Ciaran Fahy – My Life in Hospitality

28 August 2009 by
Ciaran Fahy – My Life in Hospitality

Ciaran Fahy is the general manager of the Cavendish hotel, London.

Ciaran Fahy's love for the hotel industry was sparked during a summer job after school working at a small hotel in Dublin on the recommendation of a family friend. He quickly enrolled at the Shannon College of Hotel Management and set about gaining invaluable experience at a series of hotels, including Forte hotels and Holiday Inn - formerly the Swindon Post hotel. Here he worked as food and beverage manager before moving on to other projects in countries as far flung as Geneva and the Bahamas.

It was during a series of general manager roles at Marriott hotels in Reading, Slough, Cardiff and Kensington, that Fahy says he learned his biggest lesson in hospitality from chief executive Bill Marriott.

"Mr Marriott always said serve hot food hot and cold food cold. In other words, get the nuts and bolts right - the check-in, bed, breakfast and departure. Don't worry so much about the wallpaper design or the wine specials list," he says.

Interestingly, Fahy says he believes too many people worry about job titles when they should actually focus on being "the best they can be" and "concentrate on results" and their responsibilities.

"A lot of people want titles because they think it makes a difference to how you get your next job but your actions and results are much more important. Articulating to your future boss what you achieved in your previous job will be far more important than your job title," he says.

HIGHS… Opening the London Marriott Kensington was a project I really enjoyed because I appointed a team and we worked together for a year in the run-up to the opening. I enjoyed working with the team and they have gone on to do better things on their own. It was emotional to open the hotel because you never really know until it all goes live whether your plans have come together. I had a great couple of years refining the hotel after the opening too.

LOWS… I once ran a really high-profile event at a country house hotel in rural Cheshire and when the customers asked for a firework display I told them they could have whatever they liked. Sadly, the timings didn't quite go to plan, the firework display didn't start until 11pm and we practically woke up the whole of Cheshire. The next day, the local TV and police arrived because there had been 200 recorded complaints. I expected to lose my job and for other people to lose their jobs but in 48 hours it all blew over. Sometimes you just have to accept that things are going to go wrong.

Another low was leaving Marriott after 12 years but I think you have to make the decision and leave rather than stay and whinge. Some people stay at organisations, putting all their energies into complaining. You only get one chance in life and if a job is not living up to your expectations, then move on. I've had the best four years of my career since leaving.

Age 45
Family Married with two sons
Favourite holiday Koh Samui, Thailand, at the Imperial Boathouse hotel, developed from old rice barges. "The local people provide gracious hospitality and a very relaxed atmosphere everywhere you go," says Fahy
Drives Audi A4 Avant
Motto Look after your people as they will look after your guests


2005 to present General manager, the Cavendish hotel, London. Generated cash growth of £2.1m in income before fixed charges over two years

2000-2005 General manager of the Swallow International, converted to the London Marriott Kensington. Appointed and led pre-opening team for Marriott to ensure return on investment

1998-2000 General manager, the Cardiff Marriott. Generated 22% growth in profit during Rugby World Cup over six weeks in 1999


Resist the pressure to drop your rates, as next year you won't be able to put them back up and you'll never make a profit. Adapt your business model, offer three nights minimum stay and insist on pre-paid bookings so that businesses cannot pull out at the last minute.

TagsHotels and Careers
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