|Julie Lee (left), head of human resources and professional development|
Charles Sutherland (right), restaurant manager
Sidesh Khiatani (back), management trainee
Nuria Puig (middle), waitress on a six-month industrial trainee programme
Photo: Nolly Leung
Multicultural restaurant team works together to enhance patrons' dining experience
Considering the pressurised working environment and high staff turnover typical of the food and beverage industry, ensuring appropriate training for all employees can be challenging. A cohesive corporate culture and nurturing workplace are vital to implementing successful staff-development initiatives.
An international company with eateries in Hong Kong, London, Dubai, Bangkok, Istanbul and Miami, Zuma strives to provide a multicultural, dynamic work environment that promotes professionalism. First launched in Hong Kong in 2007, the organisation now employs more than 100 staff. The cultivation of a strong team spirit is an important aspect of its core values.
"Our goal is to groom our employees to become food-and-beverage industry professionals, so that they can grow and hone their expertise as our business expands," says Julie Lee, head of human resources and professional development, Zuma.
This sense of real engagement is at the heart of Zuma's culture of diversity and international flavour, and the company believes that this sets it apart from its competitors. The Hong Kong workforce is made up of people from a range of nationalities. The company encourages staff to interact with customers, and to share the unique elements of their cultures with both colleagues and patrons. This is part of the restaurant's aim to offer an outstanding, yet casual and affordable, dining experience.
Training for all
The proactive team dynamics bolster staff morale and motivate team members to assist colleagues on the job, as well as bond socially after hours. These close relationships also help employees fit in with the Zuma culture and maintain excellent service standards.
The company runs "cross-training" programmes that enhance team members' understanding of different aspects of its operation, and also offers overseas training to broaden the perspectives of both staff and the company. In one instance, a number of Zuma Hong Kong employees supported the Bangkok team when launching the brand in Thailand last year. On another occasion, the head sushi chef and head sommelier from the London operation visited Hong Kong to share their skills and knowledge.
"Such professional and cultural exchanges boost our company's development and culture in both a global and local context, and our Hong Kong team embraces these opportunities," notes Ms Lee.
Zuma's comprehensive training focuses on practical exposure. The 2012 programme—run by professional trainers—features 15 to 20 topics in three categories, including product knowledge, guest satisfaction and skills improvement, for team members at all levels and in different job functions. There is also a 12-month management programme to nurture future leaders.
Focus on development
Flexibility is an important feature of the Zuma training, and 85 per cent of the curriculum has been tailored in accordance with staff requests, says Charles Sutherland, restaurant manager. All training is delivered in small groups, with topics focussing on practical knowledge, such as wine lists and menus. Mr Sutherland and his senior colleagues make a point of discussing possible adaptations of the training modules with individual staff members.
"We operate in an inclusive environment, and our evaluations and follow-up actions are designed to be wholly constructive," Mr Sutherland stresses. "Whether at monthly appraisals, daily briefings or in casual conversations, our team members are often keen to give feedback and to talk about any pertinent issues, such as incidents during shifts."
Zuma management trainee Sidesh Khiatani has found the programme to be a wonderful learning opportunity. Three months into the programme, Mr Khiatani, from India, has already been promoted to captain and given the responsibility to help train junior staff. "I love the family culture here. We assist each another, and our senior managers are hands on," he says.
Nuria Puig from Spain, working as a waitress on a six-month industrial trainee programme at Zuma, has settled into her first restaurant job remarkably well after just one month. "The company gives us comprehensive product training, and my colleagues mentor me on customer service," she notes.
Zuma is currently recruiting for the roles of reception, waiting, bar and other service staff, as well as kitchen commis and chef de partie. Candidates should have appropriate tertiary qualifications and a good command of English and Cantonese. A positive attitude, energetic personality and an open mind are essential attributes.
With Zuma's focus on excellence, promotion is based on performance and the company offers all staff—from those in junior roles to managers—a well-structured career path. "We're dedicated to our people and will make every effort to help them thrive. If anyone struggles at work, we'll examine our procedures and environment first to see how we can improve," Mr Sutherland concludes.
- Team spirit an important aspect of Zuma's core values
- Staff groomed to become food-and-beverage industry professionals
- Training delivered in small groups, with focus on practical knowledge
- Promotion based on performance, with staff offered a structured career path
Taken from Career Times 16 March 2012, B3