Women in Hospitality with Kate Dickins
In an ongoing series looking at hardworking hospo workers from across the industry, all of us here at Doshii are proud to highlight the amazing work of our friends and partners whose passion and dedication keep the industry running.
This week we’re speaking with Kate Dickins, the owner of beloved Port Melbourne contemporary Italian eatery, Ciao Cielo, where staff use me&u (with Doshii integration) to create a seamless experience from first taking a seat to leaving a last thank-you tip.
Doshii: When and how did you become part of the hospitality/hospo tech industry?
Kate Dickins: I started in hospitality at age 12, washing dishes at my mum’s restaurant after school and on weekends. I became a chef at 16, then transitioned to front-of-house in 2010 when my partner and I started our first restaurant. The tech side of things really began with the first lot of online reservation diaries. Our place was the first to use Open Table’s “Guest Centre” in Australia! Then, of course, with the COVID era we, got straight onto pivoting our casual areas to the me&u system in 2020, as it had been successful in some great Sydney based outlets already.
D: What has been your biggest professional challenge and how did it help you grow? Conversely, what professional achievement are you most proud of?
K: My biggest challenge started in 2015 when I decided it would be a great idea to buy an old heritage-listed courthouse and convert it into a restaurant. It cost too much to start with, then we had two years of architect drawing and re-drawing trying to satisfy Heritage Victoria to approve the plans. This was followed by another year of construction, while simultaneously running our existing tiny 30-seat venue along with a dying business in the courthouse building. We opened mid-2018, had a noise complaint from a neighbour and have been working through red tape with council and Heritage Victoria ever since. That’s without talking about how we were finally getting our groove operationally when COVID hit, the lack of industry workers at the moment, caring for all of our staff during lockdowns (as many were not getting any help), or transitioning from a tiny venue with just four people in the team to something 10 times larger. It has been a huge learning curve! I am proud to still be going to one of the most beautiful offices in all of Melbourne every day and working with a team that I love.
D: What changes have you seen in the hospitality/hospo tech industry since you first entered it, particularly in terms of being a welcoming and comfortable environment for women?
K: I guess social media has played a really big role in giving us all a voice and an opportunity to brand. The fact that this month, we had International Women’s Day and all these wonderful restaurants showed their support for the females in their teams is wonderful and empowering. I was from an era where women had to work harder, be stronger and never complain, even when they weren’t being treated fairly. I feel like I am still learning as I go that it’s okay to be honest and human.
D: What’s your favourite thing about working in hospitality/hospo tech?
K: People! It’s the one thing that is unpredictable. I am not tech savvy, so inevitably I am going to have to rely on people. Ruby from me&u has helped us every step of the way as we develop and move with this technology, and it has the support team behind it. As good as any tech may be, or whatever the latest trend in the industry is, it is nothing without good people and brains behind it. The industry leaders in this space have those people.
D: Who is a woman in your industry that you look up to and why?
K: This is probably not the answer you want to hear. I don’t look up to anyone. I have a lot of respect for people, men and women I’ve worked with. However, personally, I’ve always been a self motivated achiever. I need to impress myself. I just keep working on improving myself every day, surviving and nailing each challenge, be it an idea, project, or keeping a standard amongst the challenges. It might sound narcissistic, but hospitality can be a lonely place when you are running your own business. It’s hard to get out and connect with others on a professional level. My work is everything.
D: The theme for this International Women’s Day (and month!) is #breakthebias. How do you feel bias has impacted you on your professional journey?
K: I have run my restaurant every day since 2010, when I was 28. I am always on the floor during service. Customers quite often assume my male colleagues, sometimes older than me, are the boss. They always seem shocked and then they ask if I am their wife! I am 40 now and still getting that occasionally. The stereotypes are sad. When I say my husband is the chef then they seem justified in their assumptions. Luckily, it’s water off a duck’s back for me. Bias is ingrained in our industry. It will change, but it has a long way to still go.
D: If you could give your younger self one piece of professional advice, what would it be?
K: Don’t think you have to accept mediocrity because you should be so lucky to be part of something. Be kind, always. Set your own standards that you can live with and never bullshit yourself.
D: What’s your favourite venue or meal in Australia?
Wow, that’s a great question. So many on both levels. Tedesca at Graceburn House – the entire concept was a dream and the food was so humble, full of love and expertly done. Plus it’s all ladies in the kitchen team. Favourite meal… The memory of Morten Bay bug tail roll at Rick Shaw’s. It’s still with me. My first stop on my next visit!
Keen to learn how me&u and Doshii help venue owners like Kate keep things running smoothly and efficiently? Get in touch today and learn all about how app integration can serve you.