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By: Dr. John T. Self

Hotel Food Service

Hotel food service is complex, with many departments under Food and Beverage. There are Directors of Catering, Restaurants, Room Service, Beverage, Banquets and Kitchen, all reporting to the Food and Beverage Manager in the largest operations.

Unlike the majority of food service operations, hotel foodservice works with, and is dependant on, other departments within the business: Housekeeping for linen, Human Resources for hiring, and Purchasing to get the OK for purchase orders before placing orders to vendors.

There are many different types of hotels, from airport, luxury, resort, convention, boutique, budget, city and the list goes on. Each has their own pros and cons.

Typical career path:
Entry would most likely be as one of the outlet managers or assistant directors of one of the above F & B departments. After experience in several different departments, you could advance to Assistant Food and Beverage Director, then on to the Food and Beverage Director.

In the hotel world, the jump to Food and Beverage Director, or even Assistant F & B Director, is substantial. It may require several years of work; even then it's likely you will need to transfer to another hotel location, or even another company, to make it happen.

If you wanted to continue to rise in the hotel organization, it would be best to go into overall hotel management. This would mean progressing to the Rooms division, then to Assistant General Manager, to General Manager.

Lifestyle: This varies greatly with the department that you are in. A hotel is a round-the-clock operation, with banquets, room service and meals for its guests. You can expect to work five 10-12 hour days per week. The catering manager might be the exception, in that the catering manager generally has an 8-5 type of job unless there is a function, when they will need to ensure that all is going well for their client.

Most of the managers of the hotel, regardless of the department, will work periodic MOD (manager on duty) shifts that usually last for an entire weekend. During these weekends you are in charge of the entire hotel and will stay in the hotel for the entire weekend.

Best Part:

  • It's very people oriented.
  • Ability to be creative and work with many different areas of the hotel, who are professionals in their own area.

Worst Part:

  • The hours; when the hotel is busy, you're very busy.
  • Can also be frustrating to work with so many different departments to get things done.

Pay, Perks and Benefits:
There is usually a quarterly bonus based on either sales or performance, or both. The Catering Director usually has an expense account for client entertainment since they are also responsible for selling, as well as execution.

At most hotels, employees can stay free (comp) at any of the same brand hotels in the world, based on availability.

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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