Hotel / Catering

A foodie's delight

by Nicolette Wong

Press Room Group - staff development
Winnie Wong, human resources manager
Press Room Group
Photo: Edde Ngan
Creative restaurant group elevates city dining to a new level

Hong Kong is renowned for its diverse food culture, encompassing everything from traditional dim sum outlets to smart European-style establishments. In recent years, one innovative player has taken the industry a step further, fusing good food with art, design, local history and culture. The effort has paid off and the Press Room Group's business continues to expand.

The group's aim is to introduce the Hong Kong public to "an alternative kind of fine-dining experience", says Winnie Wong, human resources manager, Press Room Group. Rather than taking a formal approach, the company embraces simplicity, focusing on quality food served in a relaxed and happy environment.

The group's latest venture, The Principal, will be unveiled on Star Street, Wan Chai, at the end of this month. The restaurant will be offering a variety of tasty food choices, says Ms Wong. "Rather than focusing on a large menu, we aim to cater for diverse and refined tastes, in particular by offering a good selection of cheeses and wines."

The Press Room Group, which presently employs a multinational workforce of more than 400 across its frontline operations and back office, plans to open new outlets under at least one of its existing brands in 2012. Its diverse staff echoes the cosmopolitan client base frequenting its higher-end restaurant such as The Press Room, The News Room and The Pawn, all of which offer a fusion of British and French cuisine in a local setting.

Future growth

The group is also looking to branch out into retail as a way to promote a more sophisticated food culture. With artisan cheeses being a strong focus on its restaurant menus, the Press Room Group recently opened a bakery and cheese shop, under Classified, in The Landmark in Central. Following a two-month trial, the group will consider whether to make the store a permanent venture or to pursue an alternative sales opportunity.

To support its ongoing expansion, the group is constantly looking for talented new employees with a real passion for food and, since restaurant staff members are expected to take the initiative to communicate with diners, outgoing personalities. "We encourage our wait staff to suggest dishes to our customers, enhancing their dining experience with a personal and lively touch," Ms Wong points out.

Since the organisation stresses a high level of career mobility for employees, it expects its people to be keen to learn. Frontline workers rotate between the different brands as a part of their on-the-job training, getting familiarised with the different operations and cuisines on offer. Such internal transfers help not only to foster close working relationships, but also to groom future managers.

Lateral career development

Sharing knowledge of wine and cheese and the group's culture is an integral part of the company's training-and-development philosophy. With cheese and wine being two major business focuses, interested employees are encouraged to study these fields for lateral development under the guidance of the group's specialists and to pursue professional qualifications through the internationally recognised Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET).

The Press Room Group plans to extend training to visits to suppliers and manufacturers of wine and cheese in Europe, in line with its mission of continuously elevating the standard of professionalism of its crew and to promote a fine-dining culture in Hong Kong. It sees industry innovation as key to growth.

However, there is still a shortage of prospective candidates wanting to embark on this field. "One reason for the limited talent pool is that many young people see catering as a less than glamorous profession," says Ms Wong. "Working on the frontline is demanding and hard work, particularly in the first few years. There's also intense competition for talent from the hospitality sector."

In an attempt to capture young jobseekers' interest, the Press Room Group is currently discussing setting up various workshops and events, such as wine and cheese tastings, in cooperation with a number of local tertiary institutions. Through such initiatives, students will be able to experience the group's offerings first-hand in restaurant settings.

"Staff at our retail shop offer customers tips and suggestions on choosing and serving their favourite cheeses. That's a step further than what most shoppers can expect at other, similar outlets. It's our passion for food, and our desire to offer our guests a pleasant dining experience, that drive our efforts and growth," Ms Wong concludes.

Feast for the senses

  • Press Room Group combines good food with art, design, local history and culture
  • Brand-new outlet will offer a variety of tasty food choices
  • Group targeting young talent that are good communicators and have a passion for food
  • Training, rotations, qualifications and educational events ensure career growth in the wine and cheese business

Taken from Career Times 25 November 2011, B2

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