Sitting back at one of the tables in The Book Club, one of Shoreditch’s coolest hang outs, operations and training manager of the Mothership Group Aoife Halliday smiles, “I love being behind the bar and training bartenders – opening their eyes to the opportunities in the industry, that they didn’t know existed” she says.
In her role at The Mothership Group, Aoife oversees just about everything within all three venues. Whilst the majority of her time is taken up mentoring managers, managing contracts and stock systems, she also trains all the front of house staff who come into the business. Aoife is a massive asset to The Mothership Group.
“People will always go to bars to socialise,” says Aoife. “People may spend a lot of time socialising online – but we work in one of the few industries that will never go fully online, we are social creatures. My job is to make sure people are having a good time, from the staff to the customers which makes it lots of fun. It’s a varied job which means I get the best of both worlds.”
Aoife studied Media production at Cumbria Institute of the Arts, but knew her heart was never really in it. She worked in a bar part time alongside her degree and fell in love it with the industry, ending up increasing her hours and fitting in her studies around her bar shifts. After finishing university she continued working in bars back home in Ireland, despite also having a 9-5 day job. “I would go and do bar shifts after work just because it was fun,” she says. “It sounds a bit crazy but for me I was getting paid to socialise.”
In 2006 Aoife moved to London with no idea about what career she could pursue in the industry, beyond working behind the bar. “I got a job in the Cantaloupe Group working behind the bar in one of their venues, became a supervisor then moved across sites to help open the Big Chill House in Kings Cross as the Head Bartender. I then moved again to become part of the management team in Big Chill Bar Brick Lane and worked up to Acting General Manager as well as Group Training Manager on the side” she says.
Aoife then began working as the Training Manager for the Cantaloupe Group full-time. She moved out of a specific venue into head office and was based across all sites training all staff and maintaining quality, consistency of service, drinks and customer experience across the group.
“I still worked behind the bar with new staff, and I try to do that now, to keep my hand in – so to speak and because I enjoy it so much,” she says. In 2011 Aoife met Mothership Group Directors and became interested in their approach to venues, in 2013 when they expanded with their third venue, a position of Operations and Training manager became available and Mothership offered it to Aoife.
“Being approached for a specific position that has been created for you is probably the proudest moment of my career” she says.
It took Aoife eight years to progress from a bar back to her current role, although she says if she’d known about the opportunities on offer earlier she would have gone straight into the industry at 18. “If I’d had better careers advice and known the various entry routes I wouldn’t have ‘wasted’ those years I guess,” she says. “I do still get people who can’t get their head around what I do. It wasn’t really until I started managing at Brick Lane that my family really understood what I was doing. Before that they would ring me up to check I was still applying for ‘proper jobs’!”
Aoife made a conscious decision to stick in the industry after discovering there where many more layers to it than being behind the bar, that you could climb the career ladder. “At Cantaloupe I was aware of the opportunities on offer because head office was right next to the bar, I would meet people who worked in the, drinks industry, operation managers, purchasing managers and training managers and I thought one day I’d like to be one of those positions, luckily I managed to combine all of those positions in my current role.”
When asked why young people should follow a career in the pub and bar industry she laughs, “why not?! It’s fun, you meet so many people and there are endless opportunities. You could start off collecting glasses and end up as brand ambassador educating bartenders all over the world!”