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The Caterer

24 Hours

03 December 2003 by
24 Hours

I get up at about 4.30am and potter around my house for a little bit before catching the train at 5.55am from my home village of Petts Wood in Kent to London Victoria.

I arrive at Victoria at 6.30am and am in the hotel by a 6.45am. The first thing I do is have a chat with the night porters and catch up on what has been happening overnight. I then look at my e-mails and my diary to see what meetings I have that day.

I am responsible for providing room service food and beverage requirements to the hotel's guests.

The hotel has 280 bedrooms and five penthouses, and I have 14 people working with me. Each member of my team has worked here for a long time, so they all know what's what.

When I joined the hotel in June 1975, two years after it opened, I started as a night waiter. I then went on to become head waiter and then room service manager. I never expected to be here so long, but now it is my second home.

I enjoy working here, and my job is a non-stop day. Much of my time is spent in meetings with people such as Anne Scott, the general manager. What I do depends on what comes my way.

Changing working environment
In the mornings I'm usually busy in meetings, and on a typical day I have a half-hour lunch break at about 12-12.30pm, providing business allows. At lunch I sit in the canteen and discuss the day with the hotel's executive head chef, Pascal Proyart.

One of my jobs is to deal with the finances of my team. This means I have to prepare budgets and payrolls, and this is one of the things I do in the afternoons.

Since I started at the hotel 28 years ago, the working environment has changed so much. It is much more professional, much slicker. Today, to be a room service manager I need to deal with so many things. I need to be literate in all aspects of the job, such as computers and finance.

Just as the job has changed over the years, so too have the guests. Whereas in the past they were mainly luxury travellers, today they are much more business-orientated. There are also many more female business travellers than there used to be.

Operation-wise, breakfast and dinner are the busiest times of day, although we do serve food all the time. Each day we serve about 80-100 breakfasts. We have guests arriving at the hotel from many parts of the world and, because their body clocks are all out, we serve breakfast whenever they want.

The same can be said for lunch and dinner. We have guests requiring food all the time, and there really are no set meal times.

One thing I try to do is keep a guest history, so that if we have repeat guests with certain dietary requirements I can provide what they need.

I also have a number of projects that I work on, and these change depending on who we have staying at the hotel. Recently, for example, we had a chef from Kuwait who came here for a few months. I co-ordinated his visit and I drew up an Arabic menu for him.

The time I leave the hotel depends on the guests we have. Some days it is 6pm and sometimes it is 7pm. Before leaving, I check that my staff have everything they need, and then I go home.

It is a long day, and I never arrive back at my house before 8pm. The work is intense in parts, but I never leave feeling exhausted.

When I get home, I have something to eat. Then I watch television and go to bed by 10pm. n

Interview by Louise Bozec

What is the best hotel you have visited? Claridge's in London. It is a beautiful hotel.

What do you want to do when you retire?
This is undecided. Some weeks I want to go back to Spain and at other times I want to stay here. I like the privacy that England offers in the fact that your house is your castle and no one bothers you.

What has been your most embarrassing moment at work? There have been occasions when I have walked into bedrooms when I shouldn't have.

Factfile

Sheraton Park Tower hotel, 101 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RN, Tel: 020 7235 8050, www.sheraton.com/parktower
Bedrooms: 288, Rates: £380 to £3,000, Facilities: restaurant, bar, business centre, gym, conference and meeting rooms.

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