistence.

Do you work with a lot of other women? Is your field typically male dominated? 

We always look for the best person for the job. Male or female. My partner and I have been discriminated against in our careers before we started this business and it’s something we drive home with our teams all the time. We pride ourselves in being a fully inclusive, equal opportunities employer.

What are three valuable things you learnt along the way? 

Patience, hard work and above all else persistence. We had to search for opportunities up and down the country rather than wait for something close to home which would have been the easy option. There were many times, where it seemed like we just couldn’t go any further, working 110hr weeks but we stuck it out and that is the biggest reason for our success today.

If you had just one piece of advice to give to other women coming up in your industry, what would it be? 

To trust your instinct. In the early part of my career, I was always very intimidated by people with fancy titles and sharp suits and it turns out most of them should have been taking advice from me than the other way around.

Would you say that you’ve found Manchester to be a city that supports women and offers equal opportunities? 

Yes, I’ve been blown away by how welcoming and inclusive Manchester is as a city. We now have 70 employees and two franchisees on board that will be launching their stores this year.

What do YOU think?

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