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How I Got Here: Bar Totti’s Venue Manager Kate Tomasella

Going from casual host to venue manager within six years, Kate Tomasella made a quick ascent through the ranks of Sydney’s hospitality scene. In partnership with Merivale, we speak with Tomasella about how she moved from beauty to hospo and from the back room to front of house.

In 2010, Sydneysider Kate Tomasella was living abroad and working as a beauty therapist. With no real intentions of a career switch, she began another job as a side hustle.

“I picked up a little bit of hospo work at a cocktail bar when I lived in London in Clapham, on Clapham High Street,” says Tomasella. When she returned to Sydney in 2016, one of her beauty clients suggested she persevere with the shift. “[They] said, ‘Why don’t you do a little bit [of hospo] on the side and come work with me?’ So I started off as a casual host when [Merivale diner] Queen Chow Enmore opened.” That chance encounter was the start of Tomasella’s rapid ascent in the hospitality industry.

Tomasella was attracted to the hospitality industry’s social atmosphere. “I enjoy vibing off others,” she says. “I enjoy having that sense of care and love and passion for somebody else. It’s looking after somebody and reaping the benefits of making someone’s day or just being able to socialise with somebody while they have a beverage.”

In 2017, Tomasella moved to a role working a desk job in Merivale’s head office. “That was a big point for me, working in the reservations team and sitting at the desk,” says Tomasella. “I [realised I] needed more. I was craving human interaction, which I think is something that has always been a part of me, especially doing beauty since I was 16.”

Returning to work at Merivale venues in 2018, an offer came up she couldn’t refuse. “I got the opportunity to jump across to the Bondi Totti’s as the assistant manager,” says Tomasella. “I was like, why not? A door opened and I stepped straight through. I was over at Bondi Totti’s to open up the first of the brand, and now there’s three.”

In 2020, Tomasella moved again, heading to Bar Totti’s within Merivale’s ivy Precinct in Sydney’s CBD. Starting as assistant manager, by year’s end she’d been promoted to venue manager and licensee.

Managing a large team, her role involves making sure every employee is equipped to be their best. “Day to day I look after the front-of-house and back-of-house teams, providing encouragement and enthusiasm around giving exceptional guest experiences for everyone that walks into our venue,” says Tomasella. “A lot of what I do is encouragement and positivity around boosting up my team, making sure the culture and team morale is number one.”

Tomasella says she owes her quick rise to Merivale’s focus on employee development and opportunity. “There’s support for career development and understanding where you’d like to go,” says Tomasella. “There’s a lot of support in terms of coaching and mentoring some spectacular talent around the country.”

One particular source of encouragement for Tomasella was the guidance she got from Frank Roberts, Merivale’s head of food and beverage. “Frank was my mentor during a program we call Merivale Bronze, which is your business certificate IV. He’s been an inspiration for me. The way he can encourage and support and spot out talent is inspiring.”

Now a mentor herself, Tomasella wants to encourage anyone interested in working in hospitality to take a leap of faith, just as she did. “Development and opportunities can be waiting for you at any doorway,” she says. “Those doorways can take you places you never thought you could be. Merivale is constantly growing. To be a part of this company, this empire, is pretty spectacular.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Merivale. Merivale is currently recruiting for roles all across Australia. Visit the website to find your perfect hospitality career.

Photography: Steven Woodburn

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