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Hotel training caters to food lovers

Published on Thursday, 24 May 2012
Management trainee Koey Tsoi says the scheme has helped her improve her communication skills.
Photo: Gary Mak
Flora Lee
Photo: Gary Mak

Several hotels in Hong Kong offer management trainee programmes. However, the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, is unique in having created a specific programme for young graduates whose passion is food and beverage (F&B).

The 18-month programme takes candidates on a journey through three of the hotel’s F&B outlets and operations, requiring increasing levels of responsibility, and including a training programme tailored to their interests and competence.

“This training programme has given me a chance to move around various departments that have a strong connection with banquet operation, such as the stewarding team, the kitchen, and catering sales,” says management trainee Koey Tsoi, who has been in the programme for 10 months. “When I go back to the banquet operation, I can communicate with them more effectively as I understand the logistics and difficulties of each department.”

In addition to on-the-job coaching, a wide range of in-house training programmes – from food hygiene and customer service to supervisory development and “train the trainer” – prepare trainees for the next step.

Each trainee is allocated a mentor and is assigned a special F&B project to work on. They are also required to give a presentation on their project by the end of the programme.

After a year of successful traineeship, they are then enrolled in an online programme run by New York-based Cornell University that can lead to an e-Cornell diploma. After their stint, they also receive a Mandarin Oriental Management Training Programme certificate.

“Trainees are expected to take up a supervisory or managerial role in one of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s properties. They might be transferred to other countries, which will help them build up their knowledge of managing businesses in other cities, and learn about different cultures,” says Jenny Chan, HR director, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.

The group’s flagship hotel selects successful applicants from among degree or diploma holders of leading hotel schools.

Candidates should have at least six months’ previous experience in the F&B department of a hotel or catering organisation, in order to understand the basics of the operations and whether they are genuinely interested in the subject. “They should demonstrate a real commitment to five-star standards and a true desire to excel in the field,” Chan says.

Candidates also need to be fast learners, have a customer focus, be dedicated to continuously improving service qualities, and should be able to work flexible hours, according to the requirements of the specific outlet they are working in.

Other necessary attributes include enthusiasm, energy and an ambition to achieve Mandarin’s mission of delighting and satisfying guests while continually improving service.

“Our staff need enthusiasm in delivering our company values and need to always think positively when encountering ups and downs,” says Chan. “They need high energy levels to strive for better results, conquer hurdles and handle exhausting tasks. Last but not least, they need ambition to ensure that they themselves are the best,” Chan says.

For management trainee Flora Lee, personalised service is of the essence. She learned about that, and also how to deal with an unhappy guest, from colleagues and supervisors.

She is also polishing her interpersonal skills in communicating with internal and external guests, and hopes to develop her problem-solving abilities in order to make the right decisions when she attains a management position.

Facing the difficult task of guiding and motivating some of the casual banqueting staff who have many more years of experience than her, Tsoi says she found people management skills important but hard to acquire. To learn, she closely observed the skills of her managers in the different departments.

“Although they have different management styles, all of them have one thing common: self-confidence. Secondly, a good manager should have strong leadership skills, such as putting the right man in the right position, motivating the team towards the same goal, listening and understanding the team members’ needs and difficulties and providing suitable solutions,” Tsoi says.

Tsoi advises applicants to be sure that they love food, are interested in this career, that they like interacting with guests, and also enjoy working as part of a team. 

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