The Magnificent Seven – Banqueting Managers

20th of June, 2017 | Posted in Editor's Picks, People Email Article | Print Article

Banqueting Managers can make or break a hotel’s reputation. This issue we look at some of Scotland’s elite – just some of the men and women who are responsible for 1,000’s of events every year from grand weddings to celebratory parties and much more.

Billy Bradburn

Conference & Banqueting Manager, Double Tree Hilton Glasgow

(Pictured Above)

Age: 55

Number of events a year: 1000 +

Managing: 4 full time and 70 casual staff

Largest event: 1200

How long have you been a banqueting manager? 

9 years at this property but about 25 years in total.

How did you get in to hospitality?

 I had an office job and worked part time in The Theatre Royal for Scottish Opera for their events and decided to make it my full time career. After that I went to Parklands, The Concert Hall, The RAC Club and The Hilton Glasgow. I joined The Thistle in 2008 and now that it has become a Hilton I’ve come full circle.

What’s been your most memorable event? 

There have been so many but I will always remember serving Princess Diana at The RAC Club- she was a lovely person. We had Bill Clinton and Goldie Hawn at The Hilton. They were really good fun and spoke to all the staff.

What’s been the most unusual request you’ve had for an event?

 Unusual requests are a normal thing but at one really posh event a guest asked if he could have egg and chips for his meal so I made sure he got it.

What’s been your proudest moment at work? 

Every year we have over 1000 guests from the hospitality industry for The Benevolent Society Dinner. At the end I sand back with my staff and I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved with such a huge number of people. 

What’s the hardest part of the job?

It can be hard keeping staff motivated and keeping the service fresh for every guest so I’m always interested to hear new ideas from staff particularly what the catering students are learning at college.

Do you have any tips for aspiring banqueting managers? 

Work with your team and work with your guests to make sure you know what they really want. It takes a lot of planning to deliver great events.


PAMELA BAXTER

CONFERENCE AND BANQUETING MANAGER, APEX DUNDEE

Banqueting Managers

Age: 31

Number of events a year: around 1,000

Manages: 12 contract permanent and 30 casual staff

Capacity of largest event: 300 dinner or 400 conference or 700 when we get a marquee for two weeks in October

How long have you been a banqueting manager? 

2 years. In the last 10 years I worked up from supervisor to assistant manager. 

I did a degree in Business Management at St Andrews University but felt I always wanted a job where I could take care of people so started with a catering job at St Andrews University. I worked at Norton House, Edinburgh University and The St Andrews Old Course before the Apex so I have had really varied experience of very different operations.

What’s been your most memorable event? 

It would definitely be The Dundee Courier Business Awards. We normally have a capacity of 300 but this was for 700 so we had to get a marquee. It was months of organising, training and even sourcing equipment so the kitchen could deal with so many more than usual. We used staff from all different departments to help out. The preparation was like studying for an exam.

What’s been the most unusual request you’ve had for an event?

Special requests are just part of the job. I was once asked to make sure there was no tomato sauce at a wedding because the bride had a phobia. We had to say we’d run out so no one knew the real reason.

What’s been your proudest moment at work?

 My proudest moment was becoming conference and banqueting manager at the Apex but I am also very proud of my team.

What’s the hardest part of the job?

You have to sacrifice a lot in this job especially working Christmas and parties but I really love my job.

Do you have any tips for aspiring banqueting managers?

Be yourself and manage the way that suits you. I was told I was too accommodating to be a manager but that has helped me create a good team


NICOLA DOWNIE

CONFERENCE AND BANQUETING MANAGER, MELDRUM HOUSE, OLD MELDRUM

Banqueting Managers

Age: 24

Number of events a year: 250+

Manages: 5 full time and 15 casual staff

Capacity of largest event: 210

How long have you been a banqueting manager? 

7 months. When I  started working at Meldrum House in October 2015 I was taken on as an Assistant Banqueting Manager. It took me 12 months to get to the position I am today, which I absolutely love.

How did you get in to hospitality? 

I studied International Tourism Management at Robert Gordon’s University while on the course I got the opportunity to go out on placement to The Marcliffe in Aberdeen. I then got a position there as Trainee Manager. It was a huge step in my career as I got to go around different departments for so many weeks.It developed me professionally too.

What’s been your most memorable event? 

I would say the 2017 tourism conference. People think conferences can be boring, but they don’t have to be if you have the right breakdown of breaks, interactivity and also food! We even had three mascots at the event. At the tourism conference we also had local suppliers who came to the event to serve and basically showcase their food. It was such a different way of doing things but it was great as it allowed people to walk about the hotel and interact with the suppliers as well as other delegates.

What’s been the most unusual request you’ve had for an event? 

I haven’t had anything too crazy, not yet anyway, 
however there was one time a bridesmaid asked for something…(I’m not too sure if I can say)…let’s just say her request was granted.

What’s been your proudest moment at work? 

My proudest moment would probably be Christmas Day when I was in charge of our very first carvery in our new ballroom. It can be quite daunting when you have new events, but it went so well, and not only was I proud of the flow of things but I was so proud of my team as they worked so well together.  The style of service was slightly different to what they are normally used to.

What’s the hardest part of the job?

The long hours. I do thoroughly enjoy my job but sometimes it can be hard to leave when you know you have guests in the hotel that need to be catered for.

Do you have any tips for aspiring banqueting managers?

Stay organised, be focused, eat properly and get rest!


RYAN PORTER

CONFERENCE AND BANQUETING MANAGER, THE WATERSIDE HOTEL

Banqueting Managers

Age: 24

Number of events: 140

Largest: 240

How long have you been a banqueting manager? 

2 years.

How did you get in to hospitality?

I originally started as a server when I was 16 years old at one of SimpsInns’ other venues, The Gailes Hotel in Irvine, working events at weekends. I then moved to The Waterside shortly after it opened in 2011, which at the time only consisted of the one restaurant. Once here, I progressed through management levels from Supervisor to Trainee Duty Manager, to Duty Manager, to the position I now hold, Conference & Banqueting Manager.

What’s been your most memorable event? 

The one that sticks out most has to be the McDowall Wedding. The groom, Lee, was a primary school teacher from Ayr. We had previously discussed the idea of bringing in his pupils during the speeches to sing for his bride Katy. I suggested that we hide them behind our sliding glass doors and that he give me the nod at the right moment. The doors were pulled back for the class to be unveiled, ready to sing. It was especially memorable for three reasons; the children were fantastic, it went so smoothly, and the video footage was shown on ‘This Morning’!

What’s been the most unusual request you’ve had for an event?

Being asked to be part of the ‘singing waiters’ routine during a wedding was a particular highlight for me. They told me that during the meal service, one of them would fall with a tray 
of cutlery and make a big scene to attract all 
the guests’ attention. I was then to go over and 
shout at this gent and make an even bigger scene before he then broke into song to everyone’s surprise. It couldn’t have gone better!

What’s been your proudest moment at work? 

I don’t think there is ‘one’ particular moment. As a collective, I am extremely proud every time we receive glowing feedback from a married couple. Our wall in the office which is 
covered in ‘Thank You’ cards is tribute to that.

What’s the hardest part of the job?

Delegation. I strive to be involved in every part of the running of an event. However, this isn’t always feasible due to the size of some events. Luckily, I have a fantastic team around me who are there to help in every situation.

Do you have any tips for aspiring banqueting managers?

Try and truly experience every part of banqueting before looking at just the management side of it.


GILLIAN FRASER

CONFERENCE & BANQUETING OPERATIONS MANAGER, HILTON GLAGOW

Banqueting Managers

Age: 25

Events per year: 1000 +

Managing: 15 permanent and 100 casual staff

Largest event: 850

How long have you been a banqueting manager? 

Nearly a year and a half at Hilton Glasgow and a year at Hilton Grosvenor Edinburgh before that.

How did you get in to hospitality?

I started waitressing at Dunfermline Athletics’ home ground East End Park. I then studied International Business and Hospitality Management at Strathclyde University before undertaking the Hilton UK and Ireland Management Development Program. I got to train in every department to gain well rounded experience- you really get to understand how the different departments work.

What’s been your most memorable event? 

When Brian McFadden and Keith Duffy toured Hilton Hotels as Boyzlife it was great because I’m a big fan. It was really strange to be working so closely with them.

What’s been the most unusual request you’ve had for an event?

The bizarre does become normal but I did have a guy come in and ask ‘Where do you want the elephant?’ It was a full size inflatable elephant the client had arranged so a bit out of the ordinary.

What’s been your proudest moment at work? 

It gives me great pride to execute a successful event for the client. We had 850 guests for a charity dinner and looking round the room at the end of a great night with my team I was so proud of them.

What’s the hardest part of the job?

Because of the size and scale of the operation we have a big team of staff of all ages and experience which takes some managing. 

Do you have any tips for aspiring banqueting managers? 

It’s all about organisation and preparation because you have to be ready for surprises. Make a plan and execute it with a smile. You need to have great relationships with clients to get repeat business.


MHAIRI GRIBBEN

CONFERENCE & BANQUETING MANAGER, THE KINGSMILL HOTEL

Banqueting Managers

Age: 27

Number of events a year: around 1000+

Managing: 5 full time employees and
30 casual staff

Largest event: 500

How long have you been a banqueting manager? 

A year?

How did you get in to hospitality?

I started as a breakfast waitress at 17 and I then worked at The Redcliff and Bowford (both in Inverness) before I came to The Kingsmill.  I have been developed here at the Kingsmill over a period of time where I am now Conference and Banqueting Manager

What’s been your most memorable event? 

There have been so many.  We hosted the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards for over 300 guests and there was a great buzz about the whole hotel. It was a very involved event and it all came together really well.

What’s been the most unusual request you’ve had for an event?

We had a party say they weren’t bringing entertainment but could we leave the dance floor uncovered. Then they arrived with skateboards, laundry baskets and balloons and played a human version of Hungry Hippos.

What’s been your proudest moment at work? 

Christmas day was a new experience for me and my team serving small family groups rather than a big event. It was lovely hearing the feedback from our guests about individual staff members and it was a great team effort.

What’s the hardest part of the job?

I love that every event is different but that means you don’t know quite what to expect. Getting regular sleeping patterns can be difficult but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you have any tips for aspiring banqueting managers? 

You get out of the job what you put in to it so take every chance to get new experiences. I’m always happy to get involved with training or new opportunities


BECCI O’MEARA

CONFERENCE & BANQUETING MANAGER, SHERATON GRAND HOTEL AND SPA

Banqueting Managers

Age: 27

Number of events a year: around 2000

Managing: 5 fulltime employees and 30 casual staff

Largest event: 460

How long have you been a banqueting manager? 

I have recently transitioned to the role of Conference & Banqueting Manager, after leading the Events team in the hotel for the last 3 years

How did you get in to hospitality? 

I did my school work experience in a small country house hotel and I fell in love with the fast paced lifestyle and variety of tasks and people that I meet and I haven’t looked back.

What’s been your most memorable event? 

My most memorable event was for an international pharmaceutical company where we hosted more than 200 of their guests in the hotel. The full conference took place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre and the delegates stayed in nearly every hotel in the city. It was a great example of how we can all work together to host these international conferences. The hotel also acted as a host for their welcome buffet which was a Scottish Market for 800 guests.

What’s been the most unusual request you’ve had for an event?

We are always happy to assist with our guests requests when we can – we have had everything from our Edinburgh Suite playing host to a car for a European press launch for 15 days to one of our meeting rooms doubling up as a storage unit for cadavers (which we politely declined).

What’s been your proudest moment at work?

I’m very proud to have been part of the team that received the Award for “Banqueting team of the year 2017.

What’s the hardest part of the job?

Keeping up our 5-star service even when we are at full capacity – we have the largest conference space in the city, and often our staff to work under time constraints to turn our space from a meeting set up theatre style for 500 to a banquet for 460.

Do you have any tips for aspiring banqueting managers? 

Being flexible and adaptable is key. You also have to be a good networker in order to connect with both guests and staff in a professional manner during stressful situations.

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Hotel Magazine Scotland News Team

Hotel Magazine Scotland News Team

Hotel Scotland is a new publication (2017) from the publishers of DRAM - Scotland's leading on-trade magazine. Hotel Scotland is a newsy magazine which covers all aspects of the industry in Scotland. From who's who, to industry issues and refurbishments.

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