Hospitality Workers Training Centre has immense respect for hospitality workers. Not only because our work revolves around this industry, but also because of the people who work in it. One thing you will notice when you speak to anyone who has been working in this industry for a number of years is that they have unique and interesting stories that they have collected over the years. Such is the nature of this industry, which gives you an opportunity to meet so many people from all over the world.
We talked to Joann Brown to know about some her interesting experiences in this industry. She works at the Woodbine Racetrack and is an active HWTC ambassador. Our ambassadors are experienced hospitality industry workers who believe in the work we do and create awareness about the effectiveness of our training programs available for existing workers. Most of our ambassadors have participated in our training courses as trainees.
Joann began her career as a cocktail waitress in a restaurant and had to break up quite a few fights in her brief time there. Her work eventually took her to the heart of the hospitality industry, i.e. hotels. She worked at Hilton Toronto Airport Hotel & Suites followed by Skyline Hotel [now International Plaza]. From working in places with no dress code at all to being in a hotel environment wearing crushed velvet skirt, halter-tops and high heels – Joann’s career represents the mobility this industry offers if you have the right skills.
“Everything I’ve been through in life has prepared me for who I am today. I’ve been married and divorced. I have been a single parent. I have made money and lost money – but I’m still here. One thing I’ve learned is that I can make it through anything.”
The Best Thing About Working in Hospitality
For Joann, the best thing about working in this industry is the people. She loves interacting with the many people she meets every day.
“Being able to make people laugh, serve great food, and provide helpful information [about the racetrack and city] is something that I truly enjoy. It means a lot that you can make someone’s day”, she says.
Of Pride and Respect
Working in hospitality can be very satisfying as it offers opportunities to expand one’s skills, network with people and follow one’s passion. Joann’s work has given her many opportunities to accomplish different things in life. “I’m not just a server. I’m involved with the union, HWTC and I am always busy working and helping co-workers – sometimes, even managers – which brings a certain type of respect that I cherish.”
In her personal life also, Joann has a lot to be proud of. “I’m proud of my children. I have three sons and they’re all in great places in their lives. I also have 8 grandchildren,” she says with immense pride.
A Memorable Customer Interaction
One of Joann’s memorable interactions with a customer reflects so many qualities a hospitality worker possesses – Having respect and patience in interacting with disgruntled customers while possessing technical knowledge about one’s work.
“A long time ago a gentleman came in and ordered a bottle of wine. Shortly after, he wanted to order cognac and coffee although he still had his wine. I had to explain to him that we have strict rules regarding alcohol and I wouldn’t be able to serve him cognac. He became agitated and wanted to move to a different section. I offered to get the manager to speak with him but stayed patient and asked if he wanted his coffee before or after, just to lighten his mood. When it was his time to pay his bill, his credit card was declined. He had to call his wife to get another card number but still couldn’t get through. At this point, he felt quite embarrassed because he had no means of paying. The manager made an agreement with him to come back and pay. Approximately 2 or 3 months later, during one of my shifts, he returned. He saw me working and requested to sit in my section. It was funny and we both laughed about it. It’s amazing because something that started off so badly ended up with smiles.”
Message for New Entrants
Hospitality is a unique profession that offers many opportunities. Joann’s advice to new entrants who are considering working in this industry is to have patience, gain the knowledge and technical skills required and never stop the training and learning process.
“It’s many jobs rolled up into one. But it’s a very good profession, which can result in very good income.”