George Dennigan had his start in hospo as a teenager in Ireland. He stopped off in New Zealand as part of an OE for six months and decided it was where he wanted to be. George immigrated to New Zealand through sponsorship with Soul Bar & Bistro and became their Duty Manager, 10 years later after progressing through the ranks, he’s now General Manager of this Auckland restaurant, one that should be on everyone’s dining bucket list.
Soul Bar & Bistro’s are big supporters of our Hospo Start programme, and was recognised with the Award of Excellence.
Here’s 10 questions with George Dennigan, General Manager of Soul Bar, for this Member Spotlight.
What made you decide to go into the industry / what gave you your first start in hospitality?
As a teenager, I took on a part-time job in a local restaurant in my hometown back in Ireland just to earn some money whilst going to uni. I remember my managers (Dee, Susan & Michelle) being true hospo professionals, full of energy and bursting with personality which they weren’t afraid to use on the floor with the customers. The whole buzz of customer service just got me. I was hooked!
What inspires you?
I love working with a team that shares the same passion and drive for the industry. At Soul, we’re all one big, crazy hospo family, we love what we do and we’re always trying to find ways to push the boundaries more and more to give our customers something new and different.
What do you love about the hospitality industry?
For me it’s got to be the people. You meet so many different people from all walks of life. You get such a buzz when you see a happy customer or a familiar face come back to Soul time and time again. Our industry is a great stage for personalities of all kinds to shine and I love bringing a team of different individuals together and encouraging them to get out there on the floor and give their customers a very ‘down to earth’, personal style of service.
What are your key challenges?
As much as I love people, you have to deal with so many different personality traits. It’s a challenge but it’s about figuring out what ticks their boxes, what motivates them and what drives them mad. Personalities are going to clash sometimes, but as their manager you got to keep the peace, show no favouritism and find the common ground. It’s like being a parent to four siblings, but try having 80 of them!
What is the secret to your success?
I think it’s all about building relationships with your team. Listen to them, show an interest in their training and development and don’t be afraid to have an honest conversation with them. No matter what role you have, you must be willing to muck in when it’s busy, clear a table and get the team through the hustle of a busy service.
What is the best piece of advice you have received to date in your hospitality career?
Train, train, train! Always invest in training and upskilling your team. It pays off a hundred times over and the team are most likely to stick with you long term.
What one piece of advice would you give to people starting out in the industry?
Surround yourself with great mentors, ask them for advice and learn as much as you can. Soak it all up. And above all else, believe in yourself!
What do you think makes NZ Hospitality unique?
It’s the friendliness of our hospitality. It reminds me of the type of hospitality you would get at home in Ireland. So welcoming!
Which restaurants are on your dining bucket list?
I’ve heard so much about “The French Laundry” in Napa Valley that I must pop over to California at some point and try it out.
What do you do to relax?
I find a routine at the gym helps keep the mind healthy. But you can’t beat a good bottle of pinot at your local to unwind after a busy day.