Matt Jones took over from founder Dan Gill as MD of Dine last year, but he’s actually been part of the business since 2001. He explains his career path and future plans.
What is it the company does?
Dine is an award-winning company which was originally established as an outside catering company, aiming to deliver Michelin quality dining to clients throughout Yorkshire. Over the past 19 years the business has expanded and developed in response to market demands and currently provides event planning, catering and venue management to more than 100 corporate events and 200 weddings each year. Dine manages event services for organisations ranging from English Heritage and the National Trust to the owners of some of the UK’s most notable private houses and is constantly looking to expand its venue portfolio.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
My position as managing director at Dine mainly involves providing support & leadership to the team as well as making sure that every staff member is focussed on our group targets and delivering exceptional client experiences - I also work with my own clients, planning their events & providing hands-on event management. Ultimately, I ensure that our team are engaged with our core values and that we live up them in practice whilst of course maintaining profitability so that we can continue to invest in our team and products.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I first got into the event industry during my time at university as I needed some extra money however I became hooked after my first taste of working in catering as a summer temp at a local golf club. I got a job at Dine in 2001, initially as a sandwich delivery driver, delivering 500 sandwiches a day to offices around Yorkshire and I loved it. I eventually became part of the events team before becoming commercial director in 2009. It was a real honour to be appointed managing director in 2016, taking over the role from founder Dan Gill.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
You have to be clear about what your organisation stands for and ready to stick to what you believe in. As a leader, you need to have ambitious and innovative ideas that you can translate into reality so that your staff understand where you’re coming from and will listen to you. You must totally embody your own and the company’s principles so that whatever it is you are doing you can deliver it perfectly every time.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
We recently catered for the largest event in the history of the company with over 1,600 guests. Such a large and prestigious event requires enormous amounts of planning, organisation and teamwork to ensure it is pulled off. While it was a challenge the event itself was a huge success which is testament to the quality of the team that we have in place.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I always think stress comes from a lack of control – running high profile events, particularly with food service involved trains you to deal with intense pressure so I think I’m used to it. I have confidence I can deal with 99% of what the world can throw at me! I try and stay pretty fit and eat the right things – going to the gym a couple of times a week just helps keep my energy levels up. I get quite a lot of pleasure doing DIY jobs around the house – I lose myself in the task and helps me to relax.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember thinking I’d do something involving sport, maybe physiotherapy/rehabilitation but I never really focused in on anything specific. I certainly don’t remember wanting to be in catering! I’ve always worked since I was 13 and I’ve always enjoyed doing something physical which involves practical problem solving in a strong team environment so I think it has worked out pretty well.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
People being late for work & an untidy desk are pretty high up there! It’s all part of being detailed and good at planning your time. If you do that well then it frees up your mind to be creative and do a better job for the client. At Dine, we pride ourselves on providing quality in whatever we do and the little things can make all the difference. If something, like a table not being dressed correctly, isn’t right I make sure to fix it myself. Dine’s reputation rests on the quality of its service and it is my job to make sure this is delivered at every event.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I hope to continue our growth at our flagship venue, The Mansion in Roundhay Park, and continue to build on the successes of this year. Our group strategy over the next few years is to diversify our services and move into a few different sectors which will help the reach of overall operation. The business environment post-Brexit remains uncertain but with our focus on quality and the client experience, we are well-placed to optimise continued growth in the hospitality sector and to drive this forward.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Anything you do should be done with passion and that’s why it’s important to create your enterprise around something that excites you. Make sure that you trust your team and that they understand your vision and values and are willing to pursue them with you. Most importantly invest time on every client to ensure that you provide them with the very best product and service that you and your business can offer.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
That you must be brave with and believe in the decisions that you make. A week is a long time in the industry and company so you should be prepared to make daring and sometimes tough decisions for the good of the business. At Dine we pride ourselves on thinking differently and making decisions that constantly innovate the company and our offering.
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