Heart and soul of our community

by SANDI MILLER
7th June 2021

WE LOVE our pub.
In fact, we love our pub more than any other town in Victoria.
Grand Hotel Warrandyte has taken out the Heart of the Community award at the recent Australian Hotels’ Association Victorian awards.
The AHA Awards recognise venues who do over and above outstanding service and contributions to the industry and the community.
The Grand’s General Manager, Peter Appleby is rightly proud of this award, and of his Functions and Event manager, Nicole Irvine, who has taken out the Emerging Leader award at the same event.
“We nominated for six awards — then it goes through a mystery shopper process, and we were a finalist in all six of those awards, and the best part was, and you can’t nominate for the Best Overall Hotel, Metropolitan — on the back of our success during the program we were then elevated into that category, which was fantastic,” he said.
Peter said he is particularly excited to have taken out the Heart of the Community award.
“It is very dear to my heart, because we have been in this town a long, long time.
“I grew up in the town as well, so it is a pretty proud moment to snare that one for, not just myself, but also the team, and the community who has invested in us over the years, and we in them,” he said.
Peter said he nominated Nicole for the Emerging Leader of the Year.
“That was a CV and then interview process, and she nailed it, she got the top gong in the state as the emerging young leader.
“She is our Function and Events Manager but took on a hell of a lot more through lockdown last year, and once we reopened, I saw her advance her skills on the floor, and take a lot more management opportunities.
“I am very proud of her and what she went through last year in lockdown — she chose to swim when others chose to sink — and that is not just here, that is across everywhere — and every industry.
“She self-educated, she did courses online to better herself and I think that shone through with the recognition of that award, so we are super proud of her,” Peter said.
Nicole told the Diary she was honoured when Peter chose to nominate her.
“Entering this award is not something I would usually do and was completely outside of my comfort zone.
“The support and encouragement I received from my team was incredible, it really helped me prepare for the judging process.
When they read out my name to win the award, I was so shocked and so proud, I began to cry.
“I could not believe it — it is a moment I will never forget”.
Nicole said like everyone, she found 2020 to be a challenge, with The Grand closed, she was not in a position where she could work from home.
“We all had the option of sitting back or stepping up and I chose to step up,” she said.
“Throughout lockdown, I was determined to not let COVID beat me, and I took that time to better myself and my knowledge by signing up to as many training resources as possible.
“When we re-opened our doors in late October of 2020, I was prepared and ready to go.
“This award is a true testament and acknowledgment of all my hard work and dedication, and I could not be more proud of myself,” she said.
Nicole’s award includes a $10,000 scholarship, which is a joint initiative from the Australian Government and the AHA Victoria.
She said the scholarship can be used on training courses or a hospitality experience, such as a seminar.
“I will use this opportunity to gain new skills, and grow as a hospitality professional,” she said.
Peter said the Grand is now eligible for the national awards, which are held in September in Tasmania.
“It would be great to be recognised not just in Victoria as the Heart of the Community, but in Australia, it would be pretty special for our little Warrandyte pub,” he said.