As a follow-up to ‘The Bartenders’ in Issue 6 of The Holborn (also available in better newsagents), we belatedly publish an interview with Anna Sebastian. Here she reveals how she came to work at The Savoy, what keeps her ahead of the competition and where the dream bar location is to be found.
Coincidentally, of course, the Beaufort Bar has just started serving its new cocktail menu, heavily inspired by wartime celebrities and semi-rugged journalists.
I actually had my heart set on joining the army and had secured my place in the Royal Artillery ready to start by the time I left school, so I never imagined working in hospitality. When that didn’t work due to an illness, I found myself doing guestlist and front of house at all the old-school members clubs’ doors. From there I worked behind the bars. During the day I worked at a PR agency launching new bars and restaurants, which gave me a really good understanding of the other side of the business.
I loved every moment of it, but after 3 years I was hungry for a new challenge. I quit my job with nothing lined up, and I clearly remember walking along the Southbank and looking across at the [Savoy] hotel. Coincidentally, I had been christened in the Savoy chapel next door. That night I was messing around on the internet when I came across an article about the reopening of The Savoy, and the rest, really, is history.
There is so much more to what we do than what is seen by the guests. We are responsible for all the revenue management side of things: the forecasting, the budgeting, etc., so if you weren’t good at maths at school you need to learn pretty quickly! We are also very involved with our PR and marketing plans, menu designing and drinks creation, staff reviews and catch-ups, appointments with our brand ambassadors, training plans for the team. I could go on; it’s full-on but diverse and interesting – I love it.
We work the most social hours, which makes what we do fun and interesting. This industry is all about the buzz and creating a magical atmosphere, and working these hours allows us to do that. But it’s important to spend time with non-industry friends and family, to give you that headspace and balance in your life.
But I’m lucky to work with my team here. These guys are some of the most passionate and dedicated people in the industry, and it’s amazing to be able to come in and work alongside them each day. We are all involved in creating the drinks menu. A balance is very important: there needs to be something for everyone, but also something that people can have an emotional connection with. We have creative meetings every couple of weeks in order to make sure we explore every idea, no matter how small.
Most important for staying at the top of the game is seeing what other bars and restaurants are doing. Being engaged with the industry is also key, talking to the brand owners and reps, and seeing what they are promoting and pouring. And listening to our guests is a big one, seeing what the consumer (not just the bartender) wants from their experience.
We’re not saving lives, but we have a unique and wonderful opportunity to make a difference to someone’s experience when they choose to visit us. That’s a privilege in itself. Of course, I do have a dream to open a small beach bar for travellers in Sri Lanka, serving classic drinks and food with local twists.
Interview by Sophie Skarbek-Borowska