What does it take to scale the management ladder in hospitality? Rosalind Mullen asks managers for their career advice
It's quite likely that with the right experience and support, your hospitality career could see you well on your way to being a senior manager before your mid-30s.
As Krishnan Doyle, managing director of COREcruitment, says: "Hospitality is a great industry in which to climb the management ladder at any stage of life - and it's never too late."
Whether you work in pubs, hotels, contract catering or restaurants, this industry is renowned for developing managers with or without relevant college qualifications. As the case studies in this article show, people who are dedicated and willing are quickly given the opportunities to progress. Doyle points out that this is mainly because the industry has a high staff turnover.
"Those candidates who can demonstrate loyalty and commitment to a company will be quickly rewarded with a step up on the career ladder," he says.
"There are also many companies in the industry with strong management programmes - a great way to move through the ranks quickly."
Interestingly, the depressed economy is not all bad news. It means that employers are increasingly looking internally for loyal workers to promote.
Similarly, the industry is welcoming candidates from struggling industries such as banking, finance and manufacturing, who can bring fresh experience to a hospitality role.
The pub manager
Who? Carl Woodman, 38
What? General manager
Where? The Garrison, London SE1
Where did it all begin? Back in New Zealand when I was about 18. I started as a waiter while I studied media and communications at university.
So, you haven't needed hospitality qualifications? It's definitely possible to become a general manager by working your way up the career ladder. Most of my training has been on the job, although I've been on management courses through work. For instance, I've been attending a series of external seminars while working here. And although my degree wasn't hospitality-related, I've been able to use some of the skills I learned, such as languages.
When did you join the Garrison? About 18 months ago. I moved from being general manager at Brasserie St Germain in Farringdon. Before that, I'd worked at Gaucho for five years and Belgo for a few years.
What was it like to work for bigger companies? Working for a branded chain was beneficial because there's a rigid structure and in-depth training. I prefer the personal atmosphere of being in a smaller company, though.
Give us an idea of your main challenges It's busy here, so I have to schedule to get everything done. One challenge is organising the different characters in the team - using the positive side of strong characters and bringing out the shy ones. It's also my job to make sure the staff are 100% focused on promoting standards - it's ongoing because we have a transient team.
Can you outline your duties? There are two managers who report to me. We share the responsibilities of drawing up the rota, doing staff training, ordering stationery and stock rotation. I oversee everything from looking after the budget to making sure the business is progressing financially, to making sure the right people are on board and overseeing the maintenance and upkeep of the pub.
Describe the Garrison We're a friendly gastropub - more like a restaurant, really, good quality and slick. It's a happy working atmosphere, too, but we have to balance friendliness and professionalism. There are 12 staff on the floor and 10 in the kitchen, and we serve about 1,300 covers a week.
What about your working hours? I work five days a week - about 50-60 hours. I do work nights, but it's a social environment and at least I'm not behind a desk.
What do you enjoy about your job? It's my passion. I have a desire to look after people and to make the atmosphere good and ensure they have a good experience. It's worth the hard work to see happy expressions on people's faces. I guess my social life is mainly at work, but I get out and about and eat at other restaurants on my days off.
The scoop on The Garrison
â- Has 45 covers, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a 30-seat cinema in the basement
â- Dishes include British pork cassoulet, or Scottish mussels, chorizo and tomato sauce
â- Its sister business is a New York style warehouse brasserie restaurant nearby
The Restaurant manager
Who? Jo Vincent, 30
What? General manager
Where? Ed's Easy Diner, Cardiff
Did you study hospitality? I haven't had any formal training; it's all been on the job. I was due to do a travel and tourism degree but fell in love with hospitality when I did a stint waiting on tables at Butlin's. I do accredited courses to stay on top of changes in the law, but haven't been to college. I think learning on the job is enough - you can either do it or not - you either love it or hate it.
So how did you get where you are today? I worked my way up through late-night bars and nightclubs, but that wasn't for me so I tried pubs. I spent the majority of my career at The Restaurant Group (TRG) working in the Frankie and Benny's and Chiquito brands.
What makes a good manager? To be a good manager you need to be organised, driven, passionate, good with people and able to make split-second decisions. You also need to be passionate about your brand.
Sum up your main duties I support the group on the floor and make sure the customer is happy. My deputy does the rotas, I look after the budgets, service standards and give guidance. I like being hands-on.
You've just opened in Cardiff: how's business? We have 35 staff and 74 covers. Turnover is quick - about 30-40 minutes. We've only been trading for three weeks [at the time of the interview] but the future looks strong.
You're used to openings, though Yes, when I worked for TRG I spent six or seven months on the road, overseeing new openings, recruiting staff and moving on after two weeks.
Are you happy looking after just one restaurant? Yes. I've got a young daughter so it's better. Ed's is a good place to be because a lot of managers have children here. I work 40 hours a week compared with 54 at some other companies and I prefer the night shifts because I can spend time with my daughter during the day.
Looking ahead? This company is expanding so there is scope for me to become an area manager. I would like to oversee, say, two other units in five to 10 years' time.
The scoop on Ed's Easy Diner
â- Opened in Soho in 1987 as an American 1950s style diner
â- Has nine restaurants, mostly in the South-East except for Cardiff and Birmingham
â- Looking to franchise across the UK and internationally so set to grow
The contract catering manager
Who? Nigel Sleath, 40
What? Catering manager
Where? Biopharmaceuticals company Quintiles, Reading
Which contract caterer? Bartlett Mitchell
Describe your career path at Bartlett Mitchell I've been with the company for four years. My first role here was providing maternity cover for the chef manager, overseeing the kitchen, then I moved on to the support team. I've been a chef for most of my career, but I wanted to broaden my management experience, so I put myself forward for my current job and started it a month ago.
How have you gained management credentials? I've trained on the job, but I've had good bosses. I've also taught myself. I've been on several good courses here, including a management training programme, which covers areas such as recruitment and managing finances.
Where did your career start? I worked as a kitchen porter at weekends while I was at school. After that, I went on a YTS training scheme and then went to college.
Have you always worked in contract catering? No, I've worked everywhere - restaurants, hotels, village pubs - but 14 years ago I decided I'd had enough of working long hours and moved into contract catering. I spent four years at Artizian and just over four years at Compass before coming here.
Give us the lowdown on your team I manage 12 members of staff and we feed about 450-600 people a day. My hours are 7am to 7pm from Monday to Friday.
Could you sum up your job? It's busy, but I have a good team. My main responsibility is to oversee what they do, so every morning I chat to the head chef and the hospitality manager, then I liaise with front of house and lend a hand where needed. It's my role to make sure the customers are happy and to communicate with the client about any issues.
What next for your CV? I'd like to progress to group manager and then area manager. I can only do a job for so long without needing a new challenge.
The scoop on Bartlett Mitchell
â- A fast-growing independent caterer with clients as diverse as Disney and Reuters
â- Covers staff restaurants, executive dining, hospitality and so on in the South East
â- Training and development includes opportunities to pursue NVQs and a bespoke management development programme
The Hotel Manager
Who? Vidur Kapur, 29
What? Hotel manager
Where? Charing Cross hotel, London
You have a degree in hospitality? Yes, I grew up in India, but went to university in South Africa where I studied for a hospitality diploma and then on to London where I graduated with a hospitality management degree.
Tell us about your early career I was assistant restaurant manager at the Bay Hotel Cape Town, part of Halcyon Hotels and Safari Resorts, then in 2003 I took the role of assistant F&B manager at the Thistle hotel at London Heathrow. After a year I was made F&B manager, then manager of conferencing, banqueting and F&B. The general manager of the hotel approached me and offered me the opportunity to work in the front office where I was promoted to revenue manager.
And then you moved to Guoman Hotels? Yes, about three years ago there was a vacancy for an operations manager. I've been hotel manager for 18 months.
Sell the company to us It's a great place to work, with good opportunities. The general manager took a risk when he promoted me but he has given me the chance to deliver. It's hard to find employers who do that, but Guoman believes in nurturing its staff.
Is there formal training? There are many different courses, such as revenue management, the front office academy, finance training and a new graduate training course. The support of my managers and the group have helped me to progress.
I guess your job is tough? There are many challenges. Expectations in London are high, but it is rewarding to see the fruits of your labour. It's great, for instance, to solve an issue for a guest, then see them return.
Outline your role There are seven staff managers and 140-147 staff in the hotel. I report to the general manager, but I'm involved in recruitment, the budget and business plan. I usually work Monday to Friday from 7am to 7.30pm.
What qualities do you need for the job? Simple qualities are the most important. You must have integrity, lead from the front, motivate, inspire and deliver on time.
You're an Acorn Award winner this year so you sound as if you'll go far I've set targets since I was in school. I can see myself in a general manager's role and further on, being area general manager and even CEO. My wife and I have talked about owning our own small hotel, but that is a long-term goal.
The scoop on Guoman Hotel Management
â- Owns the five-star Guoman hotels and four-star Thistle Hotels
â- Guoman hotels include London's the Cumberland, the Royal Horseguards and the Tower as well as Charing Cross. There is also a hotel in Shanghai.