Eating on the job: The Ritz

By
Eve O'Sullivan
Added
27 March, 2015

Each week, Cooked speaks to a professional from the food industry to find out what it’s really like to be behind the scenes of the things we all love to eat. This week it's Simon Girling, food and drink manager at The Ritz.

Managing restaurants was something that I decided to do while figuring out what the future would hold, but I ended up discovering my true passion. Before that, I was in the Air Force, working as a professional musician. Although I loved it, I realised that I didn’t love it enough to do it all day everyday, so decided to take a job at the Trust House Forte hotel in York. I trained up with them, then went on to work in various restaurants – some Michelin-starred – before joining The Ritz as restaurant manager 13 years ago. In 2008, I was promoted to food and beverage manager. That means I’m ultimately responsible for all the restaurants, bars and room service in the hotel, from making sure everything runs smoothly and that our high standards are maintained, to product sourcing and organising events.


The Ritz London


Like most parents, my day starts with the school run. I manage to get on a train to London from my home in Surrey at about 8.45am, arriving at the hotel for 9.30am. I then change into my tails and embark on what we call ‘The Daily Ritz’, which is a rundown of the VIP guests, private events and general volume of bookings. At 11am, myself and the managers of the restaurant, Rivoli bar and Palm Court, where we hold afternoon tea, meet for an update. We serve 420 afternoon teas a day, over five services. In addition to that, we serve 250 people in the restaurant at each sitting, and 100 in the bar. That’s more than 1000 covers, before we even account for room service. The pace of the job, and the responsibility, is huge, so it takes a lot organising. After that, I’ll speak to the chef about any menu changes or dish designs, then head back to the office to take up my seat at what I call the fat controller’s desk.


The Ritz London

 


I spend the most time in the restaurant, simply because it’s the most demanding area, with three different menus available at any given time. At 1pm, I head upstairs for the lunch service to check on everything, then disappear again until 5pm, when I change into my dinner suit for the evening sitting. Friday and Saturday nights are the highlights of my week, when we host ‘Live at The Ritz’. A four-course menu is served in the restaurant, with live bands playing, and dancers in between. Most people come here because it’s an occasion – whether that’s an engagement, a birthday or a family celebration – so it feels like an honour to be part of a special moment in people’s lives on a weekly basis. For the same reason, I love The Ritz at Christmas; I haven’t missed it once since I started. It’s just a magical place to be. It means a late lunch for my children – I get home about 6pm on Christmas Day – but it’s worth it to make sure everything runs smoothly.


Simon Girling The Ritz
 


I worry about the little things, mostly, but then I’d say that’s what makes the difference at a hotel like this. The Ritz is an English institution, but hospitality is a profession that’s only recently gain respect in this country. I suppose that’s because the service industry is seen as grass-roots level, but to me, it’s not just a job, it’s a way of life, and something that I’ve worked extremely hard for. This style of hotel isn’t for everyone – I change my clothes from jeans and shirt to suits and waistcoats five times a day to suit the occasion – but I have a sense of place and purpose, and an attachment to everything that happens here.
 

I leave the hotel around 10.30pm, and get into bed at midnight, with about six hour’s sleep before it’s time to start the day all over again. I’m proud to say that I don’t live for the weekend, like a lot of people do. The downside of the job? Not spending much time with my family. I work six days a week, give or take, and up to 15 hours a day. But when I’m at home, it really counts. I work too hard not to make sure I enjoy it.

 
Find out more on The Ritz here.

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