Huie-Cunningham boasts 30 years of service in tourism sectorThursday, June 24, 2021
NEGRIL, Westmoreland - With over three decades in the hospitality industry, Sandals Negril's vibrant Beverage Manager Cheryl Huie-Cunningham's vast experience spans every area in the food and beverage department.
Huie-Cunningham started her journey at Sandals Negril in 2013 and goes by the moniker 'Top Shelf'. Her vast knowledge of beverage management, cost control and team leadership has resulted in a well-rounded and winning bar department at Sandals Negril. She and her team maintain a consistent average score of 4.7 or 4.8 out of five for beverage service at the resort every month.
Huie-Cunningham is a walking, talking, wealth of knowledge; eagerly and ably imparting gems of information on the many individuals who have grown under her guidance.
A conversation with her is reminiscent of Negril's hospitality landscape and is nothing short of an amazing time lapse through the years. She has worked with some of the most reputable Jamaican tourism brands, and for all these establishments she only applied for her very first job in Negril as a waitress and bartender.
The Trelawny born and Kingston-bred mother of four came to Negril with only two packed suitcases, looking to start in an industry that would later serve as the means by which she could afford a comfortable standard of living for herself and family. She recounts working as a bartender and waitress at the then well-known Cosmo's Restaurant where she was exposed to some of the most prominent people in the industry.
Every other career move she made was never as a result of her job hunting or applying for them; these jobs were offered to her, owing to her remarkable customer service skills that earned the respect of many influential hoteliers she served wherever she worked.
She remembered being approached by the owner of a well-known pasta restaurant to be the general manager which led to her first taste of leadership after three years at her first job. During this stint she hosted numerous celebrities vacationing on the rock, American singer/songwriter Lionel Richie being one of them. After four years successfully running the small, yet busy restaurant, Huie-Cunningham started yearning for experience in bigger resorts. Having got offer after offer in the past, it was no surprise that yet another opportunity fell in her lap and she moved on to an all-inclusive to manage the resort's restaurant.
Her expertise and talent as a respected food service professional made room for yet another growth spurt for Huie-Cunningham who was later asked to join the Grand Lido Negril team when the all-inclusive made its debut in Negril.
She undoubtedly moved up the ranks to become food and beverage service manager. During her climb to one of the top spots, she gained valuable knowledge in all food and beverage areas. Huie-Cunningham worked at the resort for over 20 years before developing an insatiable urge to align herself with the Sandals brand. A company she admired as having an excellent track record for customer service and was globally known as one of the most iconic hotel chains in the Caribbean. Again without so much as a job application, she was offered the role of beverage manager at Sandals Negril.
Today, Huie-Cunningham leads a team of true tourism champions, as under her leadership, the bar team in 2019 was recognised as the Department of the Year at the Sandals Negril Annual Prestige Awards, an accolade that is the goal of many heads of department.
Many of her bartenders have been awarded for their performances and have either transitioned to other resorts or received promotions. She has helped to groom her bartenders into leaders with her newly promoted supervisor Tyesha Junior as a prime example.
“Two months ago I was offered the role of bar supervisor, a promotion that both shocked and excited me. Being a bar supervisor is honestly great but also scary. But what I value a lot is that I get to learn so much about leadership and about the beverage operation from my manager. Most difficult for me is leading a team of persons I once shared a bar space with, making drinks and entertaining our guests. Under her (Huie-Cunningham's) guidance, I am learning to put my foot down. I have become so much better at communicating and delegating and I am thankful I can always reach out to her for guidance,” shared Junior.
Huie-Cunningham's gratitude to the industry runs deep.
“I have given 30 years of quality work to this awesome sector and it has repaid me tremendously as well. I have travelled, met some great persons from all around the world. I remember coming with two suitcases with my possessions to be able to provide comfortably for my family,” she shared.
“I currently work for one of the best brands in the industry and I get a front row seat to witness and to also help in offering some amazing opportunities to many who have joined the Sandals team. I am pleased to be impacted by this awesome brand and to also be a part of a sector that is impacting the lives of others.”
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