Here’s the first Success Story of a Vatel student who graduated from Switzerland!
Antonin Brault graduated from the first Vatel Martigny class, a School that opened in 2010. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in 2013, and since then, Antonin gained experience in the Swiss hospitality industry in the four-star Vatel Hotel next to the campus and at the Grand Hotel du Lac, a five-star hotel located in Vevey, as the Assistant Banquet and Wedding Manager.
But he preferred the Emirates for his international internship: at the Radisson Blu Resort in Sharjah, where he worked for two months in the Sales and Marketing department, before joining the Hotel’s RH department for two more months.
Nine months later, he came back to Switzerland and was hired as the Receptionist at the Geneva Movenpick. A young Vatelien with a lot of things to tell us!
Antonin, at the age of only 22 you’ve already worked in Switzerland, in Mauritius, in the Emirates and in the United States. What did you learn from this?
Summing up three years of different experiences is not an easy task! There are some things I learned that you can’t express orally, like learning how to live with other people, etiquette and protocol that I adapted as I gained experience, and this results in what I now can do. The main thing that I learned and that I now am trying to convey to others is to not try to generalize things too much, to categorize the hospitality industry and its departments. Each hotel and each guest is different. So you have to know how to adapt yourself to each profile to meet their expectations. It’s essential not to do your work like a robot would; you have to personalize what you do. It’s also indispensable to take each person’s language and culture into account. Let’s not forget that we’re here to make our guests happy.
Sometimes I like to think that I create memories, or at least I participate in doing that. When guests come back because they’re satisfied with the quality of our service, for me it’s already a personal victory. The most important thing in the jobs we do is to love doing them, or else we’ll be unhappy. And I believe in the old saying of Confucius: “Choose a job you like and you’ll never have to work a single day in your life.”
What differences did you notice about the different ways of management in each country?
When you talk about hotel management, reality is the opposite of what the books say! They tell us, “You have different ways of managing your team; choose the one best adapted to your personality.” But in reality: “Learn to know your team and then adapt yourself to manage them.”
In Mauritius like in Sharjah in the Emirates, first level jobs are held by people with few or no degrees at all and little experience. If you don’t adapt the way you talk and act, you’ll be completely out of phase with your team.
Stress is also an interesting factor to study. In Sharjah, people work six days a week, at least eight hours per day, and that makes less work to do per day, so people are less stressed than those living in Europe or in the United States, where you have five days to do what others do in six. In general I had the feeling that my managers were more stressed and more demanding when their team members had qualifications. You could say I’m contradicting myself, but that’s what I felt.
Nevertheless, as I said before, you can’t resort to stereotyping or generalization. Personnel were international everywhere I went, and managerial methods were different, depending on the manager. I’m speaking with my experience, but perhaps other Vateliens have a different vision because their experiences were different, even though they were in the same city.
Today you’re working in the Geneva Movenpick as the Receptionist. Could you tell us about your hotel and your job?
The Geneva Movenpick is a five-star, 350 room hotel that mainly caters to business people. It has three restaurants, including a Japanese one, a coffee shop and a bar. It’s only five minutes from the airport, which is why it is so attractive to our guests. They also appreciate free Wi-Fi, and the minibar in their rooms.
The Front Desk, my department, is the center of the hotel. We are the first and last impression for our guests, which makes our work very important, but also very interesting, because we have the occasion to really meet them and create a relationship ensuring that they have a good stay. We support the other departments because we manage and escalate all information to give the best service possible.
As the Receptionist, I’m in charge of:
- our guests’ check-in and check-out,
- monitoring our guests’ stay,
- managing regular crew members of well-known airlines.
We are very demanding concerning personal presentation, but also in languages and stress-resistance. The main asset in working in this department is that you’re constantly in contact with guests and you participate in making their stay an unforgettable one. You’ve got the opportunity to give them the little something extra so that their stay will be different from the other ones.
Also, I decided to start at the bottom of the ladder to climb it faster.
I see. Could you explain this choice to us?
Vatel gave me the idea because we had to work in all departments of a hotel to understand jobs that we would be managing in the future. To manage a team well, you already have to have done their jobs. Then you understand how difficult it is to do them. That allows you to adapt your way of speaking, your way of managing your team by showing them that their manager is there for them, that he’s supporting them and that he’ll do everything possible to make their job as pleasant as possible.
Personally, I know the receptionist job very well. I know what is involved in it as well as the qualities required to progress. I prefer proving to my company that I’m capable of being a very good manager, not only because I have the theoretical knowledge required, but also because I do high-quality and consistent work.
I really believe in being exemplary! I want to show them that I’m capable of managing difficult situations and that when my co-workers need a helping hand, that I’ll be happy to give it to them. That will also allow me to deserve their trust, something that’s indispensable if I’ll be managing them in the future.
What do you think of the Swiss hospitality industry?
The Swiss hospitality industry is, in my opinion, one of the best in the world, or even the best, and it is the most complementary one for Vateliens. It has a very high quality and we have a lot of hotels with loads of experience and stories to be told. During my first internship in the Grand Hotel du Lac” I learned the definition of the word “luxury” and everything that this meant for employees. Each and every detail, striving for perfection. It’s a standard for some hotels, but the most important thing is to include this in the mentality of employees, and this is something that I didn’t notice as much in France.
The Swiss hospitality industry is very competitive, and that makes the job even more interesting and strengthens your personal involvement. I always had the impression that I was contributing to the hotel’s development and wasn’t just there to do a job.
What projects do you have for the next two years? The next five years? And ten years?
My short-term project is to be promoted to the Head Maitre d’Hotel within a year. I know the receptionist job well but I still have to prove my consistency and commitment as time goes by.
My ambition is to manage a department within five years, perhaps in another hotel in Geneva, to have more experience.
My ten year goal is to be the Operations Manager, and then become a General Manager in a hotel. My final project would be to open or take over a hotel in France to make it into a luxury hotel, based on my vision of service with myriad little surprises. I’m already thinking of that and am working on several concepts. We also have to see how the hospitality sector will be changing, especially how new technologies will impact this.
Any other advice?
If I had some advice to give to new students, it would be to gain experience, to believe in themselves and in what they have already done.
The most important thing is to be happy, so be happy at work and do the best job that you can. All the rest will come naturally.
Two years at Vatel Martigny, another at Vatel Mauritius with the Marco Polo program... Click HERE for Antonin Brault’s story.