Whether you’re starting out in a hospitality job or moving on, you’ll need to decide whether to join a big chain or a small setup, where the environment is a little more personal.
There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages of both. Paul Berncastle started his working life as a kitchen hand in a small restaurant in Cornwall before working his way up to his current managerial position – executive housekeeper at a Crowne Plaza Hotel in London, part of the massive InterContinental Hotels Group.
"Starting at a small restaurant is important, he explains, because it gives you a chance to see the operation of the entire business and get the bigger picture. Smaller companies may also suit you for their less formal approach and the fact your good work is more visible."
A possible downside, however, is there are more opportunities to clash with others, such as with picky managers who like things done 'just so'. With just a few people in the business, a personality conflict could endanger your career and damage your morale. There are also fewer places to seek a resolution: if you argue with your manager, there could be no-one to step in on your behalf.
At a large hotel, says Paul, human resources departments are there to help resolve disputes.
Close to the action
At a smaller hotel, you have the satisfaction of knowing exactly who you’re working for, rather than profiting a faceless shareholder. You also get to experience the satisfaction that comes from a spell of good business as you will be closer to the action. But then again, having the owner watch over you all the time might not be so good.
Smaller outlets are also more vulnerable to daily affects on the economy. As Paul explains: “Large outlets often have a solid client base that makes them less reliant on day-to-day occurrences, such as the vagaries of the weather. Because conferences and events will be booked months in advance, managers will know exactly how many staff they need on shift and won’t need to disappoint anyone by asking them not to come in, or pay someone to do nothing..
Rights and perks
The large organisation is also a lot more likely to offer training, support and career development. If you do well in your appraisals, it can be pretty hard to stay in the same place – you’ll inevitably end up being promoted if you can demonstrate to them that you are committed to the business and prepared to work hard.”
Wherever you work, you have a legal right to a contract of employment which sets out your rights and responsibilities while at work, though the contract can sometimes be verbal. The larger the establishment, the more likely it is that you’ll be given a formal, written contract which sets out precisely how much holiday, sick pay and other entitlements you’ll get. You may also get other things, such as assistance with childcare, which a small employer may offer only on an informal basis. Although a smaller hotel is more likely to allow you to occasionally bring your little one in if they have the sniffles.
Stay or go?
As Paul concludes: “You might like to stay at a small organisation because of the comfort of always knowing who you’re going to be working with, or because you have more control over your working environment. But many crave the need to move up the chain – something that's much easier when working for a business with thousands of employees, worldwide.”
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