News > September 2017

Norfolk Food and Drink Awards 2017 – Meet our Front of House Judge Nick

Wednesday 13 September 2017

What a thoroughly enjoyable evening! From the best Afternoon Tea to the Pride of Norfolk accolade, we came to celebrate the region's Food and Drink stars and were reminded why Norfolk is a county to be envied.

This was our fourth year sponsoring the Outstanding Front of House category and we knew this year would be tougher than the last. We painstakingly worked out our shortlist and the judging began.

Our super top 7 included: Benedicts, Brasted's, Market Bistro, Tamarind Fine Indian Dining, The Assembly House, The Fox at Lyng and The Wildebeest

We caught up with our Broadland Wineries Front of House Judge Nick Hood to talk us through the exciting last few months of judging this important, but often overlooked category.

“When I was asked to help judge the front of house awards for 2017 I felt a great responsibility to do so to the best of my ability. I grew up working summers in the hotel that my father managed, waited tables as a student and my brother has managed restaurants for over 15 years, so I know how much time, effort, and pride goes into providing the very best service to diners. Allied to this I am very proud to work for Broadland Wineries and wanted to represent a business that strives for quality in all things to the highest standard.

As it has been rather a long time since I last worked in a restaurant, I asked my dad for a few tips on what makes for a good front of house. The old boy has been retired for five years now, but he dragged himself away from his fishing for long enough to send me a decent e-mail on what separates good from great with front of house.  I also spent a highly informative evening with Alan George, the hospitality lecturer and Debut restaurant manager at City College Norwich, who was an invaluable support throughout this process.

Aside from the set rules and disciplines for front of house, such as cleanliness, décor, dress and the correct order of table service, one theme that was addressed throughout my ‘prep’ was to watch out for emotional intelligence and empathy. For example, you may have a large table of customers celebrating an occasion, alongside a couple who are out for a quiet night; you may encounter a customer who knows exactly what they want or someone who wants to be guided through the Menu and Wine List entirely by the staff. We all assume our food will be ready on time, but never consider that different tables and groups all eat (and drink!) at different speeds, and that the restaurant staff have to react and, in the best cases, anticipate this. The key is to understand what is required as quickly as possible and to act upon it with the maximum of grace and the minimum of fuss.

There were a lot of very worthy entrants for this year’s competition and coming up with a shortlist to visit was quite a challenge, but we were well briefed and after a bit of research we all agreed on the venues that we would visit.

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The front of house award is different from some of the other awards this year in that we only reveal that we are judging a venue after the meal. To my mind this is the fairest way to judge how a venue treats its customers, however it does mean that you have to come up with some creative ways to take notes without drawing attention to yourselves!

I have to say the standard at all of the sites we visited this year was very strong, it was eye-opening to see such a high quality of service (and food) across the county, something that would be echoed throughout the awards evening itself. I can honestly say that the hardest part in this process was trying to whittle the list down to a final three, more so to then pick a winner.

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The Norfolk Food & Drink Awards evening itself was a hugely enjoyable event and whilst there was plenty of friendly competition for each award, the theme that ran through the evening was that this is a county on the move with a hugely talented and driven group of individuals in place to harness all of the fantastic local produce and passion for the region and we were delighted to be a part of it (we also got to supply the wine!).

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A big thank you to all of the nominees in the front of house category this year, and congratulations to this year’s winners Benedicts and the two runners up the Wildebeest and Brasted’s, it really was very hard to separate you all and we hope that we did justice to this award and event.

Until next year!"

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Broadland Wineries
The New Winery
Cawston
Norfolk
NR10 4BG UK

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