Ryan Wallace was always destined to work in hospitality.
As a child, he had a talent for entertaining.
And that, says Ryan, is the key to working in food and drink.
“The two things you need in this job are being caring and being an entertainer,” he says.
“From a young age, I used to do tap dancing – which I find hilarious now.
“I’d come through in my leotard and tap shoes and entertain the family with that.
“We’d do family shows with all my cousins. I’d always be the one coordinating them all.”
Though Ryan has since hung up his tap shoes, the 27-year-old says the skills required for those performances helped him forge his way in hospitality.
“I’m an entertainer and I enjoy taking care of people,” Ryan says.
“I think that’s what you need in this job.”
Working in hospitality: ‘a dream come true’
Ryan worked for a time as a recruitment consultant, but all the while, hospitality was on the back of his mind.
“I was always craving to follow my dream and do something in hospitality,” says Ryan.
And now Ryan has achieved his dream, and has been working at the Dean Park Hotel in Kirkcaldy since 2019.
Now, the food and beverage manager, he gets to use his knack for entertaining and caring day in day out.
Service – as Ryan calls it “the shortest word and the longest part of my day” – is what he enjoys the best.
“My favourite part of my job is being out on the floor with guests,” he says.
“We wouldn’t be able to do the job without them. It’s about talking to them, making sure they’re happy and comfortable.”
Rapport with guests he ‘entertains’ is key
Ryan has at least 40 staff members on his team, and hundred of covers between the hotel’s multiple restaurants and function rooms.
Even on his days off – including during our interview – Ryan is dedicated to the hotel, receiving calls and emails.
Despite shifts which can last as long as 14 hours on the rare occasion, he loves getting to be with customers, especially the regulars.
“I love meeting new people, but I love the guests who return even more,” Ryan says.
“I feel like they know my whole life story! That’s what matters most in this job.
“Sometimes it’s important not to always worry about who you’ve not got, and worry about who you have got.
“There’s a couple of ladies who come in and we’re always talking about their holidays.
“It’s about having a good rapport with guests.”
Restaurant Manager of the Year for Ryan – ‘a huge honour’
And Ryan does such a good job of making his guests comfortable that he’s been recognised as Restaurant Manager of the Year.
“It was very unexpected,” he says.
“When I was nominated, there were lots of other hotels up for it. I didn’t think I had a chance.
“It was a huge, huge honour.
“When you’re sitting in a room with all these other hotels, and little old me? I’m just doing something that I’ve always wanted to do and I want to do it well.
“It’s easy to be hard on yourself. But when it comes to stuff like that and getting recognised, it’s just amazing.
“The only thing is now, it’s a bit of pressure to live up to that name – and to the certificate on the wall!”
Making the hotel proud is always on Ryan’s mind.
And that’s partly because it’s a family affair.
Ryan’s grandparents, Colin and Margaret Smart, took over the hotel in 2019.
Since then, the hotel has been awarded two rosettes, not to mention Ryan’s own award.
“When I won the award, they were really chuffed for me,” he says.
“It’s been about making them proud as well.
“They’ve helped to make my dream a reality.”