Réidín Aherne is director of operations at SAGE Midleton restaurant and festival co-ordinator for fEast Cork Food & Drink Festival, which runs until September 8. www.feastcork.ie
I have worked in hospitality since I was 15 and began helping out in the restaurant of a family friend. So, when my husband, Kevin, had the opportunity to follow his dream and start his own restaurant, I was happy to support him. That was 12 years ago and the rest is history.
As a career, working in SAGE ticks many boxes for me. I love the fast pace, the planning and organisational side, the opportunities for creative expression, but, most of all, I enjoy the day-to-day interactions. There’s nothing like the buzz of a busy Saturday night service. On a typical day, you could find me doing anything from polishing a glass to designing a new restaurant menu.
In recent weeks, the planning and organisation of fEast Cork Food festival, which both Kevin and I are heavily involved in, has played a large role in most of my days. It’s been a great challenge, but very rewarding.
For me, it is vitally important not to lose touch with front-of-house and with our customers. Doing service, and meeting customers, really helps keep the focus on the essence of our business: creating a welcoming and hospitable space in which people can relax and enjoy great food and great service, without fuss.
I can truly say that seeing people relax and enjoy the space and food we create is, hands down, the best part of the job. It is so important to be able to read people, and what they need in terms of service, as it differs so much from person to person. Nothing beats a satisfied customer.
Earlier this year, we welcomed a group of residents, and their families, from a local nursing home for a dementia-friendly dining experience.
My mum had dementia, and, sadly, passed away just over a year ago, so I recognise the stress and unease in the faces of loved-ones when dining out with someone in the early stages of the disease.
To be able to eliminate those stresses, by taking all these factors into account on the evening, made such a huge impact on the residents and their families. Their appreciative words were so heartfelt, but the ease and joy on their faces was the greatest reward. It was truly unforgettable and something we would like to do on a more regular basis.