A Friday Chat With St Pancras by Searcys Restaurant Manager, Kevin Orsat15 October 2021
Ahead of World Champagne Day on 22 October, we talk to Kevin Orsat – Restaurant Manager at St Pancras Brasserie and Champagne Bar – for this week’s Friday Chat. Champagne is a big deal at St Pancras, with the original ‘Press for Champagne’ buttons, the longest Champagne bar in Europe and the UK’s first dedicated Champagne School. But as Kevin explains, their focus on seasonal British food plays an equally important role.
Hi Kevin! Tell us about yourself – how did you start out in the hospitality industry?
My family are from a catering background. My stepfather was an executive chef on the Orient Express, and my father has his own restaurant in Lyon for 11 years. So when I’d go on holiday as a child, I was always on the floor – from the age of 11. My father is my role model and taught me a lot.
Then I went to a catering school in Lyon and decided to come to England. Why England? Quite simply, it was the closest. I am a city guy and I prefer to be in London. I started at the Bleeding Heart in Farringdon, a traditional French restaurant, and I started learning English.
When did you join Searcys?
In 2015 I started as a waiter at St Pancras Brasserie and Champagne Bar, and gradually worked my way up. I learned on the job and became a supervisor and then restaurant manager 3 years ago. I’ll step into the role of Deputy General Manager starting in Jan 2022. Hospitality has always been in my blood. When we reopened the Champagne Bar and Brasserie and called back the staff, it was a really great moment to see the rebuilding of the team.
What do you like most about your job?
One of the best moments was when we were awarded the Best Venue at Searcys company awards in 2019 – I loved being part of this success. I love the team, the relationship and sharing the knowledge about the food and drink and customers. I also love it when people propose in our place. We are so cosmopolitan as a venue, being the last stop before Paris, and so varied – from birthday parties to business events to weddings and everything in between. We have been very busy with events recently – weddings and birthday parties, and some meetings in the private dining spaces.
What do you think is the formula to great customer service?
The secret to success is having regulars who are coming back. Our famous dishes – fish and chips and Carver pie – are one of the things customers keep coming back for.
I am also teaching my team to serve customers differently depending on the event type. For a business event, we need to be more discreet, read the mood in the room, communicate with eyes more and know when not to interrupt, but to always be behind the scenes. For birthdays, quite the opposite. You are more relaxed; you can make jokes and be more present at the table. Be part of the experience.
What are three top tips to succeed in a front of house role?
- Always smile
- Know your product
- Don’t be shy, you will never know how to do it if you don’t try!
Tell us something that not many people know about the venue you work at?
We still have one member of the staff who’s been here ever since the opening nearly 12 years ago! Also, as we’re located in the international train station, all members of staff are constantly and discreetly looking out for the security of our guests, starting with the receptionist who does a check for any left items every 30 mins.
What is the most popular dish at your venue?
As I mentioned before, we are famous for the Creedy Carver chicken pie with sauteed wild mushroom and tarragon gravy, and people come back for it time and time again.
What about the customers? What is the most frequent request these days?
At the moment that’s got to be our New Year’s Eve packages, which have a 1920s theme, live singer and DJ. People are ready for some fun after such a long time.
And finally, what are you working on at the moment?
We are currently modernising our till system to improve the efficiency of the service for the team. It’s perhaps not the most glamorous answer but these behind the scenes things will make a big difference in the end.