He told the ‘Journal’ he was chuffed to be recognised.
“It was a brilliant day. It was very nice to have been nominated,” he said.
John, who has spent a life time in the bar trade, will be a familiar face to many punters, both at Da Vinci’s where he has worked for almost 20 years, but also at various hostelries around the north west.
“I started with Garvan [O’Doherty] in The Townsman in 1996. Then I went to the Trinity Hotel and worked there for a while before I was transferred down to Da Vinci’s. I have been here since 2002.
“I have been in the bar trade since I was 15, working in the Everglades and the Redcastle Hotel as well.
“I started off in Mason’s 40 years ago. Then I went to the Redcastle and then the Everglades and was over there about 13 years,” he explains.
Over the past four decades there have been many changes within the hospitality industry and John has witnessed them all.
“There have been big changes. People’s habits have changed,” he says.
Notwithstanding the transformations that have occurred the fundamentals of the trade remain the same, John says, explaining that training is all important at Da Vinci’s to ensure its loyal customer base is well-catered for.
“It’s hard to get old boys like us,” he laughs. “It’s all about your training and your management. We’ve a big emphasis on training. We are in to training big time. Making sure we are doing the right things.
“The customers are coming and paying lots of money. You have to look after them.”
This approach to the craft of serving quality refreshments to locals reaps its own rewards. Da Vinci’s has maintained a very loyal cohort of regulars that have been very supportive of the bar as it has slowly moved out of lockdown.
“It has been quite busy over COVID. I think people are keen to get out and about again so it’s been busy that way. We’ve had very loyal customers over the COVID-19 period. They have been very good now. A good mix of people.”
John is also grateful to his employer for ensuring staff were kept on during the health emergency.
“They brought us in to work in the hotel. We got a lot of stuff done during the lockdown period. They looked after us very well.
“I appreciate what they have done. It helped us out a lot.”
John says that he and his colleagues are now looking forward to what is anticipated to be an extremely busy Hallowe’en and Christmas period as restrictions are further eased.
“Hallowe’en will be the next big busy period for us. At the end of this month we are opening up fully so it will be really getting back to normal.”
John was among three local Hotel and Hospitality Hero Award recipients at the awards last week.
Soulef Bounaaja from the Everglades Hotel and Derek Wylie from the Best Western Plus White Horse Hotel were also recognised.
Stephen Meldrum, President of the NIHF said: “People are without doubt our greatest asset.
“In many ways, they are the unique selling point for local hotels, helping visitors to discover a collection of new and unique Northern Ireland experiences.
“The role that employees play is integral to the success of the business and the sector as a whole.
“The Federation recognises this and that is why staff were the star of the show at Hospitality Exchange 2021.”