Life is never dull in a hotel. This cosmopolitan, often glamorous and always vibrant workplace is full of challenge and reward for ambitious hospitality professionals. And whether you are a graduate or a school leaver you'll find plenty of opportunities to rise through the ranks.
Kirk Kinsell, president for Europe, Middle East and Africa at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), explains: "As the hospitality industry continues to grow, so does our need for highly talented individuals. University isn't the only option for school leavers and hospitality is one of those industries where you can work your way up the career ladder very quickly."
In addition, the industry is evolving. Emma Kelleher, managing director at Caterek Recruitment, says she has seen a surge in the budget hotel sector and independent chains. She adds: "Whereas previously the general manager used to be someone on a pedestal that would only speak with other heads of departments and be involved in budgetary matters, now the role is much more customer-facing as well as being more interactive with staff."
To get an idea of the breadth of opportunity in this exciting sector, read on…
The independent hotel
Who? Christina Short, 28
What? Restaurant manager
Where? Battlesteads Country Inn & restaurant, near Hexham, Northumberland
So, where did it all begin? I worked part-time in restaurants while I was at school and after my A levels I took a job as a receptionist in a hotel. I did move on to be a secretary for a short while, but I carried on working in a hotel bar part-time. Eventually, I took a full-time bar manager's job and from there I got experience on the restaurant side and functions when I was covering colleagues during holidays.
What about your current position? This is my first job as a restaurant manager and I've been here about two years. It's a nice change to work in a small hotel as I had been working in bigger more corporate hotels, such as the former Springfield Gateshead hotel.
Is small beautiful? Yes. The benefits of working in a small hotel are great. I feel as if the restaurant is my own. I can suggest a better way of doing something and it happens faster. In big hotels there is less flexibility and more rules. I love it here also because the team is close-knit and we all get on well.
Have you worked in standalone restaurants? Yes, I have worked in just restaurants, but it's more personal if the guest is staying with you. I often help with check-in and serving behind the bar so you meet the customer at every stage of their stay. I like that. In a standard restaurant you wouldn't get it, though.
How have you gained your skills? I've mainly trained on the job. I run an efficient restaurant through making mistakes and through having good guidance over time.
Tell us about your job I tend to work 11am-3pm and 6-10pm, but I don't watch the clock. In my team there are two almost full-time staff and three part-timers. We can serve 100 people for dinner, but usually it's about 80.
What next for you? I'm still on a learning curve here. The hotel is expanding next year from 17 to 28 rooms so my job will get bigger. Also, Battlesteads has a gold award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme so I am learning all about that, too.
Potted BattlesteadsA four-star inn and restaurant with 17 bedrooms.
â- Family-owned by Richard and Dee Slade.
â- A gold award-winner for being green.
The AFFORDABLE CHAIN hotel
Who? James Doyle, 31
What? General manager
Where? Holiday Inn London Brent Cross
You really have worked your way up, haven't you? Absolutely. I started my career at 16 years old, washing pots in a small hotel before joining InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) as a trainee food and beverage supervisor 13 years ago. I have worked my way up to become the general manager of one of Holiday Inn's biggest hotels in the UK, looking after up to 40 staff members.
Why didn't you go to college? I was the type who couldn't learn in a classroom. I needed to be taught through experience. In the hotel industry, if you are a hard worker you will be rewarded and promoted quickly.
What do you think the benefits are of learning on the job? Working through different positions as I did allows you to really understand how a hotel operates and gives you the opportunity to use that knowledge to build a lasting career.
Potted Holiday Inn Brent Cross â- Owned by hotel giant IHG, which has numerous brands across the world, from InterContinental to the boutique Hotel Indigo.
â- 154 rooms on 10 floors, a restaurant and cocktail bar.
The luxury chain hotel
Who? Boris Guerov,32
What? Director of operations
Where? Waldorf Hilton, London
You've been at Hilton for 10 years? Yes, I graduated from a hospitality management course in my native Bulgaria and joined the company when Hilton Sofia opened in office support.
And you worked your way up? When the hotel opened I joined the front office and after a couple of years I signed up for the Hilton Elevator programme, which is a graduate development scheme. It was fantastic. I spent a month or two in each department to learn all about hospitality. I moved into the F&B department while I was in Prague in 2006 and quickly worked up to service operations manager. Then in 2009, I moved here.
What does your role entail? I am the number two, standing in for the general manager in his absence. On a day-to-day basis I am in charge of all areas of operation - housekeeping, kitchen, security - but I also have a strategic role.
What next? Next year I plan to join the company's Shine scheme, which develops general managers. It's a mix of taking on projects and attending residential courses.
Potted Waldorf Hilton â- A five-star hotel with 298 bedrooms.
â- Part of Hilton Worldwide, which has 3,000 hotels.
The luxury group hotel
Who? Matthew Dutson
What? Restaurant supervisor
Where? The River Bar & restaurant, the Lowry, Manchester
You decided against university? Yes, I studied communication studies at college and was aiming to study hospitality at university, but I am more practical so applied direct to hotels instead. I found the Lowry very friendly so joined in 2007 as a commis waiter and worked up the ranks to restaurant supervisor six months ago.
Tell us what a restaurant supervisor does I have different roles. I bring in new wines, organise tastings for staff, or I can be in coffee service. I help monitor staff performance. My aim is to become restaurant manager. And ultimately I want to open my own restaurant or bar.
How have you gained your skills? I'm training on the job. Next, I need to develop my business knowledge and learn more about accounts and finance, but at least it's easy in a hotel to move between different departments.
What do you like and dislike about your job? I like being a host and seeing people enjoy themselves. The hours can be unsociable, but then again it's a sociable job. Admittedly, I can't go out on a Saturday night, but a lot of my friends who are coming out of university can't get a job and some are a bit envious of me. They can see I enjoy what I do.
So how long are the hours exactly? If I'm in the bar I might work from 3pm to 4am, or in the restaurant from 6am to 4pm and I work five days a week. We've got 80 seats in the restaurant and may serve 50 diners on a weekday and 100 on a Saturday.
What's your biggest achievement to date? I won Young Waiter of the Year 2009 at the Manchester Food & Drink Awards so I was given 10 days' work experience at the Ritz Carlton in Dubai. It was an unusual experience - and hot…
Potted Lowry â- The five-star hotel has 164-bedrooms.
â- It's part of the Rocco Forte Collection, which has 13 international hotels and four more due to open in the next three years.
â- The River Room has one AA rosette and a bank of awards.
The NEWLY OPENED hotel
Who? Rowan McFeat, 23
What? Senior housekeeper
Where? Coworth Park, Ascot, Berkshire
Did you go to college? I went to Plymouth College and did both A levels and a BTEC National Diploma in hospitality management.
Give us an outline of your career to date After working in a local hotel near to where I grew up, I got a job as a receptionist at Hotel du Vin and Malmaison. I worked there for five years and trained up to become a deputy general manager. I started working for the Dorchester Collection's new hotel Coworth Park at the beginning of June 2010 as the deputy head housekeeper. I love being part of such an exciting opening.
What does your job entail? My role changes every day. I manage 45 staff, but as we opened the hotel together we support each other to deliver 100%. My duties include daily briefings, organising the department to suit the level of business, improving standards and coaching new staff.
Best part of your job? There are not many jobs where you look out on to 240 acres of Berkshire parkland with two polo fields every day. Another part of the job that I love has to be meeting different people.
What advice would you give somebody wanting to follow in your footsteps? You should be prepared to work hard, understand your areas for improvement and make an effort to work on them. You need to be hardworking, love working with a team and have a good eye for detail.
Potted Coworth Park â- Owned by the Dorchester Group, which includes the Dorchester, London, and le Meurice, Paris.
â- The five-star 70-bedroom hotel opened this summer.
five top tips to become a manageR
â- Know which role you want to get to and visualise yourself in it.
â- Identify what your skills gaps are and plan how you will bridge these gaps and by when.
â- Build a network of family and friends who have the skills you're looking to gain. Ask them questions such as: How did you get to where you are today?; Would you have done anything differently?; What forums or networks do you recommend being part of?
â- Review your progress continuously and be determined to succeed.
â- Dress as if you're already in your next job.
Source: Michala Jackson, hotels and restaurants operations resourcing manager, Whitbread
opportunities in the budget sector
The budget hotel sector is growing steadily, with chic budget brands such as Base2Stay and citizenM entering the arena.
Whitbread has 583 Premier Inn hotels across the UK and is planning to increase this by a further 100 hotels by 2014. To grow at this rate, it needs to recruit - and develop - its employees. Michala Jackson, hotels and restaurants operations resourcing manager at Whitbread, gives the inside track.
Can you list three of the training programmes offered by Premier Inn? Certainly, our development opportunities include:
â- An Ofsted-rated "outstanding", apprenticeship programme.
â- A management development programme, Shooting Stars, from team leader to regional operations manager.
â- An online academy for every employee, giving access to classroom courses, such as employee relations, sales skills, on the job coaching etc.
Give us an outline of the career structure in budget hotels Budget hotels often have a flatter structure than other sectors so it can be easier to reach your career goal. For example, in our kitchens we have a kitchen team member or team leader and then head chef. We rate all our people on their performance and potential and encourage their individual growth. Should a team member who is driven and performing well want to progress quickly, the opportunities are there.
What roles are there? â- Operationally: general manager, operations manager, F&B manager and then each department has teams comprising a team leader and team members.
â- Functionally: regional operations, marketing, finance, property, procurement, HR, sales and revenue management.
Can you transfer skills from a budget hotel?
Absolutely. For example, our operational managers are responsible for leading teams and managing their own business in terms of sales growth, operational excellence, budget and P&L control, talent management and people development. These are skills that are essential across all business and industry.