Avegail or Abegail? That was my first question. “It’s Avegail, with a V,” was the quick answer accompanied with a smile, which I soon learned was Avegail’s hallmark. “My parents chose this name because they wanted something special. But all my friends call me Abby in short, and I like it.”
And does she consider herself special? “Everyone is special in their way. Being special does not mean being unique but having particular characteristics which make you what you are.”
And is Avegail happy with what she is? “Yes, I feel content with what I am because I like how I believe in my work and outlook on life. Naturally, I am young, only 27, and I need to mature much further, but I believe the basis is positive.”
That was Avegail Bendian, a young Philippine good-looking girl who works with much love and dedication as a waitress at the Marina Hotel, St George’s Bay, St Julian’s.
“One has to take life with an open mind and positively look at the future. I never thought I would end up in Malta. I lived in Manila and was brought up from a certain age by my grandparents since my parents were employed in Dubai and sent us money for our living and education.
I completed a four-year course in Manila leading to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Hotel and Hospitality Management.”
Was that what her parents and grandparents wished? “Not really; they wished me to take up medicine. But, all they insisted was that I should first study and then choose to work in what was close to my heart. Hospitality rang all the best bells for me.” She smiled widely and quipped, “Well, I have the word hospital in hospitality, so they must be satisfied.
After a short stint of hospitality work in Manila, I moved to Dubai and worked there for four years as a waitress and also joined Byblos Properties.”
And how did she end up with Corinthia in Malta? “The world is much smaller than we think. Corinthia advertised in Dubai for personnel. Even though I already had work in Dubai, I took the plunge and applied. ”
Did she know where Malta is? “I confess, I did not, but then I searched Corinthia and Malta on the internet, and I loved what I found. Corinthia is a dynamic, forward-looking international company, and the information on Malta was appealing, though it was hard to spot Malta on the map; it’s so tiny, though not so much when you live here.”
Was it an easy process? “Many persons were interested, and I recall that the F&B Management and other high officials of HR of Corinthia St George travelled to Dubai to interview us. I never expected to be chosen, even though I have a positive outlook in life.”
Was her first experience of Malta a surprise? “Yes, naturally. Dubai is larger and more cosmopolitan. It is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Malta is a small island. But in Dubai, you more or less spend your life at work and then go home. It’s a repetitive experience. In Malta, it is different. There is life after work, and in summer, the sea is always close by. In many ways, life is much simpler and more enjoyable in Malta.”
Many believe a waitress’s job entails only getting and serving the client’s order. Indeed it takes much more. I would say good manners are an essential trait of every excellent waitperson. Such manners include making eye contact, smiling, being polite, pulling out chairs when appropriate, listening, and always putting the customers’ interests before yours. Did Avegail agree with this? And did she do all this in a particular way?
“I agree with all you said, but I add that I believe in acting naturally. One should not work as a robot but welcome guests sincerely and warmly. Our guests can easily distinguish the genuine from the false. It is not a matter of just going to work, doing your job and going back home. I believe one should feel much respect and make the guests feel welcome. Taking orders is the technical part, but that’s just a small part of the whole experience. Greeting and helping guests to be seated and sharing a smile whilst looking at the guests with interest are all essential to make guests relax. It’s also great to exchange information on their Malta experience and perhaps ask about their interest.”
Did Avegail learn this through training, or was it more than that? “Training is essential, but it is not the whole story. Training teaches how one should act, but the real thing is living it, and when you do so, you shape your training through your character, your outlook on life, and your maturity. It must come out straight from your heart, not from the books. I always put myself in the guests’ shoes and ask myself, how would they respond?”
What did she consider her primary duties and responsibilities? “Providing excellent service; greeting customers and presenting menus; making suggestions based on their preferences; taking and serving food/drinks orders and bringing food to the tables, which are always to be kept clean and tidy. That is in my relation to guests, but then there are duties to cooperate and communicate with all serving and kitchen staff.”
Avegail stopped briefly and softly emphasised, “A waitress job is very important in a hotel. Serving the guests is the kernel of hospitality. Service is the heartbeat of a living and thriving hotel. A manager/manageress serves in his/her role, and a waitperson in his/her role, but it all boils down to service. This must be offered and shared seamlessly and with much love to relax guests. They have paid with their hard-earned savings for all this, and it is our duty to make it a successful and positive happy experience. And – why not? – entice them also to return.”
Does Avegail make it a point to get to know guests? “Indeed, the guests enjoy being pampered and attracting the interest of the staff. It works also vice-versa. I love it when guests send me their photos even after leaving or when travelling in other countries. Our connection is not lost, and it is a beautiful bonding experience.”
I checked Trip Advisor, and I quickly came across full marks for Avegail, dating as recently as this month. “Staying in the Marina Corinthian Hotel for a week and just had the best burger in the cafe/bar served by a beautiful lady Avegail. She was friendly and attentive to my needs—service with a smile. I will be eating there again this trip. All the staff in the cafe` were so friendly. A credit to the hotel, I must say 👍”
As we say: the proof is in the pudding!
I have always been fascinated by waitpersons who take a long order without writing any details. Did Avegail depend on memory or write down everything? “Writing down is following the rules, but sometimes, I confess, I get on with memory. I would remember an order by some ten persons, and sometimes, I remember their past orders, so when they return, I know who would want gluten-free or lactose-free etc.
“My grandfather used to tell me: rather than talk, listen. Listening is the key to learning. He used to say to me: to learn a language well, follow a film but instead of reading the subtitles, listen to the language. I have learnt English well not only through studying but also, and sometimes mainly, through listening.”
Did Avegail have any siblings? “I have one younger sister, Alyanna, who has finished college and studied IT.”
And does she still speak to her grandparents? Avegail’s face shone, and her eyes were slightly wet. “I talk to them and see them on video every day.” There were a few moments of silence, as if she was reliving that experience. And I respected that meaningful silence!
Back to work: any problematic customers? “I must be honest. Of course, one is bound to meet problematic guests. But, sincerely, I never stop there. I always say to myself:there must be a reason why a customer is difficult. It could be a bad experience in the day, bad news that the guest may have received, and so on. So I act positively with much love and with a genuine smile and offer the best service as if that guest was the best one in the world. It is important to win guests over by making them enjoy where they are and how you offer your service.”
Does standing up for long hours present problems? “When I started years back, I did feel a strain, but over time I have overcome that. I have sometimes managed to serve 17 continuous hours without aches.” But then she’s only 27.
Funny incidents? Avegail laughed hard. “I’m almost ashamed to say this, but there were a few times when a young handsome guest made me lose my concentration for a few seconds, and I had to ask again for the order.”
Avegail is gifted with a positive outlook and approach, and she firmly believes that a smile can make miracles. “I believe in a smile, and I believe in God. He makes my life easier.”
And after work? “I love following some TV series, but I make it a point to remain alone in silence for some time when I can meditate and concentrate on myself, my future, my problems and my desires. That is Avegail-time! ”
Does she aspire to higher posts? She confessed that she was just offered a supervisory role but was unsure and was thinking about it. I advised her that she could only learn to swim when in the water. In other words, she should not feel absolute comfort in what she is doing and the way she does it. She should experience other exciting challenges which, however different, would, in any case, always require the talents she was gifted with already, namely enjoying and loving the service, which is the secret of success in hospitality.