by John Fingleton – Hospitality development and recruitment consultant.
Having returned home to Ireland in 2012 I found a very different country to the one I had left in 2000, a country I had great pride in for our dedication to delivering professional and friendly hospitality to our guests. I used to describe it to my overseas colleagues as like being at a family gathering where you know for definite the food will be tasty and bountiful, the drinks free flowing but most of all it would be an experience where you would walk away thinking to yourself, “ I have just made some new friends for life!”, not, “Ouch!”, as you look at the receipt.
I departed these shores with all that was great about the Irish hospitality industry having been fortunate enough to get the best training with a burning passion for this great industry. During my years as a trainee manager at the illustrious New Park Hotel under the ever watchful eye of my mentor and idol, the late Bobby Kerr Senior, at times it felt like we were navy seals in training and only the truly committed and driven trainees would graduate. As always in life there is hidden meaning to everything and what did not kill me definitely made me stronger.
I turned out a more professional manager capable of navigating this fast paced industry. As I look back at my early years as a manager, I quoted my mentor and his teachings often as I set about building and developing my teams that ultimately helped me achieve success in developing and building business after business in the hospitality industry to date.
I spent the majority of my career between The USA, Caribbean & Europe setting up and developing Bars,Restaurants, Golf Resorts and my beloved Irish Pubs. It was very clear to me from the early years that the best way to achieve any style of service in any location was to marry the best of Irish hospitality with the best of American professionalism.
The X-Factor in a team
I have been fortunate enough to work with some very talented people in my business career. The team of people around you form the building blocks of success in any business so I was extremely blessed to have always had an excellent team around me. For a good team to be a great team, continuous training and development of the team is vital. The good teams attract exceptional talent because of the success and therefore the return on investment always pays dividends.
As a team leader, I was always able to unite the team behind a common cause which was the success of the business. I always worked with the team and for the team instead of having the team working for me. This enabled the team to take ownership of the company vision and get excited by it and to get behind it as a unit.
When the team members saw me putting in the hard hours, leading from the front and by example they knew that collectively we would win. Everyone knew each other’s’ strengths and weaknesses allowing us to support each other effectively and to grow together.
In my opinion it is this unity that is the X-Factor and that special ingredient in the success of a special team and it is this X-factor that is missing in the Irish Hospitality Industry in 2016.
I am acutely aware of the challenges faced by the hospitality industry in Ireland over the last decade. Every organisation has had to tighten its belt to survive an extremely tough economic environment but thankfully, the tide is turning and now is the perfect time for us to invest in building a prosperous future for the hospitality industry in Ireland. There is a need to invest in the industry to build better and stronger teams that deliver professional hospitality to our guests and not necessarily in building new hotels. It is never enough to hire someone and expect them to deliver international standards in service, we have to arm them effectively to be able to deliver the high standards that we should expect from our industry in Ireland.
At the end of the day providing a room with a comfortable bed is easy, pouring a good pint of beer is easy, serving fish and chips with a choice of hand cut or skinny fries is easy! What is more difficult is to do is to provide all that with a smile and a professionalism that makes the guest smile and not look at his/her receipt. We need to concentrate on delivering exceptional experiences to our guests from the moment they enter a property to the moment they leave that property. It is our responsibility to educate the team about what is expected of them and to arm them with skills and tools so they are able to deliver an exceptional standard of service.
Learn from your team
Have you ever sat down with your team and tried to understand their career plans and aspirations – their personal life goals to understand what truly motivates them as an individual, as your employee? How many of have you talked to your team members about their colleagues without any threat of repercussion to obtain the knowledge you need to improve your team? Have you engaged with your team about new ideas on how to improve the service within the resources that you have at your disposal?
If we are willing to hear out your employees and team members, these conversations present an excellent and a vital learning opportunity for us to develop our service.
Develop A Team
The team leaders and manager should stop obsessing with the sales and cost targets because to attain the sales targets, standards of service need to be delivered to keep the visitors coming back. We should be aiming to deliver the best of Irish hospitality with the best of American professionalism. To achieve this effectively, we will need to educate and develop our teams.
If a chef creates a beautiful dish, it is important for all staff members to know everything about that dish. They need to taste it, smell it and feel it to be able to sell it effectively. A guest will always buy into an effusive and personal description of a dish more than they will into a recital from a menu!
Similarly, every employee will deliver exceptional standards if they have a sense of ownership of the service. I feel that smiling is easy but to smile with a meaning is an altogether tougher proposition. A team of professionals passionate and dedicated to exceeding our guests expectations and truly creating memorable experiences, I know, will lead to more return business and will also increase our national and International footfall.
We owe it to those who have gone before us and set the bar so high so those who will come after us will want to chase their dreams of owning their very own empires. Remember we are only guardians of this industry and it is up to us to be committed to our guests and make Ireland a better country together.
What could we achieve if we considered our teams as our second family and behaved like families instead of Employer and Employee?
What could we achieve together?