A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life… Oonagh Lenaghan, consultant at Hospitality Training Services

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
I am a hospitality training consultant and started my business (which had been a 10-year idea) in October 2016 after the training company I was a director of was sold. I offer bespoke customer service and upselling training to front-of-house teams within hotels, restaurants and cafes, as well as mystery dining visits, set up of quality assurance systems, bespoke company manuals and management mentoring.

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
I have had a career in both the hospitality and training industries for most of my working life. I have worked in all aspects of hospitality but was always most passionate about food and drink service. I am qualified as an FE tutor to deliver L2 and L3 hospitality and catering qualifications and am an internal and external verifier for these qualifications. I also have a background in auditing and quality control. I have worked with some great people and was fortunate to have had the support of Paula Henry (Currans Bar & Seafood Steakhouse) who was a fantastic mentor to me right up until her passing.

WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?
I love meeting new clients and teams and making lasting, positive improvements within hospitality businesses. I really do learn something new from every client. There is no ‘worst’ part to my job although I do not really enjoy cold calling as I appreciate how busy people within the industry can be. It can also be frustrating that some people do not fully understand or appreciate the difference good quality training will make to their team and business.

WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT THE SECTOR?
Definitely the lack of youth coming through to work long term in the industry. It can be difficult to motivate students who are just doing the job while at school or uni but I promote the advantages such as how it will widen their skills set – improving communication, listening skills and using initiative – and remind them that while they are in the role, they must always deliver first-class customer service.

OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY
Like most self-employed people, I don’t have a typical day, but I make sure to have structure and plan ahead. I start my day with a three-mile walk; it helps me to get motivated. I conduct most of my meetings with clients in the mornings, then late afternoon is spend developing training sessions and completing company manuals or feedback reports. Given the nature of the industry, most training sessions take place in the late evenings after food service or early mornings at weekends. I usually have at least one mystery dining visit to conduct per week, but at busy times I could have up to three or four. However, I have a great team of people who assist with these.

PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE
There are too many to choose. One is definitely when I got my first client within two hours of starting my business. Working with various teams that have gone on to win top hospitality awards has also been a proud moment.

BEST THING ABOUT THE SECTOR
It is just so exciting and always evolving and I get to meet some fabulous people that I maintain good friendships with. The hospitality industry in NI is quite close knit and word of mouth is the best promotion a business can get. Working in hospitality definitely improves your confidence, broadens your prospects and improves your common sense.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?
Spending time with family and friends is important to me. I have two young kids to entertain and occupy; they definitely keep me busy. I enjoy keeping fit and love walking. I walk every day, not even the snow stops me. I also enjoy yoga, reading and learning new things. I do something work related every day – the joys of self-employment.

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW
Years ago, I had a disco and karaoke business. It was quite successful, and I was booked out most weekends. I just decided it would be a good way to make money and randomly went out and bought all the gear, taught myself how to operate it and drove round the bars to promote it. I think you have so much confidence when you are younger that failure is never a concern.

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