Pier Eight: Staff Training

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Following an extended summer of hard hats and hi-vis jackets, Pier Eight, The Lowry’s £3 million redeveloped bar, restaurant and event spaces was unveiled to the public last Friday. Pier Eight is an exciting addition to Salford Quays, building on both the industrial history and modern culture of the area.

This extension to The Lowry is a huge investment in my department: Hospitality. Catering and Hospitality could easily be overlooked due to the department’s lack of immediate theatrics (although tell that to the Tower Coffee Shop Am Dram Club) however, it is a significant component to the organisations’ continued sustainability. The aim of Pier Eight is to enrich the experience of theatre-goers and broaden our appeal to local residents, shoppers and professionals who have increased since the arrival of Media City UK. The profit made by Pier Eight will also enable The Lowry to pursue even more artistic ambitions; encouraging and investing in new and exciting talent.

An especially important part of ensuring Pier Eight’s success is the staff training which took place in the run up to the launch event. During these sessions we received A LOT of information. To avoid a mild headache I understand Pier Eight as simply improvements on the three aspects of hospitality: the environment, the menu and the service.

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The Environment
Aesthetically, the renovated bar and restaurant space looks fantastic. In keeping with the original architectural vision of the building as a ship, two ‘shipping containers’ provide impressive seating areas which look out across the water to Imperial War Museum North. The colour scheme is a combination of aquatic and industrial. Despite what people may think, I am in no way an interior designer, but if you imagine I said that last sentence with conviction I think I get away with it.

There is a balance of a user-friendly, casual bar seating with plug sockets and USB ports, a bar dining section and then a more formal restaurant area, complete with Chef’s Table (capitalised for effect). Here, diners can see right into the kitchen and view our chefs preparing their dish.

The bar and restaurant are almost merged together and complement one another to create an inclusive, vibrant atmosphere. The space is designed to increase our flexibility, the kitchen has expanded and the integration of the bar staff helps us to provide a more concentrated and attentive service.

Pier Eight opening at The Lowry 26-11-15
Pier Eight opening at The Lowry 26-11-15

The Service
A high quality of customer service has always been an aspect of hospitality which we strive to uphold. However, Pier Eight’s opening presents an opportunity for department-wide improvements to help us achieve and improve these standards.

Pier Eight will have more staff than ever before and customers can look forward to a personalised service from knowledgeable staff. During the training sessions, Pier Eight Manager, Mike Lee emphasised how the new layout will allow staff to be more attentive and provide proactive service. Cunningly, the bar curves in an ‘S’ shape to face the casual bar area and the restaurant. With customers spread across both luxurious spaces, staff will have a better scope on arriving and current customers.

Thankfully, the Pier Eight training wasn’t a week of simply sitting and listening to Mike. We were given a tour of the impressive new bar, restaurant and kitchen space and familiarised ourselves with the updated systems. We were also treated to sessions lead by our partner companies Crown Cellars and Diageo. One main thing that both companies had in common was their emphasis on product knowledge. In particular they focussed on understanding what the customer likes, what they are eating or have been drinking and making a recommendation.

Crown Cellars talked us through the restaurant and bar menus and suggested possible wine pairings. Obviously these pairings aren’t concrete. No one will ever be forced to gulp down a particular wine because we think it matches their pork really well. Our aim is to create the best possible customer experience and broadening our product knowledge is a part of that process. Similarly, Diageo encouraged us to know, back to front, our extensive drinks menu, which includes eight gins, ten whiskeys and a selection of new cocktails. Diageo, as spirit specialists, took us through the perfect serve and stressed the importance of consistency so that every drink looks and tastes great. All of these measures have been taken by the hospitality department to ensure that when Pier Eight openened, our ‘game’ was high to match the menu.

Incorporated into the staff training, I got to sit down and try a couple of courses from the new menu. For some unexplained reason there was no option to sample the bar drinks menu. I noted this down as a ‘con’.

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The Menu
Pier Eight will offer two modern British menus created by our Executive Head Chef, Oliver Thomas, catering for casual bar dining and a more formal restaurant experience. Each dish exhibits full British flavours, incorporating a twist and showcases a different method, making a seat at the Chef’s table all the more desirable.

The bar menu features pub classics such as pork & mash, beef & ale pie and fish & chips. The burger & chips offers ‘add-ons’ for £1 including streaky bacon, Garstang blue cheese and onion marmalade, adding an aspect of innovation. The vegetarian options are equally as exciting with a baked camembert, the cheese ploughman’s and a vegan Shepherd’s pie.

Visitors of the restaurant will be presented with an option of eight dishes for each course. There is so much to be tempted by. To name a few, we offer scallops, pumpkin soup, black pudding and crispy egg (to start), Cheshire lamb, pork fillet, sweet potato and chestnuts cake (to follow) and lemon posset, satsuma trifle and Manchester tart (to finish). The only trouble you will have on your visit is choosing from the menu.

After much deliberation I have finally chosen my perfect three courses. I’d start with the pan-fried mushrooms, toasted brioche, Legram’s organic soft Lancashire and poached egg. Then I’d move onto the Scottish salmon, parsley crust, rosti potato, white beans, celeriac clams with a shallot cream sauce. To finish I’d have the warm chocolate brownie with ice cream. That would come to £27 for three courses, providing plenty of quality for money.

Variety and quality are attributes upon which The Lowry prides itself and the new Pier Eight menu flaunts that.

A few years ago, in my small Cumbrian hometown of Cockermouth, my family opened a coffee shop and bakery with the aim to create a place we would want to go to ourselves. It’s a simple target but roots all the madness that comes with opening a restaurant in something attainable, even when it seems like it is not. I think everyone behind Pier Eight has achieved this, because I can’t wait to go as a customer.

Written by Jamie Walsh, Hospitality & Box Office Assistant.