Hats off to service

Excellence in customer service and community involvement has earned a Red Deer business a top award in the annual Red Hat Awards.

Named best server in the Cafe-Bistro division of the Red Hatter Awards Debra Short carries a meal to a customer at the Denny's Restaurant in Red Deer on Thursday.

Excellence in customer service and community involvement has earned a Red Deer business a top award in the annual Red Hat Awards.

Babycakes Cupcakery walked away wearing the cowboy hat as the business of the year during a ceremony attended by 320 people at the Red Deer Lodge Hotel on Wednesday.

Owners Andrea Fox and Diana Knapton are currently in the United States, but it didn’t take long for news of the award to reach them — particularly since Fox’s parents attended on their behalf.

“My mom, of course, phoned me all excited and I got texts from everyone I knew,” said Fox.

She believes great customer service flows naturally when business operators are enthused about their products or services.

“Just be yourself, and if you enjoy what you do, it should come naturally.”

Fox and Knapton, who previously worked as a registered nurse and a dental hygienist respectively, “love” their cupcake business and find it easy to be friendly, said Fox. They opened Babycakes at 144 Erickson Drive last October.

The Red Hat Awards honour achievement in the hospitality and tourism industry in Red Deer, said Tourism Red Deer executive director Darren Kuz.

Nomination forms were sent in throughout the summer with more than 1,600 nominations received.

Once the finalists were determined, the nominations were sent to a panel of three independent judges who scored them.

Collins Barrow chartered accountants then tabulated the scores to determine the category winners.

The awards play a significant role in promoting high standards within the industry, because hospitality and tourism is all about customer service, Kuz said.

“All the finalists and nominees should be proud of themselves,” said Erin Gobolos, chairperson of the tourism board’s directors.

Other Red Hat winners included:

• Best server in a restaurant, bistro or cafe — Debra Short, Denny’s Diner

• Best server in a lounge, nightclub or pub — Matthew Buck, Toad n Turtle and Carla Ward, Shade’s Lounge

• Best back of house personnel in food and beverage — Ming Lui, Fusion Cafe

• Best back of house personnel in accommodation — Len Carlson, Holiday Inn 67th Street

• Best front desk personnel in accommodation and information service — Lana Goldie, Best Western Inn and Suites

• Best customer service personnel in attraction, recreation or entertainment — Jesse Blacklock, North Hill Inn, Lions Den

• Best clerk representative — Ludwig Stein, Sobeys Gaetz South

• Best customer service personnel in transportation, auto service or service stations — Liz Mehlman, Budget Car Rental

• Best manager or supervisor in all tourism and hospitality related businesses — Steve Blackwell, Red Deer Lodge

• Organization of the year — Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum

• Volunteer of the year — Patricia MacSween, Kerry Wood Nature Centre

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