Question: What differentiates a Vatelien from a student who graduated from another school? Just read Paul Lortal’s Success Story. He graduated from Vatel in 2012, and is the “Head Banquet Waiter” at the Sofitel Hotel in Montreal, and you’ll have the answer.
In five years at Vatel, Paul worked in every department of the Nimes 4* Hotel & Spa every other week, followed by theoretical courses. He also did four different internships: one in a Palace in Courchevel, two other ones in Shangri-La Hotels in India and Malaysia, and the last one in a Sofitel Hotel in the United Arab Emirates.
You can certainly say that Paul is a Vatelien who is full of energy! And for two months, the time required to approve his visa to go to Canada, he had another experience as the Banquet Supervisor at the St-Regis Hotel in Mexico City. He’ll tell us about his international experiences now. And we’re sure you’ll love them!
Paul, you went to high school in Mexico, Malaysia and in India. What made you want to attend Vatel Nimes after that?
With a family of expatriates, I’ve always lived and studied abroad. That is what triggered my attraction for multiculturalism and international careers, like my parents have.
Each time we would arrive in a different country, we’d stay in a hotel for several months, before moving into our new home. I’ve always liked the atmosphere the reigns in large international hotels and I quickly realized that hotel management was an open door for anyone who wanted an international career.
I chose Vatel, as this Hotel Management School is recognized all over the world. First of all, because of its educational programs that allow students to be directly operational right after they graduate, then because of its curriculum where you have a week of theoretical courses followed by a week of practical application of what you studied. I chose Vatel Nimes because of its practical application structures: a four-star Hotel & Spa, a gourmet restaurant, the brasserie restaurant, etc. And it’s also a school with a huge international student base, which, as you can well imagine, also attracted me.
What memories do you have of Vatel?
I’ve got excellent memories of the five years I spent at Vatel Nimes. Teachers and instructors were always available and dynamic. They did everything possible for us to succeed. Classes were not too large. There was a good atmosphere. After classes students could go to the exercise room. Most students lived on the campus, so I was able to join in quickly and had a great social life. I’ve always liked this international environment where you can meet students from all over the world.
What internships did you do while you were in school? What jobs did you have?
My first internship took place in Courchevel in the French Alps at the Cheval Blanc Hotel, owned by the LVMH Group. The Vatel Nimes student internship department places first year students. So I spent two months in the gourmet restaurant and the following two at the Front Desk. Those are great memories! I learned a lot in this luxury hotel and for four months, I was able to ski almost every day!
For the second year internship, I had to go to an English speaking country. So I chose to do a five-month Management Training course in India at the Shangri-La New Delhi Hotel. Totally immersed in the Indian culture, I worked in three different departments: the Restaurant and Catering, the Front Desk and Sales & Marketing!
For my third internship I chose the Shangri-La Tun Jung Aru Resort in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah on the island of Borneo in Malaysia. This time I specialized in Food & Beverages. I participated in managing the Conferences & Banquets department and I reported directly to the F&B Deputy Manager.
Finally my last internship took place at the Sofitel Jumeirah Beach in Dubai in the United Arabian Emirates. I was the administrative manager for catering and the restaurant. My daily work included:
- working with the F&B Deputy Manager,
- supervising and coordinating the procedures,
- helping to draw up the budgets,
- managing human resources,
- coordinating events,
- organizing banquet operations.
So what kind of opportunities have you had since you graduated?
After I graduated in May, 2012, I recontacted the Sofitel Jumeirah Beach Operations Manager in Dubai, to see if there were any vacant jobs. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any, but he told me that one of his colleagues from the Montreal Sofitel was looking for a Head Waiter to supervise their banquet rooms. I applied for this job and was hired, but seeing as how my visa took a while, I did a two-month replacement job in the St-Regis Mexico City Hotel as the Banquet Supervisor. Then I started in Sofitel Montreal on October 4th, 2012.
What differences have you seen in Hotel Management in the different countries you’ve worked in?
All in all, I’ve worked in six different countries: France, India, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Canada. It’s hard to write about generalities but I’d like to share what I personally felt:
In France, our management system is a very formal one. You speak to your managers in a formal manner, and you have to be very careful if you want to initiate any changes.
The cast system is unfortunately still omnipresent in India. It’s not easy to manage a team. Moreover, job titles on business cards are very important for Indians.
In Malaysia, I think that you have to be very open-minded if you want a team to trust you. You have to pay special attention to each community that makes up this country: Indians, Chinese, and Bumiputras, who are Malaysian Muslims.
In the United Arabian Emirates, you have to manage teams who are totally multicultural. In this country, everyone is an expat. At the Sofitel, we’ve got over 45 nationalities under the same roof! We’ve got a lot of “front-line employees” who never had any hotel or restaurant training before working at the Dubai Sofitel. Managers have to spend a lot of time training them: service protocol, hospitality arts, manners, how to serve wine, etc.
For North American, things go really quickly there. In Canada, there is a “flat” management style. People speak informally to managers and go straight to the point. All “front-line employees” are unionized. As a manager you have to know what’s in your collective bargaining agreements. You have to be firm, clear, but also “fair” when giving orders. You’re judged on results, not on what you say.
Can you tell us about more about the hotel you are working in and your job?
I’m the Operations Manager for the Banquet Department; my job title is “Head Banquet Waiter.” I manage of team of about twenty (waiters and restaurant employees) and I’ve got an assistant who helps me out with my administrative and operational tasks.
My missions consist in:
- Supervising and coordinating operational activities when we have banquets, drawing up the order in which tasks must be done, assigning jobs to support personnel and making sure that deadlines and standards are respected.
- Collecting all data required to create and analyze budgets, contracts and operations, in compliance with our hotel’s sales strategy.
- Being in charge of validating stocks of food and beverages and their budget.
- Ensuring the coordination and scheduling of banquet room rentals, setting up equipment and material required for the events as set forth in the contracts.
- Supervision the personnel in this department, their payroll, making sure laws, standards and the collective bargaining agreements are respected.
- Communicating efficiently with other team members.
- Chairing a daily meeting with the team to discuss ongoing activities.
- Being an example for them by carefully respecting all Accor Group values, brand name codes, and instructions concerning the dress code and presentation.
What are you short, mid and long-term projects?
I’ve only been in Quebec for 14 months. Everything went so fast and this first year flew by! For the next two years, I’d like to continue learning in this job. I still have a lot left to learn.
Then I’d like to be promoted as a Restaurant & Catering Manager. And in the long-term, my goal is to be the Operations Manager.