Rita Gilligan MBE was the first waitress employed by Hard Rock Cafe in London back in 1971. After seeing an advert in the Evening Standard specifically seeking waitresses in their 40’s and 50’s. Rita found herself meeting with Hard Rock founder Peter Morton in their Park Lane restaurant. She was 29.

“He asked me how old I was, I lied and said 32. ‘Too young,’ he said, but I told him: ‘I’m the best you’re going to get, so you’d better take me’. He laughed, and said, ‘You’re hired’.”

Rita’s mantra – you don’t get anything sitting on your backside – earned her the respect of her new colleagues, and in her words “we opened with a bunch of old ladies and two American hippies and off we went”. Rita made it a point to offer an experience to every customer she served, offering advice on the best things to see and do around the city and providing them with a lasting memory of their visit to Hard Rock.  

I was lucky enough to hear Rita speak about her love for the industry at an event earlier this year. “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” is a goal for many but a reality for few but Rita’s love for customers, people and experience shone through. A Galway native and a natural storyteller, she filled the room with laughter and tales of rock stars behaving badly. 

Almost 50 years later and Rita is now the International Cultural Ambassador for Hard Rock Café, travelling the world overseeing new store openings and training her colleagues. As one of hospitality’s longest serving employees, Rita ensures that the original spirit of Hard Rock is preserved across the business, so that every customer receives an exceptional service experience every time they visit.