Port O’Call considers service to be a top priority. The restaurant bases decisions on a business clientele that expects the up-market value for which it is prepared to pay.
Consequently, when Port O’Call needed to replace staff, it perused the Bermuda College and National Training Board landscape and invited locals with a service-minded attitude to take up trainee positions at its Front Street venue. Six between the ages of 19 and 22 accepted the offer.
Jamie Lovell, marketing director and event planner, was charged with ensuring the success of what had been an underutilized programme.
“As staff was leaving, instead of looking for experienced staff in those positions, we decided on training locals to become senior in those positions,” Mr. Lovell said.
The training involves building knowledge and flexibility so that trainees can work in multiple areas of service at Port O’Call and its associated restaurants, Bistro J, Pearl and Ten. This is accomplished, according to Mr. Lovell, through preparation, interaction with colleagues, and customer service and situation-oriented role play.
One problem-solving situation might involve what to do when a glass is accidently broken when setting a table.
Mr. Lovell said the natural inclination is to replace the broken glass, but an experienced staff member would just as naturally change the tablecloth and reset the table.
Where appropriate to the position, the interns are given freedom to express themselves in new dish creation, and to suggest different floor plans and table set-ups. They also receive wine and spirit training from Port O’Call’s in-house sommelier.
“Business clientele, who are at a faster pace, look for high standards,” Mr. Lovell said. “Our servers must be able to satisfy those clients in all aspects of hospitality.”
The all-Bermudian trainees work a split shift between the hours of 5am to 3pm for back of house and 10am to 10pm for front of house. Their percentage of gratuities is slightly lower than that of experienced staff, according to Mr. Lovell, but higher gratuities could be earned following the six-month evaluation.
“It’s been seamless,” he said of the front of house trainees, “from the guidance from the senior staff, the way the programme has been set up so they’re slowly interacting with the customer and familiarizing themselves with the different cuisines. They like the idea of each culture learning from each other… What I’m noticing is the senior staff understand their talents and are then utilizing those talents to their utmost.”
Having their own sections helps grow the experience of each of the interns.
“We’ve got a great response about our service from our customers… I believe (customers) probably don’t know they are trainees because they don’t wear trainee badges. They’re all part of the team, equal members of the team.”
Mr. Lovell noted that four-diamond service is impossible to achieve with only trainees, and that some back of house adjustment has been necessary due to the difference in native languages of the more experienced co-workers.
“Sometimes the wording doesn’t come across, but working with someone, you get used to that person, what their expectations are and their skill level, and you work together,” Mr. Lovell said. “… Everyone’s working as a team.”
Although Port O’Call intern placement is currently full, its marketing director said: “As long as the programme continues working, as non-Bermudian staff decide to further their own careers, we will look to refill those positions with new local, Bermudian trainees.”