When you think about hospitality jobs, a few roles probably come to mind: chefs, waiters, bartenders, baristas. Maybe even a sommelier. But dozens of jobs, many of which you might not have known existed, play a key role in the experience you have when you go out for a meal, a drink or even a takeaway coffee.

These five people – some young guns, some hospo lifers – all came to the hospitality industry for different reasons. But they all love it now they’re here, and they’re not going anywhere. They tell us in their own words how they got where they are now, what their day-to-day looks like and their plans for the future.

Josh Denison, Queensland sales and training rep, Single O, Brisbane

I’ve been in hospitality since 2016. I was studying graphic design and realised I didn’t want to do it anymore, so I came to [hospitality] a little bit later in life. When I was a barista, people always thought, “He must be studying” or something. But I think it’s weird that a lot of people don’t see hospitality as a long-term thing. A lot of jobs are online and disconnected, whereas in the cafe you’re meeting people and getting to know them and helping them. It’s pretty rewarding.

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I was a barista at a few cafes in Brisbane using Single O beans, before moving into my current role with Single O, as sales rep for Brissy and the greater Brisbane area. I wear a lot of hats: looking after our current wholesale base, looking for new partners and cafes to work with. I was comfortable with the coffee and training side of things, but it probably took a good year to figure out the sales part. Every day is pretty unique. Funnily enough this morning a new Single O customer cafe was down a team member, so I did the opening shift for them, did the dial-in and got the coffee tasting good for the crew. It’s always fun to get back behind the machine, and I end up behind the machine in some way a little bit every day – whether a machine needs fixing, or a cafe needs more staff to get them through a rush.

I’ll never leave hospo. I enjoy all sides of it. I feel pretty lucky that I get to do this every day, working with great customers and cafes. So I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I know it’ll involve hospitality in some way.

Graham Ackling, head of operations, Fink Group, Sydney and Brisbane

I started working as a section waiter at Otto in 2003, but I had been working in hospitality for about 12 years before that. I was eventually promoted to floor manager, then assistant manager, progressing through the ranks up to my current role as head of operations at Fink Group, which I’ve been doing for the last two and a bit years.

I look after Quay, Otto Sydney, Otto Brisbane, Bennelong, Firedoor and Gildas, working with the managers of each of those properties. Compliance is a big thing – making sure we’re fulfilling our legal compliances like licences, OHS, wages, HR – that kind of thing. There’s weekly reporting from each venue – going over why we achieved what we achieved, whether it’s a good result or a bad result, and making sure we spend within our budgets. Another big part of my role is tools: finding new programs, whether they be for rostering, safety or compliant point of sale systems, and making sure we’re using and implementing the most up-to-date technology in the market.

I am always making sure our quality is there – the food, the service, the execution, which all contribute to the experience our guests get in the restaurants. From the food perspective, there’s tasting and sampling drinks, dishes and their pairings. From the service end, we want to make sure we’re providing this unobtrusive, intuitive service style. People going out to a restaurant want everything to happen, almost magically, before they realise they need it. They want the heater on, the lights down, the wine topped up – for someone else to take control of their journey. So it’s about making sure we teach younger people how to anticipate people’s needs and wants.

Becoming head of operations was a massive learning curve for me, because I had to change my mindset. As a waiter, I was worried about getting from the start of service to the end. When I was a manager, it was about the whole day. Now, in operations, I’m really looking at the next six to 12 months. So it’s a different mentality, to plan for the future and set yourself up for success.

Michelle Silverlock, head of batching, Nick & Nora’s, Melbourne

There are 36 unique drinks on the Nick & Nora’s menu, each of which features an assortment of house-made tinctures, fat-washed spirits, solutions, infusions and more. So my job is to prep all of these ingredients and garnishes. I’m in-venue bright and early to ensure all garnishes, juices and ingredients are fresh and ready for our bar team to shake together cocktails that evening.

My typical day begins with a quick inventory check, before getting into it. I start with tasks like making clarified tomato water, or infusing Beefeater gin with lemongrass, which both take hours to do. Other infusions, like coffee tinctures and melon brines, are vacuum-sealed and done overnight. Service essentials come next: cutting the clear ice, separating egg whites, picking herbs, peeling and juicing citrus. While the chopping board is out, I prep garnishes for the dehydrator, too. By this point it’s the afternoon, so I get into the cocktails themselves – getting non-perishable ingredients like spirits, liqueurs and certain syrups measured and ready for bartenders to use. As the evening approaches, I set up the wells behind the bar, clean the kitchen and finish up for the day.

I love learning so many fun techniques that I can use at home and show off to non-industry friends. Another thing I love about my job is being able to jam out to music, as [I’m] the only person in-venue for most of my shift – it’s very liberating. I’ve been full-time behind the scenes here for a little over two and a half years, and I’ve been in the industry for 14 years now, seven of which I spent shaking tins in bars. Maybe my next adventure will involve taking up knives in a kitchen or tackling piping bags in a patisserie. But I definitely know it’s going to involve my love for creative food and drinks.

Jack Brodie, wine buyer, Kirk’s Wine Bar, Kirk’s Pub and French Saloon, Melbourne

Kirk’s is my first hospitality job, and it was actually the first place I ever tried skin-contact wine, when I was 19. I’ve just celebrated two years here. I fell into wine during Covid, and worked for a bottle shop for a while, before working my way up to buying for them, then I saw the job here, applied – and I was stoked to get it. I try to present detailed and accessible wine lists across all three venues. I do a 50/50 split of working on the floor and off the floor. When I’m back of house, I’m running around, doing cellar management, spending time with staff and including them in tastings, and then tasting wines with reps or winemakers. There’s a lot of focus on education – making sure we’ve got tasting notes for all pours, ready for any questions from customers.

I’d love to eventually move a bit more into the bottle shop side of things, as well as doing hospitality. It’s just a really good opportunity to be able to talk to people about wine and have in-depth conversations. Wine is one of those industries where the tip of the iceberg is all you’re ever really going to know because it’s such a large, interesting thing. So I just want to keep going deeper into the wine world.

Tayla Stevens, cellar supervisor Her, Melbourne

The Her cellar team is responsible for making sure the venue’s stocked with all the correct beverage products – from every type of booze you can imagine to glassware, gas bottles and ice of all different shapes and sizes. We manage what’s coming in and going out, filling in gaps as needed. Every morning we tackle Her from top to bottom to see what needs restocking. We build a list of what’s been drunk overnight, then gather the product in our warehouse and head back to the venue to fill the bar. We also accept and manage deliveries and do basic cocktail batching and drinks prep.

I’m nothing without my trolley. It’s my best friend – second to the elevator. At any given time, I’m carrying 30 to 40 kilograms of stock throughout Her, up, down and around five flights of stairs. Most days I’ll do between 15,000 to 18,000 steps, but during peak season it can be upwards of 20,000. We’re also the first port of call for assisting with the weirdest and wackiest odd jobs you could imagine. Lots of bits and pieces go into making a hospitality venue tick, and on any given day we get thrown into anything and everything – it’s the most exciting part of our job. No two days are ever the same.

I’m definitely hoping to stay in the industry for many years to come. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, but I’ve grown to really love it. I’m hoping to learn more about the creative cocktail process in the years to come, but right now I’m just enjoying how different and challenging every day on the job is.