She has worked for several large UK brands in the past – including Procter & Gamble – as well as having worked in front-of-house roles from the age of 16.
Claire joined the recruitment industry in the late 1990s, working for Blue Arrow.
Fire Hospitality has grown rapidly after being founded by Rodney Burt, Jadon Connis, Anthony Cook and Mike Carter just over four years ago – before diversifying during the COVID pandemic to create Fire Healthcare and Fire Food Chain, helping staff in the hospitality industry find work during the two national lockdowns.
Claire met “Rodders” as he is known throughout the industry while working at Blue Arrow, and has spent the last 16 years working for a Surrey-based agency.
She said: “Hospitality is a very small world, and it’s just as much about who you know, as what you know! And I knew ‘Rodders’ – and the reputation he has built for being one of the best in the business.
“Obviously, you are always aware of the competition and once I saw Fire Hospitality was expanding across Hampshire and into Surrey and Sussex, I kept a close eye on them.
“I could not help but be impressed by how quickly they gained a reputation for providing a very personalised and well-tailored recruitment solution for their customers.
“So when I spoke to Rodney to sound him out about a possible move in the future, I soon found myself sat down with him, Jadon and Mike.
“Three-and-a-half hours later I was so excited by what they had already achieved with Fire Hospitality, and their plans for future growth, I was hooked.
“And the rest as they say is history.
“Leaving my old job was a big wrench after 16 years, but after the last couple of years had been dominated by COVID, I was ready for a new challenge – although I was quite particular about the kind of job, and people, I wanted to work with.”
Fire Hospitality has worked with clients both large and small since 2018 and regularly supplies staff to top sporting and cultural events.
As well as supplying staff at the South’s top Premiership football clubs , Fire Hospitality staff can be found working at world-class events such as the Cheltenham Racing Festival, and Goodwood’s famous Festival of Speed and Revival meetings.
Only last month, Fire Hospitality’s new London office supplied catering and serving staff at Coldplay’s sold-out Wembley Stadium concerts.
Claire has hit the ground the running in Fire Hospitality’s Southampton office, and is already speaking to existing clients and potential new ones.
She said: “Hospitality is tough and hard work… recruiting for the hospitality industry can be just as hard.
“At the same time, the industry creates the very best in team work and morale and some of my best friends are old work colleagues and clients.
“In my opinion, the industry is even harder than ever and trying to find good quality candidates is a real challenge.
“But you still can’t beat the feeling of finding a great candidate the right role, or a team of staff all arriving on time, in the correct uniform with a smile on their face.
“When they help to make it a well-run and successful, as well as hopefully a profitable event, it’s a very satisfying and rewarding job.”
But if Claire does have one long-lasting frustration about working in the industry, it is the way in which those same staff are viewed by many people today.
Claire revealed: “My biggest bugbear is the lack of respect the industry is given, even though we all depend on catering and hospitality in our lives.
“Across Europe it is regarded more as a profession, but in the UK it tends to be an industry we fall into, or fall back on – rather than choose.
“Yet as customers and consumers our expectations are higher than ever,” said Claire, who has also worked at a number of top events venues, including Foxhills Golf & Country Club, at Ottershaw, and the exclusive Pennyhill Park Hotel, at Bagshot.
“We now face more challenges than ever,” Claire added. “But at least the salaries and benefits are starting to improve across the sector.”
So what does the director who likes to relax by spending time with her beloved cocker spaniel Harvey, and her new found passion for baking treats and specialist cakes – which she promises will be shared with Fire’s staff – see as her biggest challenge in her new position?
“I think the same as it has always been in this sector, lack of candidates,” said Claire.
“There is never enough for everyone’s requirements, but Fire Hospitality prides itself on leaving no stone unturned in the search, and that will continue.
“Signing up with Fire Hospitality is very easy – and once candidates have done that and been approved after our regulatory checks, our Crew Planner app makes life easy, from choosing when you want to work, to getting paid on time.”
And Claire is content that she is only sending her staff out to work in roles, she fully understands, and appreciates the demands of, as well as those of the client.
She revealed: “I have kept my hand in by continuing to work temporary shifts for a number of different clients over the years, from hotels and golf clubs to care homes and schools, so I know the jobs from top to bottom.”
Claire also prides herself on being extremely thorough when it comes to compliance and quality, and ensuring Fire’s staff are focused on the clients’ requirements and needs.
She said: “Before I moved into the recruitment business, I worked as a legal secretary.
“I have taken the very formal and structured nature of all legal work into my work in the hospitality sector.
“It is the cornerstone of my philosophy about delivering quality, assurance and consistency to ensure we meet the clients’ demands and needs.”
So what does Claire see her role at Fire Hospitality leading to?
“Simple,” she smiled. “When I became the commercial manager in my last role 10 years ago, I wanted us to be the best catering and hospitality agency in Surrey.
“I believe we were, at least for a while. Is it too ambitious to want to be the best catering and hospitality agency in Hampshire, and even further afield?”
Why not speak to Claire about helping to resolve your temporary and permanent recruitment needs – from head chefs to sous and kitchen porters, to front-of-house staff?