HEROES OF HOSPITALITY AWARD.
YOUR WINNERS ANNOUNCED
RECAP: HEROES OF HOSPITALITY AWARD 2021
The past 18 months have not been easy for anyone, but some individuals in our industry have shone like stars in the toughest of times.
In celebration of the people that make our industry great, we launched the Heroes of Hospitality award in Winter 2021 in hope that it would go a small way to giving back to the pride of the hospitality business.
And you didn't disappoint us with your nominations. So many wonderful stories of great people working under enormous pressure to help others.
In addition to one stand-out winner, we felt compelled to award a worthy runner up and to give a couple of special mentions as well. Here are your heroes of hospitality...
AND YOUR WINNER IS: Audrey Maestri at The Rose House, Perth
On a bitterly cold but beautifully sunny December morning, I arrive at a warm and welcoming café in the pedestrianised heart of Perth City Centre. Co-owner, Audrey is attending to a floral display in the outdoor seating area, unaware of what is about to happen. Today I will announce to Audrey and her team, that she has won our Heroes of Hospitality Award, thanks to an entry submitted by her proud husband John.
The heart of the community Originally an award-winning florist, serving hot drinks alongside, Audrey discovered that good coffee (and her dog Oscar) was what really brought people through the door. Soon, the flower shop would become a coffee shop, with a little floristry on the side. And soon the coffee shop would become a second home to many of Audrey’s customers.
But like so many independent cafes, success didn’t happen without a mountain of hard work. I settle in with John and Audrey in a cosy lounge above the café to hear their story.
Humble beginnings “When we started out, we had so little” Audrey explains. “We had to build our business bit by bit. Our customers saw that. They’ve been there from the start. When we got our first dishwasher for example, they were just as excited as we were. They’ve been through it all with us.”
Over the years, Audrey has created a cosy and comfortable space, perfected her menu, introduced traditional afternoon teas, held pizza nights and hosted MacMillan coffee mornings, to name but a few. But it is clearly the warm welcome that really attracts people to the Rose House. Audrey is first to admit that customers often stay for hours. “It’s not about making money for us”, she explains. “We just love making customers feel welcome.” The Rose House is somewhere for people to settle in, enjoy a warm drink, indulge in some good food, and enjoy a chat. “We know everyone’s names. We know their pets’ names! Explains Audrey. “We never move people along”.
No shortage of Challenges After working so hard to build this beloved home-from-home, it must have been heart-breaking when in 2019 the side wall of the café collapsed, forcing a prolonged closure for repairs. And if that wasn’t bad enough, when all the work was finally completed, a neighbouring chimney stack fell down and damaged The Rose House once again.
In 2020, Audrey and John entered the first COVID-19 lockdown running a temporary pop-up takeaway shop a few doors down. Yet they warmly recall offering takeaway service and having socially distanced catch-ups with customers on the public benches outside. Once again lending an ear to those most in need of it.
John adds, that during the pandemic, Audrey took it upon herself to deliver shopping to elderly customers. “Well we had customers who were on their own, stuck at home” Audrey explains. “I felt lucky to have a family around me. Some people didn’t have that. It was the least I could do.”
But the worst was yet to come. In early 2021, Audrey was diagnosed with cancer and quickly scheduled for surgery. Determined not to be beaten, the day after her procedure, Audrey was straight back to work, chatting to customers and keeping the warm welcome intact.
Audrey loves her business so much that she visits on every day off too. She can be found moving from table to table, chatting with her loyal customers, offering an ear and some warm words. And despite the tiring effect of the medication that she must now take every day for five years, she still allocates just one weekend a year to be completely separated from the café.
A Family Affair Where does this passion for hospitality come from? Audrey's family were in the fish and chip business and she recalls peeling potatoes for the chip shop as a small child. Though she had initially chosen floristry in a deliberate move away from hospitality, it somehow came back around. “My mother would have loved this place” Audrey muses, recalling her mum’s passion for entertaining. “That’s why I named it after her.”
One of Audrey’s employees, Caroline, shared her thoughts on Audrey’s win: “I have known Audrey since our children were in primary school and I have worked with her for the last two years. Running three businesses, she is an inspiration to many. During the pandemic Audrey has continued to be her strong, resilient self. I think the love from her family has helped her through, that and a bit of stubbornness! I cannot think of a better person to receive this award.”
Looking Ahead So, what’s next for Audrey and the Rose House? “Well, we’ve been growing our own fruit and veg in our garden at home” explains Audrey. ”And we’ve acquired the paddock next door too” she adds. “I’d like to introduce a lot more of our own fresh and healthy produce to the menu”.
Besides the Rose House, John and Audrey run a wedding floristry business and another local shop. They are clearly committed to hard work and to their community.
A very deserving winner What do customers love most about Rose House? Whilst we couldn’t agree more that Tiki coffee is a real crowd pleaser (“Our customers love our coffee” explains Audrey) it is most undoubtedly the warmth and kindness of their host that is the real reason people come back.
And so, I leave this beautiful coffee shop, with a great deal to contemplate on my journey home. Congratulations to Audrey, for creating far more than a fantastic coffee shop. The Rose House is clearly a beloved second home for the good people of Perth. And Audrey’s warmth and dedication to her customers, even through the toughest of times, lies at the heart of it all. A very deserving winner of our inaugural Heroes of Hospitality Award.
Find out more about the Rose House on their facebook page.
John and Audrey Maestri
The Rose House started out as a florists where you could enjoy a good coffee
Audrey continues to run a wedding floristry business alongside and has won 'florist of the year'
The cafe was named after Audrey's mother Rose
The cafe has seen its fair share of of renovation work
John and Audrey ran a temporary cafe nearby while the Rose House was closed for repair
MacMillan Coffee Mornings are just one of the many charitable and community initiatives Audrey is committed to
Renovations complete and looking good
CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR RUNNER UP
Lisa Donnelly Cafe Asssitant, DaVinci's Cafe, Knockroon Nominated by Cafe Manager Paul Reid "Lisa has gone above and beyond during the last 18 months for individuals and for the community as a whole. Our local hospice, as you can imagine, really struggled for donations. Lisa contacted all local businesses for contributions and put together a raffle which raised over £500.
She was also aware that one of our loyal customers, who uses a mobility scooter to get around, doesn’t have a strong friend network to rely on. Lisa has taken time on every visit to make the customer feel extra special, and in bad weather, Lisa takes a delivery to her. She has even visited with her daughters to provide company during very difficult times for everyone. It may not seem a lot but has made a real impact on one individual."
Lisa wins £100 of web shop vouchers. Congratulatons for the Matthew Algie Team!
We received two nominations from Jacquie Murphy, Franchisee of Esquires Organic Coffee House, which we felt were deserving of a special mention.
Victor Correa, Manager, Esquires Navan "Victor started with me almost 5 years ago as a kitchen porter. He was efficient, reliable and well-liked by his other teammates. One day we discovered he had a love for coffee so we started training him out front a couple of days a week, giving him a dual role until his English improved. Eventually, the opportunity came for him to work full-time front-of-house where he covered a lot of duties. After a short stint away in Spain, Victor returned and was offered the role of manager. Only 3 weeks later we had to close due to COVID. Victor checked in on the closed store regularly. He helped build confidence in other employees to take on more responsibility, and he set the standard in exceptional customer service. Victor goes above and beyond for our business and our customers. For example, on Christmas Eve 2020 the store flooded and victor attended to oversee the situation and help with clean up until after 10pm. Victor just keeps ticking the boxes."
Trevor Elliot, Assistant Manager, Esquires Navan "Trevor has worked for me since opening in Navan almost seven years ago. Trevor has been a huge support and a loyal employee. Trevor was appointed to his current position on reopening after several months closed. Trevor took the offer with the utmost professionalism by coming into the store to study all management policies. In fact, approximately one month before opening Victor and himself discovered our walk-in freezer had malfunctioned and spent half a day in their own time emptying and disposing of spoilt goods and then sanitised the area. It was only at that point they contacted me ensuring I didn't travel the distance to the store and let me sort out from home. The assurance of having a person like Trevor who is willing to go above and beyond has been so reassuring. Trevor trained to be a Master Barista, he has amazing flair, imagination and enjoys constant learning, and sets his standards high. He looks after our social media for the store and the content he puts out is current and forward-thinking, even on his days off he has content going up. Trevor is loved by customers and his team has respect for him and enjoys and supports him. Trevor deserves every recognition for just being himself and if he could be cloned I would"
As a thank you, Victor and Trevor were treated by Esquires and Matthew Algie to a short break in Glasgow with a cafe tour, dinner, and a visit to the Matthew Algie roastery.
Congratulations to you both!