Public lives

09 October 2003
Public lives

Stuart Proctor, 28

Resident manager, the Stafford, London. Salary range: £40,000-£50,000

What does being a resident manager involve?
My main responsibility is to oversee the food and beverage operation here. The Stafford restaurant has 60 seats and focuses on classical cuisine, including a carvery that we've just brought back. The American Bar also serves food such as foie gras on brioche, and omelettes. In the summer, the courtyard is open and we can do 70 at lunch. There are also four function rooms including the 350-year-old Cellars, which is a high-profile, high-spend, private dining room seating as many as 44.

Do you have anything to do with rooms?
There's a hotel manager who oversees the rooms, but if he's not on and I am, then I'll attend to any matters arising from the hotel side of it. We're both deputies to Terry Holmes, who's executive director and the front man for the hotel.

Are the hours long?
We work shifts, so I might start at 7.30am and work till 6pm, or work from 10am till 10pm, when the final private rooms have been fed. At this level, you put in the hours that are required. The bonus is that we're primarily a Monday-to-Friday hotel, so I have the weekends off.

Did you always want to join the industry?
Yes. I like food and people. It was an unusual choice for a lad from my part of the world - I was into sports, playing football for Lancashire at school, but I also went to home economics classes. My parents thought I was mad.

What's been the highlight of your career? I think my time as general manager at the Devonshire Arms, because I was building a team of my own and we won an RAC Gold Ribbon and a Michelin star, and I personally won an Acorn award during my time there. That said, I've wanted to work at the Stafford hotel since I was 18, and to be able to work with Terry Holmes is just fantastic.

Is it difficult being a deputy and working with someone who's so well-known?
Initially, the biggest hurdle for me was that Terry Holmes is the man - he's been associated with the Stafford for 35 years. In my last job, I was the front man. But Terry's generous and introduces me to all the key guests, so that I'm getting to know them as well.

What's your ambition?
I wanted to be general manager of a country house hotel by the age of 25, which I did. By 30, I'd like to be general manager of a London luxury hotel, and I think I'm on track for that.

If you hadn't joined the industry what would you like to have been? Manager of Blackburn Rovers.

1992-1995: Northcote Manor, Lancashire, apprentice trainee manager
1995-1998: Shire Hotels, deputy general manager
1998: Arcadian hotels, Brandshatch Place, operations manager
1999: Vineyard at Stockcross, Berkshire, hotel manager
1999-2002: Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire, general manager
2003: Stafford hotel, London, resident manager

Rachel McDonald, 27

Executive housekeeper, St David's Hotel and Spa, Cardiff
Salary range: £20,000-£25,000

1994: Westbury hotel, London, trainee receptionist
1995-98: Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Southgate, Melbourne, Australia, room attendant, public area cleaner, butler
1998-2000: Northern Melbourne Institute, lecturer on accommodation and front office practices
2000-01: Palazzo Versace, Gold Coast Australia, pre-opening team as supervisor then departmental co-ordinator
2001-02: Stradey Park hotel, South Wales, assistant hotel manager
2002-present: St David's Hotel and Spa Cardiff, recently appointed executive housekeeper

Tell us about the role of executive housekeeper I get in about 8am and walk through the hotel's public areas, the spa and the restaurants, making sure they're all clean. I talk with the duty manager and general manager, and I do spend a fair amount of time in meetings. I do spot checks of the rooms, to make sure they're up to standard, and I do still take off my jacket and clean rooms if I'm needed.

What do you find is the most difficult thing about the job? I have to look ahead to the amount of bookings we have, to ensure I have adequate staffing. Room sales move really quickly these days, and the hotel may have 50 rooms sold on Monday and 100 sold by Tuesday, so I have to keep an eye on that.

What's been your worst experience? Working at Palazzo Versace was a double-edged sword - it wasn't operationally focused, and the expectations that were set were so high it wasn't realistic. It was hard work, but not in a fun way.

What do you enjoy most? My staff are my real focus - and how we achieve our targets and goals, and being there to support them, is important. I'm in charge of 40 people now, so it's a serious responsibility.

You're at the top of the housekeeping ladder at 27 - what next? I really enjoy training and I'm also interested in doing rooms division - I need a bit more front-office experience for that, but that's a possibility. I hope that I'll be able to stay with RF, and maybe transfer to one of their other hotels when I'm ready for the next move.

Stephen McLay, 23

Restaurant manager, the Bonham, Edinburgh
Salary range: £16,000-£20,000

How did you get into the industry? I was 15 and I did a week's work experience at Channings hotel in Edinburgh, supervised by Marco Truffelli, who was the reception manager. He told me I could succeed in the industry, and to call him if I ever needed a job. I called two years later.

He was deputy manager, and hired me for part-time work as a hall porter while I was in my sixth year at school. I had planned to go to university, but I took a year out, working full-time at the hotel, and loved it so much I stayed. Marco put me on a trainee manager's programme for two years and, in early August, after six years with the company, I was promoted to restaurant manager.

Marco is now managing director of the company, has just finished his MBA and is a continual source of inspiration for me.

Were you always interested in hospitality? My father was managing director of a chain of hotels, so I guess it was in my blood. But I'm trying hard to come out from his shadow, so I won't tell you where he worked.

What does your job involve? I'm in charge of the 80-seat dining room and of a staff of 15-20 people. We're currently recruiting and rebuilding the team, which is great fun.

Is there a downside to the job? The hours are the big one. I work 60-80 hours a week, which is pretty hard on the social life. Money isn't such an issue - I have a generous package, especially for someone my age.

I can't say I like all the paperwork, either - I prefer to be face-to-face with the guests and overseeing my team.

What do you like best about your role? The responsibility that you're given, especially someone young, like myself. You wouldn't get that in other industries.

You're ambitious - what next? Before I'm 30, I'd like to do my own thing - a restaurant or a bar. I'm confident I can make a success of it. I'm half-French and I think, at some point, I'd like to take some time to go over there and see how operations over there work.

Do you think you'll stay in hospitality? Definitely. This is where my heart is.

Linda Kerse, 34

Front of house manager, Seaham Hall, Co Durham
Salary range: £15,000-£20,000

What does a front of house manager do? I'm a workaholic and I get in about 8am. I check everything is OK with reception, chat with the duty manager, and talk to Jason Adams, our general manager. I run through what's going on with them, and at 9.30 there's a managers' meeting. I tell everyone what's booked, and if there are any VIPs coming in. I get involved in taking reservations and checking out guests if they need me to. I leave about 6.30-7pm, or may stay till wedding speeches are over, if there's one on.

Why should people consider this as a job? The variety - no two days are ever the same. You never get bored and there's a challenge at every turn.

Where were you before? Ragdale Hall near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, where I did the front of house job for six years.

Did you train for the hospitality industry? Not really. I did a business and finance course at Hatfield Polytechnic, because I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do and thought it would give me a good grounding. It did, and I got a job in sales at a hotel. Then I worked as a weddings co-ordinator and then, at a job interview, I was asked if I'd ever thought about front of house. I hadn't, but it fitted with my personality, and I ended up at Ragdale Hall.

What's your advice to others wanting to get into this role? Keep your options open. If you plan on one thing, it might not be for you. Look for employers who are willing to train you - I don't think hospitality is a career you can learn through a textbook.

What's your ideal job? I love what I do, but one day I'd like to be a general manager.

Jane Di Paolo, 25

Resident manager, Days Hotel Wakefield
Salary range: £17,000-£22,000

Did you always want to be in hotels?
No. I started out wanting to do restaurants and bars, but I got a job with Six Continents Retail and had the chance to work at Express by Holiday Inn. I really enjoyed it.

What does being resident manager involve? Everything! From the more predictable staff training and watching the figures, to day-to-day running of the hotel and checking in guests, and then pulling a pint for them at the bar. We're a budget concept so my role is varied, to say the least. We don't do room service, but offer guests a full-service product for £52.50 on a week-night.

Would you like to work in five-star hotels? No, I prefer being here, having my finger on everything.

What's the downside? Training someone, seeing them progress and do well, and then leave the industry.

And the upside? I get such a buzz out of seeing people develop so, when they're doing well and enjoying it, so am I.

Any advice for others? If you believe this is what you want to do, go out and get the experience.

Chris Williams, 36

General manager, Alias Hotel Rossetti, Manchester
Salary range: £40,000-£50,000

How did you get into the industry? I'm dyslexic and my careers teacher told me I could either be a hairdresser or a chef. I did catering college for two years, worked as a chef for a couple of years, but I was desperate to do front of house. I worked my way up and ended up running the five-star Carlton Ambassador in The Hague, Netherlands. But I found the industry a bit restrictive, so I left and joined Inventive Leisure, and helped develop the Revolution Bar chain with them.

How did you get back into hotels? The recruitment agent told me Alias Hotels weren't like other hotels, so I came to look. I've been here three months and it really doesn't feel like I'm in the hotel business.

What do you like about it?
The most important thing for me is to work for an organisation that wants to be ground-breaking. Here the hotel, nightclub and restaurant all work together, but each is a separate entity and feels different.

How was your experience in the leisure industry regarded?
I did find consultants a bit narrow-minded. They didn't seem to see the advantage of four years developing a leisure brand. To be fair, that's what the typical hotel industry manager thinks.

Best part of the job?
I enjoy turning a negative into a positive. Recently, there was a party of 14 for the Caf‚ Paradiso restaurant and we hadn't put it in the reservations book, and we were full. We gave them the private function room in our nightclub, the Basement, and we let them order from the à la carte Paradiso menu.

They knew we'd made an error, but also saw how we'd put it right. They've already booked their Christmas party and another pre-Christmas function.

Luke Goggin, 27

National accounts manager, Travel Inn
Salary range: £40,000-£60,000

What does a national accounts manager do?
I take care of the big corporate clients who use Travel Inn on a daily basis. Developing and maintaining the relationships with those national clients is the key part of my job. In addition, since January, I've been focusing on the sales strategy for the new 600-bedroom Travel Inn at Heathrow. There are three national account managers at Travel Inn, reporting to the sales director, who's responsible for all 304 hotels in the UK.

Was hospitality your first choice?
No, I wanted to be an architect. Then I decided I didn't want to do seven years' training, so I studied design technology at university. I went to Australia and played professional rugby and then I came back to the UK and worked as a recruitment consultant. I didn't like the industry much, and got into a sales training company, where I hoped I could move into account management. It didn't work out, so I decided to move to a large company where I could further develop my skills, and that brought me to Whitbread and into Travel Inn last September.

Did it matter that you didn't know much about the industry?
It did a little bit, but the brands are so strong it's not something that has to be a hard sell. Most of our big clients were using the product already.

What does the future hold?
I'd like to move up the ladder and, if the opportunity arises, I'll take it. I'd also like to work abroad - Australia, maybe. n

Jamie Paxton, 26

Spa marketing executive, Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh
Salary range: £16,000-£22,000

Marketing executive sounds good - what do you do?
I look after the marketing for the One Spa at the Sheraton Grand. That means I look after everything from public relations, advertising, the website, brand management, merchandising and retail, promotions, all the printed materials for the spa, developing relationships with like-minded partners (such as Scottish Rugby Union and Harvey Nichols) to do joint promotions, etc. It's really a varied role.

Were you in hospitality in your last job?
No, I worked for Standard Life in the financial services sector. But prior to that, I worked as the first marketing executive Starwood had at its UK properties at the Westin Turnberry, Ayrshire.

Why did you come back to hospitality - wasn't financial services better paid?
A similar position in financial services would probably earn up to £28,000, but the difference is in the product you're selling.

Here, I see everything I do, but marketing pensions is intangible, in a way. The spa has the real wow factor and is a highly sophisticated product, and I really enjoy working on that.

Where next?
I'd like to stay in hospitality but maybe focus on the sporting side of things - I enjoyed the golf promotional marketing I did at Turnberry, so perhaps a resort hotel would be the next move. Within three years I'd hope to be a marketing director somewhere.

The other good thing about working for a large company like Starwood is that there are more than 750 properties worldwide, so perhaps I could go abroad for a year or two.

Margaret McQueen, 26

Regional revenue manager for London, Marriott hotels
Salary range: £40,000-£50,000

What exactly is a revenue manager? The basic principle is to forecast demand and then maximise the revenue for that demand. When there's no demand, then you change tack and work with the sales force and identify new markets to increase demand.

My job is to co-ordinate the regional managers of 12 hotels who are all trying to do this. I have to maintain the company's principles and ensure that, from the outside, it looks like we're working together.

I also have to make sure that we're delivering our results against the competition. If our competitor is achieving £100 a room, I need to be sure we're achieving more.

How do you find that out?
External benchmarking companies collect information and then we can see if we're making more on room rate or on food and beverage, etc. It's my job to translate the information and put it together in an accessible format for others, such as the general managers.

Who uses all this information? Often, a GM will ask us what business they should accept, what the best mix is for the hotel. So we need to communicate to them and to their staff why it's better to sometimes say no to a booking - this has to be understood by everyone, especially receptionists and those who work on reservations.

What does your day involve?
My main job is to make sure the six revenue managers are doing their best. So, I might spend two hours meeting one-to-one with each of them, going through ideas and forecasts.

I attend one of the weekly sales strategy meetings at a different hotel each week. I report to the operations director for London and advise on what's coming up.

Any advice for others? I set goals such as earning my age in salary. That really helped me to stay focused and look for the next opportunity.

Andrew Stembridge, 32

Managing director, Chewton Glen
Salary range: £80,000-£100,000

How do you manage your time each day?
I try to get to my desk by 8am, just to have an hour to myself - that's crucial to the success of my day. I spend far more time with the guests in this role than at my last job as general manager at the Scotsman. There's a larger management team here, which allows me to get out from behind the desk. I think there's an art to being there at the right time for people, and in years gone by I think I may have been guilty of staying at work too long. You've got to get the work-life balance right.

Is it daunting to be such a young MD?
I'm ambitious and this is a dream job. It'll be difficult to fill the shoes of Peter Crome [the previous MD], but I have the benefit of having worked with him and I understand his style of management. However, now it's my turn to see where the opportunities are in the business.

Did you always want to go into hospitality? Yes. I grew up in the Borders of Scotland and I worked in local restaurants, washing dishes and waiting tables. I did a degree in Hotel Management and Tourism at Strathclyde University.

I worked my way up and I worked at Chewton Glen as operations manager from January 1997 to March 2001. Then I was offered the post of general manager at the Scotsman hotel in Edinburgh, where I've been until now.

What's the high point of your career?
This is - I think you do yourself a disservice if you don't think that each new job is the highlight.

What do you like about the job? As managing director of just one unit, I have more responsibility and accountability for the business. It's also nice to go somewhere that everyone has heard of and that has such a great international reputation.

Is there anything not to like? It's a fairly lonely job, being in charge. You need to be friendly with staff, but maintain a distance, because ultimately you may have some tough decision to make.

What's your next move?
Becoming a father for the first time is top of the list, as my wife and I are expecting our first baby in March. Professionally, I think a small group of hotels appeals to me - but that's down the road.

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