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Off To Work, tel: 020 7381 8222, 3rd Floor, 79 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RB.
Ask Philip Atkins, the managing director of hospitality partner Off to Work, for the key to a successful event and he’s likely to point to the staff. ‘If you have staff who are engaging and professional, it can change the whole feeling of an event,’ he says.
Atkins caught the bug for events aged 11, inspired by his older sister who was doing an HCIMA degree at the time. ‘She used to leave her revision notes around the bathroom and I found the sector fascinating, especially in terms of the service levels – I wanted to get into it.’
Later, he went on to do a sandwich degree in hospitality and management at Bournemouth University and gained experience across the sector; from front of house work in hotels, to bar waiting and a stint at Sandown Park racecourse. ‘I really enjoyed working behind the bar. Getting involved in service is always fun, but at that time it was the events side of it that excited me the most.’
With over 20 years under his belt, his career spans all aspects of the industry. He has worked at Madame Tussauds, the Natural History Museum and First Protocol (event marketing and management). In that time he came across thousands of staff.
‘Sometimes the quality was excellent and it was clear that lots of effort had been put into the recruitment process. Other times, the standard wasn’t that good. Staff were sent from agencies, they didn’t know who the client was, the uniform wasn’t there and they didn’t have the skills or engagement.’
In 2001, motivated by a desire to provide a better offering, he launched Off to Work. The company provides a wide range of staff for events and has worked at the Brits, ELLE Awards, Test matches at Lords, England football internationals at Wembley and a host of arena concerts. ‘We work at the top end of the industry. For our clients, cost does matter, but quality is more important.’
The company is divided into four distinct areas: People, Training, Consultancy and Platinum. In terms of its staff, it is the sheer variety that is the first point of note – from mixologists and flaring bartenders to back of house chefs and toilet attendants.
Training is a central part of the company’s operation. ‘You have to invest a huge amount to make sure the team is going to do the right thing when they are out there.’ The business has its own dedicated training team and a number of centres across the UK. The latest of these ‘academies’ opened at the London Irish Centre in 2011. Courses range from straightforward food safety awareness and first aid to more specialist skills such as barista and cocktail bar training, and wine education.
A consultancy for clients looking for permanent staff is another of the Atkins’ services. Besides full-time appointments advertised online, the company organises Reverse Recruitment evenings where clients get the chance to meet candidates.
As you’d expect, the Platinum service is the best of what Off to Work offer. Beyond the right training, Atkins claims his confident and eloquent (and usually good looking) hosts and hostesses bring an element of glamour to events. By the looks of this photo, we’d struggle to argue.
Finding the right staff
Things to consider before making the call
This article was first printed in Square Meal Venues & Events, spring 2013.