Cathryn's Story

Cathryn Jarvis

General Manager, Chester
Age: 23 1/4 years old
Likes: Lewis Hamilton, Australia, and my two dogs
Dislikes: Roadworks on the A41

A Chance Meeting

"I didn't have a ten year plan. I was living in the here and now"

Three years ago, as a 20 year old, if I was asked "Where do you see yourself in 10 years' time?" I couldn't even have begun to answer the question. Not because I didn't have dreams, simply because I was living in the here and now.

Back then I was working as a waitress in a small restaurant about a 10 minute walk from my flat in Chester. I liked it there but I knew it was only ever a temporary job whilst I worked out what I wanted to do with my life.

Every day as I walked home I passed a Bella Italia (at the time I didn't even know Bella was part of a group). The staff looked happy and the restaurant was always busy so I decided to check if there were any vacancies.

No Holding Back

"The interview began with a cappuccino and ended with me starting work a week later"

I checked on Bella Italia's careers site and a Junior Assistant Manager role was available. The job description mentioned career progression, so I polished up my CV and made an application. I was promptly called back by Charlotte, the General Manager at the time, and asked to come in for an interview the next day.

Charlotte began the interview by handing me a cappuccino and giving me a crash course in Bella Italia, what it was like to work there, and the history of the restaurants. I was struck by how bubbly she was and how interested she seemed to be in me and my aspirations.

A week later my education began with a course in basic restaurant operations. I joined a group of five other newbies, who had all been recruited around the same time, at a Bella Italia training centre. It was clear we all had the same passion to succeed and we clicked as a team almost immediately.

The Process

"Being recognised for doing a good job is a wonderful feeling"

I was tasked with experiencing as many roles as possible within the business. I worked hard and gave it my all. Within a couple of months my managers began to comment on the effort I was putting into everything. As far as I was concerned I was just doing what I was asked to do as well as I possibly could, but it was great to get the recognition.

Six months passed and I was offered a position at a new restaurant, this time as an Assistant Manager. Soon after that came promotion to Deputy Manager, which is when our COO sat me down to ask me if I would consider applying for Bella's Future Leaders programme.

Future Leaders is an internal development programme that Bella Italia run to give committed employees the skills they need to be able to run their own restaurant. I knew that was something I wanted to do so I put in an application and crossed my fingers.

Future Leaders

”The Bella Italia in Liverpool was set across two floors, had floor to ceiling windows and two bars. It gave me butterflies”

The course was made up of workshop training and three months of real on the job experience at the fabulous Ranelagh St Bella Italia in Liverpool. Soon a whole new world opened up to me. We were tasked with choosing our own project so, as I'm a bit of a closet entrepreneur, I opted to find a way to increase spend per head.

Although we were given support I was running the project solo which allowed me the freedom to truly innovate. I began by rounding up my team and discussing the best way to attack the plan. I then initiated a reward scheme that allowed everyone to benefit from any uplift.

Throughout the three-month process we managed to increase spend per head across the restaurant by £1.20. It doesn't sound like a lot but when you consider that we typically serve 2000 customers a week it soon adds up.

What now

"Future Leaders changed everything for me. I was due some time off afterwards so I took a two-week holiday to Australia to recharge my batteries"

After completing the future leaders programme I took a two-week holiday to Australia to recharge my batteries. I'd enjoyed the process but I needed to relax. Shortly after my return I was appointed General Manager of Bella Italia Chester (the restaurant I first walked by less than three years ago).

My team at Chester are great. There's a real family feel to the way we work together. I've started running incentives for the top performing team members from the kitchen and front of house. Four superstars will be joining me on an all-expenses paid trip to Chester races this quarter. I can't wait!

To sum it up, I genuinely feel the last three years at Bella have empowered me. I've gained in confidence and learned more than I could ever have imagined. Don't get me wrong, there's been some seriously hard work and some late nights, but ultimately, it's all been worth it.