Steven Rhodes was the Restaurant Manager at Solotel Group’s fine dining establishment, Aria Sydney. (Steven has recently left Aria to return to the Gold Coast – the AussieCuisine team wishes Steven well and looks forward to following his career in his next venture.)
Rhodes chats with Dane Richards about service standards; staff recruiting, training and leadership in the hospitality industry; and the crackdown of the 457 Visa in Australia. Rhodes has recently left Aria to return to the Gold Coast.
“The 457 Visa issue has had a major impact on the hospitality industry. The problem in Australia is hospitality is seen less as a career choice and more of the job you undertake while studying. So we find it hard locally to find the quality of staff that we can obtain through foreign countries, like France and Italy for example. The level of experience and also work ethic in those two countries are incredible, and something that we as business owners and operators require to help run a successful business, whilst also assisting to stop this downward trend in service standards.”
Dane Richards: Having being nominated as a finalist for Professional of the Year as Restaurant Manager at Aria Sydney, can you discuss the service standards that you both set and aspire to?
Steven Rhodes: At Aria, the service standards we set are developed through what we aspire them to be. Every day we are looking to achieve a standard of service that goes above the limits of what’s expected. That is the beauty of working in an environment with like-minded people, who not only have a passion to develop individually, but also push each other to raise the standards.
DR: In the last two to three review years, Gault&Millau Australia has observed service standards slipping. As one of the best exponents of service in the industry, what are the first steps you could suggest in turning that trend around?
SR: Investing in the next generation. This industry needs to encourage, and also spend time and money, investing in Australia’s next breed of hospitality professionals. With the current issues around the 457 Visa having a major impact on the quality of staff coming through our doors, we will continue to see businesses struggle to maintain a high level of service.
DR: How would you best describe the leadership qualities that enable you to empower the front of house team at Aria Sydney?
SR: I find my broom. The way the All Blacks leave a dressing room after every game. The way John Wooden, one of America’s most successful college basketball coaches, was seen every week cleaning his own gym floor. Leading by example, and by not losing touch with how I got here in the first place, is what helps me empower my team to perform at a high standard night after night. I always said that when I had the opportunity to lead a team, I would never forget the small jobs that helped me get there. It also ensures I stay level-headed, and maintain awareness of what the team is going through each day.
Recruiting & training
DR: Can you describe the characteristics you would be looking for in a new front of house team member, and what training would they undertake at Aria Sydney?
SR: Both a good personality and a passion for the industry. These two things are key to being successful in any career path, however, it is crucial to a career in hospitality. All of our new staff members start their career in the kitchen running food. This not only helps develop their confidence with the menu, but also gives them the opportunity to learn all things Aria. From here we give our staff the chance to shadow our senior floor team, before taking on sections of their own.
DR: How much impact has the 457 Visa issue had on the hospitality industry from your perspective?
SR: The 457 Visa issue has had a major impact on the hospitality industry. The problem in Australia is hospitality is seen less as a career choice and more of the job you undertake while studying. So we find it hard locally to find the quality of staff that we can obtain through foreign countries, like France and Italy for example. The level of experience and also work ethic in those two countries are incredible, and something that we as business owners and operators require to help run a successful business, whilst also assisting to stop this downward trend in service standards.
DR: Can you name some mentors that have been particularly important to your career?
SR: Peter Sullivan, Jason Chow, and Daniel Tapia.
DR: Apart from Aria, and other restaurants within the Solotel Group, where do you enjoy dining out?
SR: I’m very simple with dining options on my days off. This time is usually spent with my wife and children, enjoying breakfast at our local hangout. However, I have recently enjoyed my experiences at Chin Chin Sydney, 10 William Street, Big Poppa’s and Saint Peter.