Working in hospitality: Employee case study

James describes his job as a bar assistant for a catering company.

What is your role?

I work at weddings and other events in large houses, marquees, barns, etc. The barman has the instructions for the day, how many people, which wines and when to serve. The format obviously depends on what the customers want.

We turn up about three hours before the guests and set up the bar, usually trestle tables with cloths over them. We put the glasses onto trays, set up the ice buckets and cool the champagne and white wine.

Once that’s all done, I usually have an hour or so before the start so I go and help with food prep in the kitchen.

Usually, it’s a champagne reception first so we open the champagne ready for the waiting staff to hand round. I go round and top up glasses.

During the meal I sometimes serve wine and top up glasses. Other times, the wine is just put on the table. Again it depends what the customer has arranged.

If there’s no wine to serve, I sometimes serve food, usually silver service.

After the meal, I’m behind the bar, serving drinks. We clear the tables and clean up during the evening, while the guests are dancing. Then we can eat.

By the time the last guest has left, all the glasses, cutlery and crockery are packed into boxes, ready for the hire company to collect.

What do you like about your job?

Working in lovely places at lavish weddings. It’s good to be part of making it a great day for the couple and their guests. Sometimes the guests are very generous with tips. It’s a friendly company with a relaxed atmosphere.

What’s not so great about it?

I don’t like silver service. Holding those big dishes with one hand and serving food with the other is not easy. I prefer bar work.

How did you get to where you are?

I started doing this while I was in the sixth form. I got the job through a friend. I didn’t have any experience of this work before. The training was all on the job. When there’s a room full of guests, you have to learn fast!

What do you want to do next?

I’m going off to uni to do something completely different: engineering!

What advice would you give young people thinking of doing your job in the future?

Always have your own corkscrew, so you know you can use it properly. Whatever the guests are like, just smile and be nice to them. They are there to enjoy themselves.

Above all, be discreet: you’ve got to do your job but you have to remember it’s the clients' day.

James, bar assistant