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What?s behind the curtains?

Profile Photo By: Paul Russsell
October 21, 2013

What?s behind the curtains?

The curtain rises. The lights go down. The performance begins, and we watch the magic unfold, willingly suspending disbelief. We know there?s a small regiment of stagehands and prop masters, a stage manager and costumier, and we know they need to be there for the enchantment to work ? but really, we?d rather get on with the show.

Behind the scenes of a luxury hotel, there?s a similar cast of unsung heroes, working the levers and pulleys to make sure another day follows another night of flawless service; unlike the theatre performance, this stage never empties. Every hotel relies on its ensemble in the office, the kitchen, on housekeeping duties, or delivering events from team meetings to large weddings and conferences.

There are a host of non-public-facing roles in the luxury hospitality sector, and each offers a path that can ? and often does ? lead to a rewarding career. This is a sector that places considerable value in hard experience as well as vocational qualifications.

For those with an administrative bent and a keen eye for detail, the back office is a privileged view of a hotel?s operations. Unlike other administration jobs, the role can be as varied as any of those in front-of-house. Larger hotels have dedicated admin teams for food and drink, events, housekeeping, maintenance, IT, sales and marketing, HR, payroll and accounts ? it makes for quite a list. A good grounding in one of these areas will be a distinct advantage, as will a good standard of fluency in at least one other language.

Since a hotel is a fluid environment, with a constant flow of guests arriving and leaving, the hotel office thrives when its staff are adaptable, quick-thinking, service-oriented team players. A behind-the-scenes role in a hotel sets the same high standards of service as those working in public-facing roles, with a few extra challenges for good measure; stringent deadlines in a high-pressure environment, and a large proportion of staff constantly on the move. A calm disposition may be one of an administrator?s most valuable assets.

The same can be said for those in the event-management team. Luxury hotels have been a favoured location for large gatherings such as weddings and conferences for some years, and the trend is set to continue. These are keynote events, and the reputation of a hotel can stand or fall according to how well an event runs. Organising and managing events calls on a host of skills: problem-solving, the ability to anticipate needs, social and communication skills, and a generous dash of creativity, This is one for ardent perfectionists, for who no detail is too small to warrant the closest scrutiny.

The housekeeping team is another phalanx of perfectionists, the stagehands whose task is to ensure that the hotel lays its scene to perfection. Of all the unsung heroes, the housekeeping task force is the least visible; a guest will almost certainly notice and remember a flaw in the housekeeping ? they?re less likely to remember the detail of how their vision of perfection was met, or the many hands that helped to maintain it.

For all that, housekeeping is an ideal entry-point for a career in luxury hospitality. Few roles offer such wide access to every area of the hotel, from cellar to attic, and the housekeeping career path can offer a dizzying climb up the hierarchy. No longer quite the Cinderella department of old, some luxury hospitality training courses insist managers of the future pay their housekeeping dues with a good period of time working in the department.

A behind-the-scenes tour wouldn?t be complete without a visit to the kitchen. Stellar careers have been launched from the steam and sizzle of a luxury hotel kitchen, some of which started from the lowest rung. A kitchen porter?s role is at the operational heart of the hotel: the cleaning and clearing of dishes and workspaces are essential to every part of its food and beverage offer, from room service to bar, breakfast to banquet. The kitchen porter?s role is a physically demanding one, but there?s no better place to observe and learn the luxury food and drink ropes.

A career in luxury hospitality is not only rewarding, it?s becoming increasingly desirable as the sector continues to flourish. It can be a high-pressure environment, hours can be long and unsocial, and the standards unforgivingly high; those who stay the distance and forge a career are likely to have a strong service ethic and a sincere belief in what luxury represents ? both to those who consume it and those who create it.

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