A Friday Chat with Searcys At The Gherkin’s General Manager, John Short13 August 2021
Hi John! Please tell us a bit about how you started out in the world of hospitality and events?
It seems like a very long time ago now, but I remember it well. I needed more pocket money at the age of 15, and a friend recommended me to work in the local bistro, just outside my home village in North Yorkshire. I was given a job as a kitchen porter. I was not very good, but thankfully the owners were kind and gave me a chance on the floor, where I was good enough to keep the job! That was around 25 years ago, and since then, I have worked in many different aspects of hospitality in many different roles.
When did you join Searcys?
I started in September 2020 as General Manager of Helix and Iris on the top two floors of The Gherkin. It’s been very challenging due to all the lockdowns and COVID-19 constraints, but I’ve been overwhelmed by the willingness of the team to chip in and get the venue afloat again. We are constantly evolving the business, and the support from the Searcys team has been simply fantastic!
What do you like most about your job?
I’ve had many jobs in my time, but none have made me feel more welcome from the offset than this one. We are so proud of how well our new restaurant packages and afternoon teas have been received by the public since reopening in May. We even had to close the reservations on a number of occasions. We are definitely seeing customers wishing to enjoy themselves, indulge, and reconnect with their loved ones. It is a privilege to be part of these precious moments – but also a responsibility – we only have one chance, just like in live theatre.
What is your favourite type of event and why?
I can’t answer this question! My main reason for loving this job so is the variety, and I love all the different types of events we do. At the moment, weddings are by far our most popular event, but we are starting to see the corporate world come back to life, and it’s very exciting. Since May this year, we have seen a 70% increase in event enquiries, which is an extraordinary sign of confidence and trust.
What about the customers – what is the most frequent request these days?
That’s an easy one in the restaurant: 80% of bookings come with a message to be seated by the window. We always try to honour this, but we can’t always guarantee it. I think the views are amazing from every table though.
And what has been your most unusual customer request?
I’ve had a few bookings actually request to not sit by the window – usually due to an element of vertigo – I always wonder why they chose a restaurant 180 meters high if you don’t like heights, but it’s easy to honour these requests.
Did you have to adapt to events the new ‘normal’. What changes or innovations have you introduced?
So many things have changed since COVID-19, it’s hard to keep track. One positive is that we have managed to turn the top Level 40 in a restaurant as well, thus increasing our capacity. For sure the recruitment is proving a challenge across the industry, and it’s fascinating to see the different strategies people are using to try and fill the positions. We have reviewed the benefits we can offer as part of the package, with things like enrolment into the Searcys Champagne School, pension schemes, generous discounts across Searcys locations, a wide range of Learning and Development, and apprenticeship opportunities, and so on.
What have you been working on for the grand re-opening this summer?
For the reopening, we have worked with the design team to bring some beautiful light colours and patterns to the restaurant and private dining rooms – pinks, light greens, to complement the menu. We have launched new signatures dishes which are going down a treat – Searcys smoked salmon, candied fennel and apple. It’s striking and modern, a pop of vibrant pink and green to stand out against the orange. Then we also have summery salads, and the Gherkin’s signature Victoria sponge with raspberry, vanilla and mint tea.
I am also extremely excited to be relaunching Iris Bar at the very top of the skyscraper on Saturday, 4 September and booking lines are now open.
And what about your cocktail menu?
It’s totally new! We have endeavoured to celebrate the ‘grand unlock’ and it’s a mix of flavours and colours inspired by ‘the rainbow after the storm’ – a melting pot of colours and flavours to evoke joy and capture that excitement of being back together with friends and loved ones. The Rainbow 75 is a must try. It’s mad and delicious and is topped with Searcys own Champagne! We are very much looking forward to re-opening the bar as a stand-alone destination again down the line.
Find out more about Searcys at The Gherkin.