By Julie Costello
It’s a busy morning at Harvey’s Point Hotel in Donegal, where 17-year-old twin sisters Annie and Philomena O’Reilly are employed as Food and Beverage Assistants on the Breakfast Team.
Annie is hard at work in the pantry, preparing lattés, cappuccinos, and rounds of toast. Meanwhile, Philomena assists co-workers in welcoming guests to the dining room while explaining the vast array of breakfast choices available and providing service to diners during their meals. While pointing out the impressive selection of breakfast options available at the award-winning four-star hotel, Anne tells me, “We’re often dealing with over 200 guests at a time.” Philomena added, “Our job is ensuring the guest’s needs are met, and they have all they require to enjoy their meal.”
The sisters and the rest of the Harvey’s Point Hotel Breakfast Team have been meeting the needs of their guests with such excellence that they recently won the Gold Medal for Best Hotel Breakfast in Ireland from the Virgin Media Gold Medal Business Awards.
Noel Cunningham, Harvey’s Point Hotel Ambassador, well-known TV presenter, and former person of the year, praised Annie and Philomena for their role in the team’s accomplishment. “Winning the award was a wonderful accomplishment for Harvey’s Point, and full marks to Annie and Philomena for their role as part of the Harvey’s Point team in helping win this award,” he said. Adding, “Both girls are hard workers who provide friendly, professional service to our guests at the hotel. They are a joy to work with, and we feel fortunate to have them on the team.”
Curious to know more, I sat down with the Philomena and Annie to ask them more about their work at Harvey’s Point Hotel.
How did you start working at Harvey’s Point Hotel?
Annie & Philomena: We started out doing work experience there in December 2021 during Transition Year with support from Maeve McIvor, the Traveller Job Coach at Donegal Local Development CLG, and ended up getting employment after that.
What is your job at the hotel?
Annie: I am a part-time Food and Beverage Assistant, which includes working as a Barista.
Philomena: I am a full-time Food and Beverage Assistant/Barista.
What do you do at work, and how many hours do you work on a shift?
Philomena: I usually work eight hours for up to nine or ten days to help during the morning breakfast service. To sum it up, our Job is to make sure the guests get their needs met and have all they require to enjoy their meal. We then clear up after breakfast.
Annie: I usually start work at 8 a.m. and work five to eight hours, three to four days a week. I do the breakfast service, where we often deal with over 200 guests at a time. Then, in the afternoon, we have afternoon teas and serve food in the bar for lunch service. In between, we do odd jobs, such as polishing, folding napkins, and tidying up the restaurant.
What do you like best about your Job?
Annie: Being accepted in my work environment as a Traveller, the social interactions, and meeting new people daily.
Philomena: I like feeling accepted by my co-workers and being judged for my work and character, not my culture. I also like the social aspect, training opportunities, and the independence that comes from working.
What do you find challenging about the position?
Philomena: Dealing with demanding customers, which is to be expected when working in hospitality or any job like it.
Annie: Dealing with difficult customers and certain workloads. In the beginning, I felt as though I was being antagonised in certain situations and that I was not being taken seriously. The longer I have worked at Harvey’s Point, gaining confidence, and becoming more professional, I am being treated with the dignity and respect I deserve.
What training have you received?
Annie and Philomena: Barista, food safety, manual handling, correct waitressing, and online courses through Mojo and SeaChange vary in different topics.
Where do you see yourself going with this Job?
Annie: I am not sure.
Philomena: Into a Team Leader or a Supervisor position.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Philomena: I would still like to be at Harvey’s Point Hotel.
Annie: Working at one of their sister hotels in another county.
As a member of the Traveller community, how do you find working in a settled environment? Do your co-workers understand or have an interest in Traveller culture?
Annie: I feel no different from my co-workers. Some are interested, and some are unfamiliar with Traveller culture.
Philomena: I don’t feel any different from my co-workers. Some are interested and like to ask many questions. I am currently planning a meeting with my American co-worker to sit down and explain all about my culture, as it is a huge topic of interest to her.
With regards to the Irish Employment Equality Act legislation supporting the right to Dignity and Respect at Work, how do you feel you have been treated as a Traveller in this Job?
Philomena: I have always felt respected working at Harvey’s Point by other staff members.
Annie: I feel I have been treated with dignity and respect by Harvey’s Point Hotel.