Lucy Leeding, the front of house general manager, of Eurest at Silverstone's Porsche Experience Centre shares how travel had a big influence on her career.
What was your first role in the hospitality industry?
My first job was a catering assistant role in the tearoom at National Trust property Canons Ashby House. I started there at 16 working weekends and I was responsible for operating the tills, making cakes and sandwiches for the front counter and serving customers. I then began working there four days a week while completing a Level 3 in food, beverage and service, which is where my passion for service started.
What initially attracted you to working in hospitality?
I love people and I'm a very social person. - the element of customer care is what really droves me. I enjoy making people smile and seeing people having a good time in my place of work.
How did you decide on your career direction? Were there any influences, or experiences that encouraged you to take the route you have taken?
While travelling in Australia I worked and lived in two motels. My career started to take shape as I progressed from a bar assistant to supervisor and finally restaurant manager. Whilst on my travels I made friends with somebody who has had one of the biggest influences on my career development. Having more experience than I did, she was working in a higher management position in hospitality and drove me to want to be better myself and supported me by teaching me new skills.
Returning from travelling, I signed up to an agency while looking for a full-time position and ended up at the Porsche Experience Centre in Silverstone. Three days later Graham Hart, the general manager at the time, asked me to put myself forward for the junior duty manager position.
Graham has a huge influence on my career, pushing me out of my comfort zone and trusting me to work in difficult situations with complex processes. I wouldn't be where I am today without his support. He believed in me when I didn't believe in myself.
Another role model is Gemma Evans-Hurley, culinary lead for Compass B&I, who has also inspired me. She is very knowledgeable and is always there to guide me and offer her input. Whenever Gemma and I work at events together they are some of the best days at work as I gain so much knowledge and experience from her.
What industry networks have you been part of that have supported you in your career progression?
Compass Group's Women in Food Network has given me the opportunity to meet other women in the wider company who are chefs, managers, catering assistants and everything in between. Women in Food was set up by Gemma to tackle the industry's shortage of female chefs and now stands as a community of over 350 - making it the largest of the 5 Compass employee networks.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced working in hospitality?
Recruitment is an ongoing challenge. When I became general manager in 2021, I had a skeleton team that I have now built up. To do this, I implemented a ‘new starter experience' programme. It
gave new starters a clear onboarding process where employees experience each area of the site, giving them the best possible start with us to ensure a higher chance of retention.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Take every opportunity that comes your way and always look to expand your network and nurture relationships. Nobody knows everything at any point in their career, so creating relationships with other people in the business helps to expand your knowledge. Then, if you are ever in a position where you don't know the answer, someone in your network will.
Asking for help is not a weakness, it's a strength to be able to admit you don't know everything – no one does!
Would you recommend a career in hospitality to your friends and family?
Yes, the friendships and relationships I have made from working in hospitality are invaluable. I would recommend that everyone work in the hospitality industry at some point as it helps people's confidence through interacting with customers and also provides a sense of achievement when you have made a customer's day better or given them a great experience.