Hotel / Catering

The taste of success

by Wendy Shair

Vitus Wong (middle), executive manager
Fiona Ng (left), senior manager, new market development
Chris Wong (right), operations trainer
Japanese chain restaurants, division under Maxim's Group
Photo: Courtesy of Maxim's Group

Iconic Hong Kong catering company develops top talent for its Japanese chain restaurants

Hong Kong people have grown to appreciate and enjoy good Japanese food, and Maxim's Group is dedicated to offering its customers the best the cuisine has to offer. The group's four Japanese chain restaurants under the JCR division are Genki Sushi, sen-ryo, DONDONYA and IPPUDO (HK). All have a strong focus on food quality, cleanliness and creating a Japanese fine-dining ambience.

The group will see a year-on-year increase of 28 per cent in its number of restaurants in Hong Kong in 2012, taking advantage of its effective strategies to attract and keep customers, says Vitus Wong, executive manager, JCR division under Maxim's Group.

"We value our relationships with our customers and have various channels, including on-the-spot questionnaires and online platforms, to gather their opinions about our food and service. We believe it's important to provide a choice of high-quality Japanese food that exceeds expectations."

He adds that Maxim's provides staff with on-the-job training and recognition programmes to make sure they progress, and that it will hire additional employees on an ongoing basis in line with its expansion. Staff members should ideally have an affinity with Japanese culture, he believes. "It gives us great job satisfaction if customers compliment our food and services."

Open culture

All staff have the chance to progress in their careers, says Fiona Ng, senior manager, new market development, JCR division under Maxim's Group. In her case, she joined Maxim's Group six years ago and spent three in the JCR division, working in operations and finance. At the end of this year, she will be given a new challenge: to help build new teams as part of the company's expansion on the mainland.

"This is a drastic career change for me," she says. "Before I took up my new role, I worked mostly with facts and data. Now I'm responsible for coming up with ideas to further our development in mainland China, including hiring staff across the border. We aim to recruit 20 to 30 people for JCR in the new office."

"We have an open office culture within our group─we can put forward our ideas directly to management via weekly direct report and team head meetings," says Ms Ng. "We don't have to deal with lots of red tape to get approval on company issues."

Employees that are serious about moving up within the group must be committed and good team players. While promoting career advancement and a results-driven culture, the group also encourages a good work-life balance, she notes. "We believe our people's workloads should be balanced, so that they can perform their duties effectively and maintain a healthy personal life."

High performers are promised a clear career path and attractive promotion opportunities, she stresses. "Our company continues to progress─we are driven to grow, and there are always new projects in the pipeline."

Different divisions conduct off-site brainstorming sessions to consolidate staff's ideas on how to sustain development. Twice a year, the group also holds Open Forum where frontline staff can meet with management, share their opinions and raise questions.

Staff retention and development

Performances are reviewed through various channels, and a recognition programme is in place to reward outstanding achievement. Apart from the chance to move up through the ranks, employees can also move across brands within the group, says Ms Ng.

One seasoned staff member that has benefited from the group's training programmes and well-structured development opportunities is Chris Wong, operations trainer, JCR division, Maxim's group. Having been with the company for 12 years, Ms Wong was a Genki Sushi store manager before she was promoted to her new position in February this year. "After taking up this new role, I had eight months of training to help me understand the job functions of different departments," she explains.

She finds the work greatly rewarding. "We encounter new challenges every day. Part of my job is to work as an internal consultant and to get to understand the business issues related to different outlets. I need to talk to the people on the frontline and propose solutions to management. The exposure is equipping me with a broader perspective, helping me to manage a range of stores." Further training will put Ms Wong in line to be promoted to district manager, a role that entails the supervision of 150 to 200 staff.

JCR store managers with potential are invited to participate in the group's "operations trainer" programme. The first batch of trainers will complete the course this year, after which the results will be analysed and the content improved if necessary. The division's policy is to recruit half of its new staff externally, while the remaining 50 per cent comes from internal promotions.

Movers and shakers

  • The Japanese chain restaurants division under Maxim's Group aims to provide high-quality Japanese food that exceeds expectations
  • The group offers a clear career path and attractive promotion opportunities
  • An open culture and good communication channels ensure ideas exchange
  • A staff recognition and development programme is in place to reward outstanding achievement and help people advance

Taken from Career Times 21 September 2012, B3

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