In his role as food and beverage director at the Jumeriah International-owned Carlton Tower in London's Knightsbridge, Paul Skinner oversees a massive operation. With F&B budgeted to contribute £7m to £7.5m of turnover to the five-star property this year, the job demands a head for figures, discipline and innovation.
Skinner has about 150 people reporting to him and the hotel executive chef, as well as responsibility for the Rib Room & Oyster Bar, the Chinoiserie Lounge, the private dining facilities, the Club Room, conferencing for 400 on the
first floor and 24-hour room service.
Asked to summarise his role at the 220-bedroom hotel, he says he is an ambassador. "At the end of the day," he says, "I've got to look after my staff as much as my customers to get results. It's not always easy, but I try and spend as much time on the floor as I can, asking the team how they're getting on."
This is no mere talk, as Skinner has overseen the introduction of a service charge at the property, all of which is shared among the staff.
He believes in the importance of communication. "You need to let people know what's expected of them and to find out what they want to do," he says. "It helps avoid losing trained staff to a competitor."
Skinner worked with InterContinental in London and in Washington DC, then at Edinburgh's Balmoral from 1998 to 2000, and then as F&B manager at the Conrad hotel in London, from 2001 to 2003.
He advocates planning your career path to get where you want to be, even if it's just in your head. "Everyone needs a dream," he says. "You have to know what you want to achieve to get on."
This strategy has seen Skinner do well as he progresses toward his goal of general management, and he believes it can apply to everyone, no matter what level they are at now.
A typical working week for the F&B director sees him on post from 7.30am until sometime between 6pm and 9pm, Monday to Friday. He also comes in on weekends for half a day when conferencing events demand.
He concludes: "The best thing about food and beverage is that it's never mundane."