From the heady heights of 80s Manchester to the calming waters of the River Hamble, Bridget Vyze has had an enviable career packed with fun and excellent service. We found out more from the Banana Wharf Hamble Manager.
Bridget’s earliest memory of working was as a 14-years old ‘washer upper’ in a school in her spare time then when she was old enough, she worked at MacDonald’s and was soon employed as a Trainer at the fast-food outlet.
However, it was a job as a waitress in TGI Friday’s where Bridget’s love for the hospitality trade was borne.
“I really fell in love with waitressing in a big way at TGIs, there were only four of them in the country at the time and they were really revolutionary. We had a two-week training school, which literally just taught you how to be a waitress.”
Back then, in the late 80s, TGIs was a whole new concept to eating out; casual dining didn’t exist then. It was all about service and teaching you to have fun at the same time. It took away all the stuffiness you would associate with going to a restaurant. It was fantastic and got me hooked and since those early days service and fun have always been a big thing for me.”
After a few year’s at TGI’s Bridget moved to Cheerleaders, an American themed sports bar in Manchester.
“For a 22-year old it was another fantastic place to work; it was an amazing bar; the boxer Mohammed Ali came over from America to open it! We all wore Cheerleading outfits and when we finished work we all used to go out wearing them – we got into absolutely everywhere, it was right next door to the legendary Hacienda nightclub! We all lived in a staff house and shared it with these beautiful American waitresses who would come and work at the restaurant on a six-month visa.”
Bridget worked her way up to Assistant Manager before going to work for Manchester-based hospitality group Living Ventures’ JW Johnsons – the place to be seen in Manchester in the 90s, popular with the football players with the likes of Beckham and Cantona as customers.
A theme of fun seems to be common to all of Bridget’s workplaces. “I’ve always worked in really fun places, next up was – Via Vita – on Albert Square where I was the first female General Manager for the group!”
A few years later, a change of scene beckoned and Bridget started work for an outside catering company traveling to all the main Sporting events throughout the country and ultimately moving to Southampton.
“My plan was to, at some stage, open my own restaurant. I was in Southampton with a friend who showed me this property. I knew it would be perfect, so not one to mess about I met with the owner the next day and agreed to a deal. It is all about timing and I knew the timing was right.”
Two days later, Bridget made the permanent move to Southampton and opened The Dock of the Bay on The Avenue, on September 9th 1999! Bridget and her husband, a builder by trade, ran the restaurant between them for 18 years before closing its doors in 2017.
‘It was a sad day when we closed the restaurant for the last time. We had a fantastic time running it, made lots of friends and had lots of fun, but the market had changed, more restaurants opened in the city which impacted the business and it wasn't’ viable anymore.”
It wasn’t long before Bridget’s expertise and passion for hospitality was snapped up, and she was employed by the Delicious Dining Group at Banana Wharf.
“After Dock of the Bay I thought I wanted to do something different, I had a little wobble,” she says smiling. “But hospitality is in my blood, so it’s great to be back. It was a little daunting at first, after running your own business for 18 years you don’t think you are very employable. In a way, it’s no different to running your own restaurant. I care for it and run it as it was my own.”
Bridget takes the same approach as she has over the past 18 years, “I employ really good staff and make sure I have enough of them. I have always surrounded myself with really good people and that makes your life great because your job is much easier and everyone has fun!” An ethos that has certainly stood her in good stead and no doubt will continue to do so.