Employer Feature - Zuma, ROKA, Oblix inploi Team | 29.08.2017
People often say that being a Chef or Restaurant Manager is difficult because no one will ever be as passionate about the food you produce, or the restaurant you create, as yourself. However, at Zuma, ROKA and Oblix, this couldn’t be further from the case. We sat down with Simon (Global Recruitment Manager) and Debbie (Head Waitress) at their ROKA restaurant on Charlotte Street in London to find out a little more about this fast-growing company and the driving passion of the people behind it.
“Our company founder was a Chef by the name of Rainer Becker”, Simon states. He goes on to explain how Rainer, having worked for many years at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo, fell in love with Japanese cuisine. This is where the concept of Zuma was born.
Returning to London with the seed of an idea in tow, Rainer knew he needed some investment to transform his dream into a reality – which is where Arjun Waney came into the picture. Eventually becoming tired of trying to nab a table at Nobu, by an almost brilliant twist of fate, Mr Waney was looking at opening a Japanese restaurant of his own. “How did the two meet?” laughs Simon, “funnily enough, they shared the same hairdresser! A meeting was arranged for the pair and, as they say, the rest is history”.
With a growing number of international locations in her ever-expanding portfolio, it seems that Zuma has been on a wild ride since her doors first opened in 2002. “April marks our fifteen-year anniversary!”, Simon says excitedly. And there is indeed reason for the excitement. The company has expanded – and fast. Furthermore, keen to avoid having more than one Zuma in each city, the founders collectively chose to expand beyond the izakaya-style of dining that defines Zuma and create two distinctly alternative brands: ROKA (based around robatayaki cuisine) and Oblix (the black sheep of the family, lending itself to a more classic, rotisserie style of cooking). With five restaurant openings in London alone and an additional nine overseas, it is amazing to see how far they have come. There appears to be no sign of slowing either, with the company launching a brand new concept by the name of Etaru in August 2017. Located at Hallandale Beach in Florida, this stunning three-storey ocean front venue presents an exciting opportunity, not only for new team members to join the Zuma, ROKA and Oblix family, but also for current staff to travel to a new site and be a part of the group’s international growth.
“I joined three years ago and I still feel so young in my journey”, says Simon. “We are all about developing people from within. We want to take people everywhere around the world, and we do! Global mobility is a very real option within the business. If you’re joining Charlotte Street, you are not just joining this restaurant – you are joining a worldwide family. It’s exciting. It’s something we really encourage and it’s something that truly sets us apart”.
“It’s not all work though”, Debbie, Head Waitress goes on to say. “Our staff parties are legendary. We do them every eighteen months or so and they are the most fun nights. This year we took over One Whitehall - it was superhero themed. Imagine 600-700 energetic people in full fancy dress! We go big.”
Comprised of over 2,100 members worldwide, this tour de force thrives based on the passion that each and every one of its team has for the brand. However, there is a healthy balance of quid pro quo for the group of people that make up the Zuma, ROKA and Oblix family. “There are incredible opportunities for personal development and progression” says Simon, “it’s very much like being a member of a family which is all-encompassing and supportive”. Undoubtedly a reflection of this, company loyalty is astounding, extending beyond the brand towards the greater team and to Rainer, the company founder himself.
“People have been here for fifteen years”, Simon goes on to say. “People are having families here, people have formed life-long friendships. I have been lucky enough to travel around the different restaurants and wherever you go, the essence is always the same. You can walk into any Zuma and know exactly where you are. The emotion you get from the staff is always the same - there is always that ‘Zuma feel’."
Make no mistake, the team at Zuma, ROKA and Oblix do not mess around. As part of their induction process, each new member is given a crash course in company spirit - starting out in the kitchen. Debbie explains that no matter what role an individual takes on within the restaurant, it is important that all staff are knowledgable about the food they are serving. “Everyone is gifted with a ROKA food bible and new staff jump straight in with helping the chefs prepare and plate different dishes…and of course they are able to taste each one in turn!”, she says with a smile. “Japanese cuisine is complex and there is no better way to learn about it than to get hands-on experience in the kitchen. It is vital for the level of service we strive to provide here at ROKA and also gives Front of House staff a sense for the standard and pace of service we look to maintain”.
“It’s great - for the first two weeks, you are simply to get to know and understand the ROKA spirit! Of course they do keep the pressure on and it is demanding because we want to be the best, but you just need the right attitude and a willingness to learn. In any case, you’re never alone. You’re part of the team.”
When recruiting new staff, the team look for someone who can fit into the culture of the company - someone who is humble, has a smile, has energy, can engage with guests and is also truly passionate about food and beverage. Service standards can be taught, but being attentive, customer service-centric and detail-driven is essential. Entering into a new role, members of staff are fully supported by both the restaurant team and HR, who are always available to assist and have a keen willingness to listen. At Zuma, ROKA and Oblix, it is important that everyone has a voice, no matter what position they hold. “The support that staff gain in terms of following their career path and developing from a personal standpoint is immense and something that the company prides itself in” Simon adds, “we hold it very close to our hearts”.
For the foreseeable future, it is clear that Debbie can’t see herself working anywhere else. “You can choose what you want to do and who you want to be. You have great people around you who can see what you are good at and will help you along whatever path you choose to follow. From day one, I always thought ‘why not, what do I have to lose’. Now I have learnt that there was only ever something to gain."
Interested in applying to join the team at Zuma, ROKA and Oblix? Check out their jobs live on inploi by visiting the ROKA company page here.
Zuma, ROKA and Oblix restaurant group
- Zuma London
- ROKA Charlotte Street
- ROKA Canary Wharf
- ROKA Aldwych
- ROKA Mayfair
- Oblix London
- Zuma Hong Kong
- Zuma Istanbul
- Zuma Dubai
- Zuma Miami
- Zuma Bangkok
- Zuma New York
- Zuma Abu Dhabi
- Zuma Rome
- Zuma Las Vegas
- ETARU Hallandale
- ETARU Fort Lauderdale