Those of you blessed with leadership qualities and the ambition to be a manager will find the only way is up in the hospitality industry. Rosalind Mullen reports.
There are two main routes to management, whether it's in pubs, hotels, contract catering or restaurants. Those of you who are academic might want to consider studying for a hospitality degree or other higher qualification, followed by a fast-track training scheme with a big company. But for others it might be better to research the growing number of companies that grow their own managers through the ranks - information can be found from many industry websites such as www.springboarduk.net or www.instituteofhospitality.org.
The good news is that despite the recession, recruitment experts say the market for managers is fairly buoyant. This is mainly because companies are seeing the value in a strong management team to take their companies through this difficult period.
Emma Kelleher, managing director at recruitment company Caterek, says: "We have seen a constant stream of management jobs, ranging from management trainee positions through to operations manager and general manager roles. Companies are seeing that there are a number of experienced and skilled individuals available and are taking the opportunity to strengthen their teams."
According to Kelleher, a number of large branded clients are investing heavily in management trainee programmes at the moment because they can see the value in training and promoting from within.
"Anyone interested in securing a role within management should ensure their CV is up to date," she advises. "And if you're not currently employed, secure some [relevant] voluntary work as there is such stiff competition for each position at the moment."
She adds: "Retail is a transferable industry. I often look there to recruit people as 85% of their employees are front-line so there are similarities to the skills and attributes needed in hospitality."
THE HOTEL MANAGER
Who? Gareth Banner, 32
What? General manager
Where?The Hempel, London W2
How have you planned your hotel management career?
In a traditional way. I studied hotel and restaurant management at Oxford Brookes University and spent my work experience with Marriott in the USA in foreign office operations. I loved it, so when I came back I finished my degree and applied for a place on the Marriott graduate programme.
Was that a good move?
Yes. My career picked up in earnest over the next seven years when I was assigned to work on a number of projects, such as the rebranding of Swallow Hotels which Marriott had just bought. It was an opportunity to work in head office and it was challenging - I had only been out of university for a year and there I was working alongside company executives. It gave me the big picture on how hotels are run.
So how did you get operational experience?
Eventually, the projects stopped and I was made director of operations at the company's Cardiff hotel. I wanted to get back to London so I moved to De Vere Hotels as deputy general manager of the Cavendish, then over a year ago I came to the Hempel as general manager.
Is it easier to work for a big brand or independent?
Well, I understand how big brands work, but I find working for an independent hotel more challenging as there is not as much head office support. At Marriott, I learnt a lot but you had to follow a process, whereas here I have to be more creative and entrepreneurial. The staff at the Hempel weren't working in a structured environment, so I have brought some processes with me.
So you can make use of your experience with a big brand?
Yes. This is a unique boutique hotel and needs an individual management style. But while we are a "cool" hotel, the reality is that we need processes behind the scenes. My experience at Marriott has allowed me to use the disciplines of running a good hotel - but I have more scope here. For instance, I can put funky music on the sound system, whereas in a brand I would need permission.
What makes a successful hotel manager?
Three things allow you to be successful - people, process and equipment. I believe you are either a leader or not. If you've got it, you can learn how to use it. I am passionate about the benefit of mentors [see above] and my style is a hybrid of learning from things I have seen done effectively and ineffectively.
What would you say to a would-be hotel manager?
It's a 24-hour business and you are either cut out for it or not. Initially, you will be working long hours for fairly low pay but it does improve - and is so rewarding. There are opportunities to work abroad and it is never boring. If you are successful, you will have a great lifestyle, good package, benefits and invitations to meet wonderful people.
What are your ambitions?
I won an Acorn Award in 2004 and I said then that my ambition was to be general manager of a landmark hotel. I have achieved that - and at 32 I am young to be a general manager of a London hotel. So, my refocused goal is to be an owner or equity partner in a hotel.
The Hempel in a nutshell
- Designed by Anouska Hempel, it was the first original design hotel in London.
- Opened 1996.
- Has 50 rooms, restaurant and events facilities.
- Now owned by a private investment company.
THE RESTAURANT MANAGER
Who? Sue Graham, 38
What? General manager
Where? Giraffe, London SW1
Give us some career history
Well, I had no formal catering training. Back in New Zealand I studied for a photography degree but I've been working in hospitality since I was at school. I started out as a waitress then travelled to Europe and worked in hospitality in Greece and Italy. Then I came to London and worked as a waitress, bar person, supervisor and so on, up to manager.
What work experience helped you get the job at Giraffe?
Before I started at Giraffe in 2005, I had worked in small independent restaurants. They tended to serve similar food to here and were also casual dining. My first experience of working for a chain was with Café Med just before I came here.
Why did you move to a chain?
I wanted more career development. You can only go so far if you manage a small place. At Giraffe, for instance, I manage bigger sites [Victoria has 70 seats] and there is an opportunity to take on a bigger role. The main difference is that the independents where I worked only had only one or two restaurants, whereas when I started at Giraffe there were eight restaurants and now there are 25.
What sort of training have they given you?
I've learnt so much while I have been here. Although I joined as a general manager, I have done a lot of in-house training in areas such as gross profit, costing, first aid and so on, across the board.
How far can you go at Giraffe?
I started at Giraffe's Battersea restaurant, then did three years at Richmond, and I have helped train staff at other sites. We only opened the Victoria site four months ago and so I will sit here for a bit. For my next move I would like to take on a training and operations role within the company.
What do you like about your career?
I like the work and the hours are flexible. I get days off in the week, which suits me. I couldn't do a Monday to Friday type of job. I like to move around and be with a variety of different people.
Giraffe in a nutshell
- Russel and Juliette Joffe opened the first Giraffe in Hampstead in 1998.
- There are now 25 restaurants around London and the UK and five franchises in three UK airports.
- Relaxed atmosphere, all-day international menu and world music on the sound system.
THE CONTRACT CATERING MANAGER
Who? Peter Wilson, 40
What? Operations manager
Tell us about your job
I cover 15 contracts in Birmingham, Telford, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. I try to get to a site every day - or more if they are near each other - so it does involve a lot of travelling. My main role is to ensure client expectations are met, so I share my best practice. I go in and help the manager improve the offer and ensure the contract is delivering - whether it is cost-plus, fixed price or commercial. I share what is happening in the marketplace to help improve customer spend.
What experience and qualifications have you needed?
Long hours Joking apart, I don't have any formal catering qualifications. I worked in pubs while I did a degree in building management and fell in love with the hospitality environment. I went into the licensed trade but always had a passion for food, so I developed my food and beverage experience by working onboard ferries and then working for Compass.
So how have you been trained for such a responsible role?
I have done training in each of the companies that I have worked for, from leadership skills to hygiene to finance - how to manage a P&L account to coaching skills - and I have even done an NLP course. At Avenance, I can get training in any aspect that I feel weak in as there is a very good internal development team. And if I see an external course that looks useful, I can sit down with my managers to discuss what help I need to develop in that area.
What's different about working in the contract catering sector?
I find working for contract caterers more diverse and varied than other sectors. It gives me an opportunity to express myself. You also get better hours than, say, the licensed trade. I don't work weekends, for instance, unless a new site opens. I am also attracted by the fact that all the contracts I manage are so diverse, yet I have to deliver the same standards. The mix of contracts means that each customer base is different and each client wants different things, so I have to apply myself more. It's exciting.
What else do you love about your job?
I love being able to interact and manage people, so I always look for that in a role. I like to be part of people's learning and development as it is more cost-effective to train rather than recruit.
What qualities do you need to be successful in management?
In hospitality you need passion and from there you will develop the fundamental skills. If you have business skills you can take them anywhere. I can now cost dishes. I didn't have to go to a chef school to learn to do that.
What next for you?
I want to progress with Avenance. If a vacancy arose, I would like to progress to an operations director. Or I might look at other sectors within Elior and move into another division.
Avenance in a nutshell
- Part of the Elior Group.
- Contracts are in business and industry, healthcare, education and defence sectors.
- Elior also includes divisions such as Digby Trout, which specialises in visitor feeding at venues.
Gareth Banner, general manager at the Hempel, is one of the industry figures involved in a new mentoring programme at Oxford Brookes University. The aim is to enhance student engagement by increasing tailored learning with a mentoring programme that matches final-year undergraduates with a senior industry figure who provides ongoing advice and support.
TOP TIPS ON CLINCHING A MANAGERIAL POST
- Your entrance is very important. You have the first minute to make a good impression. Be aware of your body posture, stand up straight and greet everyone present, repeating their name to be sure you have not misheard.
- Sit comfortably in your seat and use positive eye contact equally among the panel as much as possible.
- Be prepared for any question with a positive statement and try not to say anything negative - even about your previous employer. "I can't", " I won't" or "I've never" are phrases to avoid.
- Take a few seconds to think before you answer any question - this may make all the difference.
- The best way to impress an employer is to show your knowledge of the company.