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Meet the Mountain Cafe Aviemore - The Latest Hospitality Accreditation

Posted: 2019-04-26 13:29:53

Meet the Mountain Cafe Aviemore - The Latest Hospitality Accreditation

Open since 2004, The Mountain Café in Aviemore has earned a fantastic reputation for its award-winning food, friendly service and an amazing view of the Cairngorm Mountains.  Living Wage Scotland wanted to find out more about their decision to pay the real Living Wage and hear from some of the staff about what working for a Living Wage accredited employer means to them.

Owner, Kirsten Gilmour is an award-winning chef from New Zealand who prides herself in delivering locally sourced, fresh, home cooked food with a Kiwi twist.

“I wanted to create a little piece of New Zealand in Scotland: that means high quality food and coffee in a laid back, friendly environment. For us, food should be tasty, healthy and fresh, but should also have an element of luxury at the same time.”

The café offers seating on a first come first served basis and to help manage customer demand, a new buzzer system has been introduced.

 Front of house Manager Claire Smith tells us:

“Tourists come here for the mountain views, but the quality of food and service is what maintains our reputation and keeps us busy all year round.

We introduced a buzzer system which meant customers no longer need to queue on the stairs and can browse the local shops instead.

The buzzers have a good signal-range – and we buzz customers 10 minutes before their table is ready. It’s meant that the café can retain a relaxed atmosphere, and the customers are happier. Also, the surrounding retailers will benefit as our process encourages our customers to become their customers too, this we believe has added to more money being spent locally. Fat Face loves us!”

Kirsten felt it was the right time to adjust the business model and explains:

“I feel that our prices are fair, our customers are willing to pay a little more, knowing that we offer good service, that we source from local suppliers, that we choose the best ingredients for our recipes, that we cook and bake everything in-house and that our staff are rewarded with a fair wage. Having a premium product made from top quality ingredients costs more. Staff deserve a higher salary when they work in a busy and demanding role.”


Kirsten decided to implement the real Living Wage in January 2019, after struggling to recruit staff.

Lisa McInnes, Bookkeeper told us:

“Working at the Mountain Café can be a fast-paced and demanding role, and we were struggling to recruit the staff we needed. I felt that signing up for Living Wage accreditation could help the café meet its recruitment needs.

“It can be difficult to recruit in hospitality in general, and we found it difficult to recruit locally. There is a lack of available and affordable accommodation in Aviemore too, which means there are less applicants living locally, and it is difficult to attract applicants from outside the town.

“I looked at the books and offering at least the real Living Wage of course it meant a higher wage bill, but we have made adjustments to manage this without reducing the quality of the café.

In February 2019, a month after implementing the higher rate, the café decided to join the growing number of accredited Hospitality employers in seeking Living Wage accreditation to receive recognition of their commitment and to attract new talent.

Lisa McInnes explained:  

“Being able to demonstrate that we are a Living Wage employer helps us to attract the right talent and makes us proud. We might even save money in the long run if offering more than market rate wages helps us retain good staff. It seems like a sensible investment.

“We then welcomed a few new starts in the café, who enjoyed the real Living Wage at the outset”.  

Reflecting on the difference since adopting the real Living Wage, Front of house Manager Claire Smith notes:

“We noticed a boost in morale amongst the staff team when we became an accredited Living Wage employer. It’s also helped us get off on the right foot with the new staff that have joined: they expect us to treat them fairly, and in return, we expect them to deliver the high standards our customers expect.”

“Offering the real Living Wage on its own is not enough: we continue to offer full training and support to all our staff. The ‘softer skills’ required to provide good service are so important, as are the technical skills required to prepare the food.

“All our Baristas are trained to understand what it takes to make a great coffee, the bakers make everything from scratch on the premises, and Kirsten ensures the chefs are trained to create her recipes to very particular standards.

“This attention to quality is why our customers keep coming back.  We hold our staff to high standards, and so it’s only right that we offer a fair package in return. We’re really pleased that we are now able to advertise that the real Living Wage is part of that package”.


We were fortunate to hear from some of the Mountain Café team who had benefited from their employer’s decision to implement the real Living Wage.

Kieran Turdhope is a Head Pastry Chef and has worked with the Mountain Café for four years. He told us:

“It makes me feel more respected and with this I work hard because I believe in doing a good job.

“It makes me proud to work here because of the product that we sell, not the wages – although these do help!

“The real Living Wage makes a difference to me because I am able to save towards my wedding at the end of this year when I have never been able to save in the past on a hospitality income.”

Front of House Assistant Manager, Georgia Cranston has also worked at the café for 4 years and said:

“When I saw that the Mountain Café were an accredited Living Wage employer, I thought that it is amazing and is something that more places should be doing.

“I think the café becoming a Living Wage employer is good because it helps with staff motivation. It makes me proud to work here because not only are we working at one of the best cafes in Scotland, but we get paid well for it!

“I would say to other employers that they should pay the real Living Wage because it encourages staff loyalty.

“The real Living Wage makes a difference to me because it means I am more financially stable.”

New to the team, Megan Hughes is a Front of House Server who has been working at the café for 6 months. She told us:

“It makes me proud to work here because I feel appreciated and my hard work is worth it.

“I would say to other employers that they should pay the real Living Wage because your staff are then able to have a life outside work.

“The real Living Wage makes a difference to me because I can start to save up for the possibility of getting my own place to live.”



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