I love hospitality. Once it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood. You make friends, memories and stories, find partners, have loads of giggles, and pull together as a team, through highs and lows. Whether it’s your local boozer, a high end restaurant, or your favourite pub – hospitality is where many of us retreat for a good time. From glass collectors to head chefs, general mangers to kitchen porters, it’s a diverse industry, where everyone is welcome. This International Women’s Day, we celebrate, like we do every day, some of the females in Peach.
Sian Brennan, General Manager at The Star & Garter
“I started my career in hospitality as a 15-year-old waitress working a part time job in a bistro-tapas wine bar, in my hometown Kinsale in Co. Cork. I was then lucky enough to move on to Jacobs on the Mall in Cork City, where I really learnt a lot more about food and fine dining. Jacobs was a family run business and was such a lovely team to be a part of.
Fast forward a few years, and I’ve now been with Peach for 6 years – what a whirlwind it’s been, and looking back, I never thought I would ever get this far. I started my Peach journey as a part time waitress on the floor, having just come back off maternity. I moved to Master Peach, Assistant Manager and Deputy Manager quickly. I really didn’t know what to expect when I took on The Star & Garter as holding General Manager, and whilst I had some nervousness, I needn’t worry, as it was probably the best decision for me personally and professionally. I grew so much, and when Hollie returned from maternity, I moved onto the White Lion to support Lianne in opening our newest pub. Then with Hollie moving on to The Almanack, the General Manager role came back up at The Star, where it all started. It feels like I am home again!
Hospitality is a great industry, and it’s the team and guests that make me stay. I absolutely love having an absolute bawl, making sure everyone is looked. I love to make sure every table has been welcomed with open arms and feel that they have left with full bellies and a warm heart.”
And who inspires you? “Probably Skin from Skunk Anansie – she’s simply a badass and speaks her mind. She also has a killer voice too. If I could have an ounce of her courage, I would die happy.”
Bronte Bell-Ward, General Manager – The White Horse
Tell us about how your time in hospo? “I’ve always worked part time in cafes and restaurants though school and uni but never thought to make it a career. I took a gap year from Australia for a year and decided to give bar work a go. I landed in Oxford at our gorgeous pub The Fishes and fell in love with the pub, people and Peach. I was studying Politics at the time and planned to go in to Law when I returned to Australia after being in England for a year. 8 Years later, I’m still here, and couldn’t be happier!
I started as a Bartender with no experience and worked my way up to Master Peach and Assistant. When I had the opportunity to help open a new pub, I jumped at it, learning loads about working with rooms and adding loads of new skills, as well as dealing with the challenges and triumphs of an opening. I moved on to The White Horse for a change of scenery, and to be closer to London. I progressed to Deputy Manager and then Holding General Manager fairly quickly, before eventually taking the reins. I’ve been so fortunate to work in a fair few of our pubs and have always been blown away by the warm welcome and support. To go from bartending to General Manager is something I’m so immensely proud of.
I love planning and hosting pub events and watching them come to life and have wonderful memories sat with guests after a gin supper and hearing amazing feedback on the food and service – it’s such a feeling of satisfaction.
Nothing beats the rush of a great service and genuine warmth that hospitality gives you. Making guests occasions special and creating memories is such a satisfying experience, as well as being a shoulder to cry on. I really don’t take for granted the community hub the humble pub is! From directing traffic outside the pub, to hosting a gin tasting or leading a community dog walk – every day is different and you’re always kept on your toes.”
And who inspires you? “I’m so blessed to have worked with so many amazing women is hospitality, and often our female General Managers outnumber the males; there’s always been inspiring women for me to seek guidance from. From Terri Dell, a former Ultimate General Manager and Sharon Colcannon, a current to seeing Sian Lewis progress from a Deputy Manager to Pod Director, it really does show what’s possible! I also love seeing Women in Leadership roles such as Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States (and first female VP) to Jacinda Ardern who was the world’s youngest female head of state and even gave birth during her term; proving you can have it all.”
Sarah Robinson – Pod Director for Warwickshire & Birmingham
Tell us where it all began? “I started working part time at my local pub whilst at college and caught the hospo bug quite quickly! I loved the buzz of a busy service, chatting to the locals and new guests, listening to people’s random life stories and the camaraderie of being part of a team; helping each other out and the emotion attached to giving the best service and making guests experience rememberable.”
I started with Peach in 2014 to open The High Field, it was an incredible experience to launch a new opening. It was super busy from the off, breaking Peach records and in 2019, I had the opportunity to move into an operations role overseeing two of our other pubs in Warwickshire alongside The High Field – I jumped at the chance to gain more multi-site experience. In 2020 I was promoted to Pod Director overseeing our four pubs in Warwickshire; The Star & Garter, The Rose & Crown, The One Elm, The Almanack and The High Field in Edgbaston; an exciting and challenging move. We acquired The White Lion in June 2022 which became my sixth pub. It was great to be a part of a new opening again, a real success just as the sun started shining and guests were able to enjoy its beautiful garden.”
Tell us about some of the good times? “There have been so many! But one of the highlights is when you step back into service and hear the buzz of the room, with guests sat chatting with friends and family, laughing and enjoying themselves and the team buzzing around enjoying being in that moment. The emotion and reward of that feeling can sometimes be incomparable.”
What makes you stay? “For me now, it’s the reward of seeing the team grow and progress and seeing them make a difference for guests in our pubs every day.”
Any female women who inspire you? “My Mum! She started her own business when I was very young; she was always working hard and striving for more, she showed strong work ethics every day.”
Lianne Sargeant, Ultimate General Manager – The White Lion
Tell us, how did you end up in hospitality? “I was born into it! Both my parents ran pubs & bars when I was a child so the Saturday and after school job turned into an everyday job. It’s like second nature, I’m not sure what else I would have done. I started working in privately owned village pubs, moving to running a town bar and nightclub. After having my daughter, I went back to village pubs and started my journey into premium dining, with project orange; a premium pub concept from Mitchells & Butlers. After working my way up from assistant manger to deputy, I moved into a role within the area of 10-12 pubs as pre-opening & refurb trainer. After opening six new pubs and completing multiple refurbishments, I was promoted to General Manager and worked with across three pubs.
I then continued my passion for training and development with Farncombe Estate, creating and implementing an induction plan for the three hotels and estates teams. I also worked with the local college to provide apprenticeships and work placements.
I’ve been with Peach five years in May! Started as General Manager of The Swan, which underwent a refurbishment to a more modern interior. I was promoted to Ultimate General Manager, and moved on to open The White Lion, our newest Peach Pub”.
Tell us what you love about hospitality – “Watching the confidence grow of new team members whose first job it is is just great. Seeing team come out of their shells and learning about food and drinks they may never have tried. Even if it’s not the career they want to pursue, the impact that we can have on their time with us is amazing! There’s always so many memories made, and one memory is from the very first Bride and Groom’s wedding I hosted. There was such genuine gratitude and although it’s our day (and night!) job to host them, it was so heart warming to see them happy on their most important day of their lives.
Hospo is everything I know and love. What other job are you involved in people’s day-to-day lives? For the small and massive occasions, we’re always here. There’s also the opportunity to try new food and drink and visit different countries – what’s not to love?”
Sian Lewis, Pod Director – Surrey
“It all started 20 years ago, with some part time work waitressing at the family B&B in Wales where I’m from. I thought when college finished, I’d travel the world and be an air hostess, but quite soon after, I realised that’s not what I wanted to do and carried on working part time hospitality jobs alongside studies.
I started Peach as a Deputy Manager in September 2013 following working in several roles across different businesses, but knew quality gastro pubs is where I wanted to be. I have worked under some true inspirational leaders which have taught me what I know to this day and moving from Pembrokeshire, my eyes were really opened up to world of hospitality. After working at The Chequers for three and a half years, the opportunity to run my own pub came up, and I was promoted to General Manager at The Duke of Wellington in East Horsley. The launch was a real success, and I became an Ultimate General Manager in 2019.
In 2020, my hard work and determination paid off, and I was announced as an Acorn Winner – I really couldn’t believe it, and it was a real dream come true. I had so much support from Peach which really helped me achieve this accolade, and in 2022 a Pod Director vacancy became available, the next big goal for me in my mind. Whilst laying on a beach in Tunisia, I threw my Pina Colada in the pool with excitement when the news broke that Dave Cumberlidge was leaving (Sorry Dave, it wasn’t with happiness of you leaving I threw it, I just knew it could potentially be my opportunity!). After rounds of interviews, I was successful, and became promoted!
During my years with Peach, I have been on many amazing trips with many stories to tell, from Summer House to visiting wine regions in France & Italy for tastings. Many training courses and experiences have added to my knowledge, from WSET to Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits and most recently, the Transition Leadership course, which have all helped within my role and where I am today.
One of my fondest memories that makes me giggle and smile is when a group of deputies went on a trip to Doombar in 2014. We had a tasting menu at The Mariners in Cornwall which was incredible, and stayed in a beautiful spa hotel for the evening. After a long day eating and drinking, Matt Simmonds, who was also a Deputy back then, who’d perhaps had one too many shandies found the lift use a little challenging, entering it several times with an audience witnessing him returning to the same floor level time after time. He never did live it down! Another adventure was visiting Piemonte and Gavi on a wine trip with our supplier Boutinot – we stayed in the most beautiful Chateaux in the middle of nowhere, and spent days driving through the hills whilst drinking the best Italian grapes (just to note, I was not driving) and eating as much fresh truffle pasta one could get their hands on. Absolute delightful memories.
And it’s the people that make me love it so much. Peach is a people business through and through. I love the team that I work with, and of course – the guests that frequent the pubs. A lot of the pub teams that work in Peach are from overseas on travelling visas mostly, I can certainly say I have picked up a lot of Aussie slang over the years and would fit in extremely well there I’m sure. I will forever call a blue cloth a “Chucks”, a petrol station a “Servo” and a pair of flip flops “Thongs”! All our pubs are the hubs and heart of the community and there’s that sense of family and likeminded people who care for one another. Then there’s the other obvious reason – because I love good food, and a good glass of quality plonk – which Peach rock at.”
This IWD, pop into your local Peach Pub and treat your favourite Peachy female to a drink. And don’t forget to celebrate your loved ones at home; who also do an amazing day each and every day.