There's no reason nowadays why you need to work in a stuffy, old-fashioned hotel - unless you want to. Beth Aarons, group human resources manager at contemporary group City Inn, talks about opportunities in today's new breed of hotel:
"City Inns are not star-rated because we feel stars are less valued by today's customer. Neither can we be pigeonholed. All the company's properties are new-build, so we have a vigorous investment programme and a discerning clientele that demands we meet their expectations of service and quality.
"There are lots of opportunities in modern, growing companies like ours for individuals who are enthusiastic and want to get noticed. We tailor all the benefits, training and development and progression planning to each individual's needs.
"We're also developing two new teams. The first is a guest services department, the second is a wine specialist team, for people who are interested in wines and want to progress in that area. The idea is that they will focus on our wine list, which tends to be more contemporary than those in other hotels.
"The company is seven years old and will be opening its fifth property, in Manchester, next year so we need to manage our growth. Within three to four years the company aims to double the portfolio through expansion in key UK cities as well as Europe, so we are also looking for key individuals."
- Some 60 hotels in country retreats, airports and cities.
- Part of the Ramada family of brands.
- Facilities include health spas, conference centres and restaurants.
- On-the-job training plus extensive training programme and the opportunity to do NVQs externally.
- Jarvis Academy - a development programme to identify the general managers of the future.
Paul Bentley, 28
What? Head chef
Where? The Summerhouse Brasserie at the Winchester hotel, Winchester
Which company? Pedersen Hotels
Have you moved up the career ladder swiftly? Yes. I joined the company at Regency Park as a chef de partie back in 2000, and at the end of three-and-a-half years I had made it to senior sous chef. By then the company had bought a few more hotels and there was scope for promotion, so I came here as head chef two years ago.
Do you ever think of moving to a restaurant? I prefer hotels. I've worked in a few restaurants and bars, but you just end up churning out the same old boring stuff. In this hotel we have a fine-dining restaurant, but we also do lunches in the bar as well as room service and functions. I can be doing 150 for a function at the same time as the restaurant has 90 diners.
How big is your brigade?
There are five full-time chefs, a part-time breakfast chef and three kitchen porters. I tend to do a 40-hour week split shifts, so if I finish at 10.30pm, the pubs might still be open nowadays, but I go home to spend time with my partner.
Any professional development on offer? Absolutely. The hotel is sponsoring me to do the advanced food hygiene course, which is expensive. I also want to achieve level 4 in supervisory NVQ.
Is there more scope for promotion? At the moment I am head chef of a 70-bedroom hotel, but my colleague up the road has a 120-bedroom hotel, so he's got more on his plate. I'd like to increase my responsibility that way. In the future I'd like to own my own fine-dining brasserie.
What's the pay like? We are not badly paid for what we do. At commis level this isn't the best-paid job, but we've all been there and you move on quickly. My father and grandfather were chefs, and I can see that salaries today have moved on a lot.
- Five hotels.
- Four hotels are being refurbished, so teams are being retrained.
- Two apprenticeship schemes - for chefs and receptionists - are currently up for grabs and would suit school leavers.
- There is also a management training scheme covering all departments. It is primarily focused on college leavers, although it can be tailored for school leavers with talent.
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The graduate trainee scheme Tara Sanchez, 25
What? Graduate manager
Where? Macdonald Brandon Hall hotel, near Coventry
Which company? Macdonald Hotels
How did you get on the graduate trainee scheme? I studied tourism and hotel management at Gloucestershire University and then worked as a receptionist at a day spa. Within six months I was made front-of-house manager. I saw the ad for this 18-month scheme on the internet. It was a last-minute application, but they selected me and I started in October.
Tell us a bit about it. It's the first time they have run the graduate trainee course. There are only 12 of us nationwide, so they really are focusing on our development. I've done the first six months in F&B and will be moving into rooms next, then supporting departments such as HR. This scheme is a learning curve for us and them, so we have meetings every two months and give feedback.
What have you covered in F&B? Everything: bars, restaurant, banqueting, room service and kitchens. I did my first stint in the bar, which was new to me, and I went straight in as a manager. I had to train and recruit staff for Christmas, come up with promotions and lead the team. I did have the backing of other managers in the catering department - and the barman was experienced.
Sounds pressurised, though. Any time off? Yes, I get 20 days' holiday and two days off a week, but the shifts have been long, averaging 10-12 hours a day. It can be tough, but the hotel will give you a room if you are on a late shift and they are flexible if you need time off.
What made you choose this scheme? Of all the schemes I looked at, this one gave a full description of what we would be doing for the whole 18 months. There is an appraisal at the end to find out what roles we are suited for. Some people want to be general managers, so they will follow that path.
What's your aim? To be a GM within 10 years via the events, finance and marketing departments.
How will they keep you interested? It's a good company. They support and protect you and you are given projects, so you feel like a valued member of the team from the start.
- 62 hotels.
- Macdonald St Pauls opened last November in Sheffield, and there are hotel projects in Manchester and Bristol.
- Big reinvestment programme in existing properties. For instance, £13m has been spent on the Macdonald Marine in North Berwick and £11m is being pumped into the Macdonald Berystede at Ascot.
Choosing the right job
- Do a work placement for a week or so to see how you fit into the environment (particularly relevant in kitchens).
- If you are looking for a first job, consider offering to work a few days unpaid to get a foot in the door and to check that you like it.
- At interview, be punctual, dress smartly and don't bring your mother or a friend.
- Check whether there is an induction programme.
- Is there further training and development?
- Is there scope to be promoted from within?
- Is there a formal appraisal system?
Party animals wanted Just to prove that working in the hotel industry is more than just a job, we've winkled out a quirky career for those of you who know all about burning the candle at both ends.
The swanky new Forbury hotel in Reading - billed as the UK's sexiest townhouse hotel - has launched a hunt for two party planners. The lucky candidates will be expected to organise weekend house parties and liaise with celebrity speakers such as TV cook Clarissa Dixon Wright or wine buff Oz Clarke. They'll also have to get out and about tapping into the local Thames Valley party scene, organising catering and comfort for guests at events such as Ascot… the list goes on.
It's not just all fun and no work, however. They'll need to come up with ideas for art, fashion and music weekends, too - and the bottom line is that they've got to generate revenue.
Shrinking violets need not apply.
- You need to have a good basic knowledge of tourism and hotels. You will find it difficult if you have a degree that is unrelated to hospitality.
- Look out for a scheme that spends time in areas that you are interested in - for example, events.
- Make sure the company will provide support.
- Be certain that you are willing to learn.
Opportunity knocks for graduates at Macdonald Macdonald Hotels is stepping up its 18-month graduate trainee programme, which was launched last October.
Sara Stark, group resourcing manager, is doubling the number of graduates for the next intake, based on the fact that there is a skills shortage in the industry and that it is a competitive market in which to recruit talented staff.
"We also like to grow our own," says Stark. "We look for graduates with commitment to excellent service, an attitude that says ‘I love doing this' and someone who is part of the team but shows initiative."
The course is broken down into six months in the F&B department; six months in rooms; and six months in support departments such as finance and human resources. There is also some classroom work involved.
Age is not an issue, but applicants must have a second-class or higher honours degree in hospitality management or tourism leisure management. Prepare to be fast-tracked into a department manager's role and then, ultimately, general manager.