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Building Skills for the Future: How This Hospitality Group Develops Young Talent Into Managers

From entry-level positions through to Venue Management, there’s something for everyone at Australian Venue Co. We caught up with the team to find out how they train junior staff and why it’s an exciting time to build your skills with the group.

A little while ago, we caught up with the team at Australian Venue Co (AVC) to find out what they love about their jobs and what makes them passionate about hospitality. For anyone not familiar with the brand, AVC owns and operates more than 180 of Australia’s favourite pubs, restaurants, bars, and event spaces.

Part of the reason behind AVC’s success is the group’s ability to identify talent and invest in its people. Whether it’s teaching junior staff the fundamentals or creating management pathways for ambitious employees, AVC tailors its learning and progression plan for each individual staff member – a remarkable feat given the size of the operation.

We recently swung by a few AVC venues to find out how the team identifies, trains, and progresses staff into management positions. Despite the wealth of management pathways on offer, we also learned that if you’re lacking skills or experience, AVC has an attitude first, skills second approach to hiring. So there are plenty of great opportunities for less experienced staff to get on board now – if this sounds like you, book an interview here.

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Rachel Vavricek – Victorian Senior Operations Manager

In 2015, Rachel Vavricek had just moved to Australia. Walking through Melbourne’s CBD on her second day in the country, she wandered into The Crafty Squire, asked for a job, and was hired by AVC on the spot.

She became a Duty Manager two weeks later, thanks to the managers recognising her previous hospo experience overseas. After six months, Vavricek progressed to Assistant Venue Manager, then moved into Venue Management at several other AVC bars before returning to The Crafty Squire to run the venue. Three and a half years later, she is a Senior Operations Manager, overseeing five venues.

“I was supported by the people around me. They were always telling me to keep going, try new things, get sponsored, and pick up new skills. I’ve had so many managers who are still with the business and have overseen my development and growth,” she says. “I still call them daily and ask for advice, which is super helpful. Having such a big support network around you makes you want to do better all the time.”

Despite her progression, ending up in her current role wasn’t always Vavricek’s plan.

“I came here as a backpacker for what I thought would be a year. I was happy to go with the flow but then AVC sponsored me in 2016, and now I’m a permanent resident,” she says. “I never saw hospitality as a career. Once I got into it and started running a business, I realised it was great, fast-paced, and people-driven, which is all awesome.”

Now one of the leaders behind AVC’s recruitment and people focus, Vavricek says it’s a great time for less-experienced people to join the group and put themselves in a position to eventually progress into management.

“AVC really invests in its people. If you have the right attitude, skills are always trainable. You’ll fit into this culture that AVC has cultivated where you become part of a family, even though the business is big.”

Vavricek also says the benefits of hospitality translate into any industry.

“You learn so many life skills in hospitality – how to handle stress, how to manage people, how to de-escalate a situation, how to work as part of a team or communicate concerns effectively,” she says. “It may be your first job, or it may be your career, but you’ll pick up so many skills that you can take into any other industry and use them to excel in whatever you do.”

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Hayley McPhillips – Hopscotch Venue Manager

When Hayley McPhillips landed a job at AVC’s College Lawn Hotel, she didn’t know how to mix a drink and had never poured a pint before. A few years later, she’s running Hopscotch – a popular bar overlooking the Yarra along Southbank’s promenade. She says her progression journey started with a small conversation that showed her hunger and initiative.

“I told the College Lawn managers I was keen to learn extra stuff around the venue, things like changing the kegs and the tills. Next thing I knew, I was on a progression plan to become a Duty Manager,” she says. “From there, I progressed into a Functions Manager role and took on my first busy season over December where I was working closely with the Venue Manager at the time. He put me onto an Assistant Venue Manager plan, and from there I’ve moved into running Hopscotch.”

McPhillips says that progression plans at AVC can look a little different for everyone, as each venue will tailor teachings to the needs of an individual.

“I received one-on-one training by setting goals with my managers and being proactive. All the training sessions were reflected in my training guide, which allows you to touch on all aspects of the business,” she says. “My guide was a hand-written paper version that I carried with me for months, so I was one of the last to use the old school folder. Now we have an online portal called Supercharge your hospitality career with Advance, where both you and your manager can jump in, set goals together, write notes and keep track of your progress.”

McPhillips’ progression story is just one of many within the group. She says that the best part about upskilling with AVC is that there are learning opportunities for everyone, regardless of experience and personality.

“AVC has the opportunities to learn no matter what stage you’re at. We’ve got so many venues that if you’re unsure about one, we’ve definitely got the right one for you,” she says. “There are so many people who are willing to support your development – as soon as you get a foot in the door and you’re keen to learn, you’re going to do great things.”

McPhillips says that being able to develop younger staff into future managers is an unexpected perk of her role.

“It’s nice that someone gave me the time of day when I was learning, and now I get to do the same thing for people who could become venue managers. Stepping into such a big hospitality brand and having so many venues involved gives you endless opportunities.”

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Holly Adams – Auburn Hotel Assistant Venue Manager

Holly Adams was working at Studley Park Boathouse as a supervisor when AVC purchased the venue in March 2020. One week later, covid hit Australia hard. Despite all the challenges that came during the next two years, AVC put Adams on a progression plan and ensured her career didn’t stagnate during one of hospitality’s toughest times.

“AVC moved me up to Duty Manager after they purchased Studley. I stayed there for about a year, then came to the Auburn Hotel in 2021 where I trained to be an Assistant Venue Manager,” she says. “It was nice to be supported during a tough time and people don’t forget that. Covid made the whole industry feel insecure, but with AVC you know it’s a safe bet that they’ll look after you and keep you on the right path.”

Adams credits her progression to the structured nature of the Advance program – AVC’s online training platform that group employees currently use to upskill.

“You get trained in all the aspects of management and you’re marked quarterly, so you can keep track of your progress. Once you get to the end of those lessons, you’re signed off and every AVC venue can see that you’re ready and capable,” she says. “It shows you all the aspects that make up a role because you don’t really know and that can be intimidating for people. Advance gives you a specific snapshot of what tasks you’ll be doing and walks you through them.”

Large companies can often feel intimidating to outsiders, but Adams says AVC is a great place to be for anyone at any stage of hospitality – whether they’re looking for a long-term management career or just getting started.

“You’ll be so surprised about how helpful everyone is and the opportunities you’re going to get. Not everyone is suited to every venue, but we have such a wide range here that you can find the perfect one for you and move around without having to start again each time,” she says. “You make lots of friends too! So many people who started off in a junior role with me now have their own venues. Growing alongside people has been such a rewarding part of my personal journey.”

If these career pathways sound like some you’d be interested in, you’re in luck. Australian Venue Co is hiring for several different positions. You can check out job opportunities here.

Australian Venue Co also offers sponsorship pathways for visa holders. You can find out more and get in touch with the team here.

And to find out more about how you can build your skills in hospitality, check out opportunities and book an interview here.

The AVC team will be visiting Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and New Zealand. You can find out more here.

Photography: Amy Hemmings

This article is produced by Scout Jobs in partnership with Australian Venue Co.

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