On International Women’s Day every year, the voices and stories of women across the world are celebrated, as we address the issues that cause gender inequality and diversity. But despite these issues remaining, such voices and stories take a backseat once the day is done.

We think it’s worth doing the opposite and actively challenging the issues that create these gaps in our industry. So, we’ve launched this weekly series, Wednesday Women, where we’ll profile the stories of the inspiring women in this great and wide industry.

Today we speak with Holly McMahon, Group Operations Manager at AppleJack Hospitality.

Starting out in hospitality in her hometown of Leeds, England, McMahon has had a unique view of the industry, with experience ranging hotels, restaurants and pubs, from the UK to Australia.

With five years under her belt in a restaurant at the Marriott Hotel, including progression to the role of Assistant Bar Manager, McMahon first entered the pub landscape when the opportunity arose to lease a local pub with her dad.

The pair revitalised the pub into a thriving spot, and shortly after, McMahon made the move to Sydney, which she now calls home. Leaving behind her first foray into the pub market, it was events that sparked McMahon’s interest after arriving in Australia.

“Despite the initial challenge of transitioning into this area without prior experience, a friend at Applejack alerted me to a dual events and operations role at Endeavour Tap Rooms,” she said.

“Following a brief stint interrupted by Covid, I unexpectedly stepped into the role of General Manager upon returning to work. My journey with Applejack progressed to General Manager at Forrester’s in 2022, culminating in my recent appointment as Group Operations Manager earlier this year.”

With a hospitality career that spans both England and Australia, McMahon has observed some key similarities across the two markets, including the approach to service and customer expectations, as well as an interest in value and overall enjoyment.

On the other hand, she notes that there are some key differences.

“Unlike the UK, Australia enforces strict RSA guidelines, offers more favourable wage rates, but restricts late-night trading options more significantly,” she said.

While both markets are driven by cost, McMahon has observed an increasing amount of emphasis on value as economic factors put pressure on discretionary spending.

“Due to the economic downturn, consumers are increasingly prioritising value for money, seeking enhanced experiences that justify their expenditures.

“The combination of dining and entertainment, commonly referred to as ‘dinner and a show’ is rapidly gaining popularity, with new offerings emerging on a weekly basis to meet this demand,” she added.

“Whilst dogs have been trending for quite some time, I have seen an increase in dog-friendly venues and unique food offering for our furry friends this past year.”

Over the years, McMahon has found the industry to have its challenges, especially when she was younger and lacked confidence, but she believes that building relationships with colleagues is the first step, and the rest follows naturally.

“I have consistently leveraged strong interpersonal abilities, adept at engaging with individuals and establishing meaningful connections. Cultivating strong workplace relationships founded on mutual respect and support has proven pivotal in laying the groundwork for success,” she stated.

Now, McMahon says she finds immense satisfaction in mentoring managers across three of Applejack’s diverse venues, channelling her passion into fostering creativity and leadership.

Confirming just how passionate McMahon is about her role, she was recently awarded the Applejack Oracle Award, an internal award that recognises individuals who honour Applejack’s core values: grit, passion, authenticity, innovation, positivity and accountability.

“Working for Applejack, where these values are not just upheld but cherished, feels like being part of a family. Winning this award was a profound honour for me, affirming my belief in the power of positive affirmation and the strength of our shared values,” she says, reflecting on her achievement.

For other women looking to make a career in the hospitality industry, her best piece of advice is to believe in yourself.

“Don’t be afraid to speak up and challenge opinions. I think we are now seeing a big change in the roles available to women and much more open-mindedness about our capabilities. Surround yourself by powerful, inspiring and uplifting individuals and celebrate the small wins because it’s a tough industry, but also very rewarding,” she said.

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