Reflection and References

‘The act of reflecting is one which causes us to make sense of what we’ve learned, why we learned it, and how that particular increment of learning took place. Moreover, reflection is about linking one increment of learning to the wider perspective of learning – heading towards seeing the bigger picture.’ (Race, 2002)

Hinett exclaims that ‘reflection helps raise our awareness of ourselves as learners and to see that we can direct and change our learning’. (Hinnett, n.d.) It is important to understand that reflection is for personal use in order to see where your skills are at presently and how you can improve and develop them in order to assist you in the future with your career and life.

From my placement year I wanted to learn as much as I could in the short time that I had, I knew that to do this I needed to work in multiple departments to grasp knowledge on different areas and aspects of the business. I also knew that in order to provide the high level or service that is expected in the hotel that I worked in then I needed to know enough information in order to give guests accurate advice and answers to their questions.

Through speaking with the operations manager of the hotel I was able to ensure I could move around different departments of the hotel to see a bit of everything rather than seeing just one department in an extremely detailed way.

Although working in an extremely high standard environment was nerve-wracking to begin with I feel as though I adapted well to the environment and settled into my roles at the hotel quickly. From my time at Pennyhill Park I believe I gained a lot of experience that is extremely valuable to me for my later career. Having worked in reservations, The Latymer, and reception I was able to see the whole process of a guests stay at the hotel, from their initial booking right through until their departure from the hotel.

The skills that I feel I have improved on are Customer service, Confidence, Organisation, Attention to detail and computing skills. The skills that I believe I have attained from my time on placement are Sales skills, administration and telephone skills. I also believe I have obtained a much more positive outlook as from attending a Quick Steps training program we were pushed towards using much more positive verbal and body language when speaking with guests. For example, rather than using negative language and dwelling on the fact that I may not be able to meet some guest’s requests I would think of an alternative that they may prefer. Something that is extremely important when working so closely with customers is to show them that you are there to serve and cater for them, no question or request that they have is too big or too small to tackle.

I strongly believe that experience through a placement year is such valuable experience because during a placement year you have the freedom and the opportunity to move around the different departments within the workplace that you are at. This therefore enables you to see a lot more and gain a lot more knowledge and experience than if you were to be working in one department for a full year. First-hand experience, from working within the departments themselves, is a lot more valuable and important that just hearing and reading about experiences from fellow colleagues. A placement or internship is something I would recommend to anyone that is taking up any type of study.

 

Reservations

I started working in reservations in 1st April until 3rd June as my final department to work in. I was working office hours during the week and had each weekend off.

The reservations team are a small six person team and we have the responsibilities of taking all hotel and spa bookings along with restaurant and afternoon tea bookings as well. In order to be successful in this role I needed to know a good amount of knowledge about the hotel. This is the reason that I was set to work in reservations as the last department for my placement. It meant I had worked in a lot of other departments and gathered a lot of information that would be beneficial in reservations. During my time in reservations I was able to improve my selling skills by encouraging guests to spend more money on packages and extras which would make their stay that bit more special.

The first area I was trained in was making spa bookings, this involved booking spa treatments for hotel residents and also taking bookings of full spa days for non-residents.  As I was comfortable in the database they used for spa bookings I was then given the tasks of completing resident treatment checks and also completing the spa break checks each day. The resident treatment checks are to ensure that the treatments hotel residents are booked in for are added to the notes of their hotel reservation in order to allow reception to check these with the guests upon check in. The spa break checks are to ensure that all customers purchasing a spa break package; where they have a 60 minute treatment per person per night of their stay, have their treatments booked in prior to their visit. If guests are missing treatments I would then contact them in order to book in the treatment of their choice. A lot of the time when I needed to call the guest for this reason the guests were exceptionally thankful that we had paid so much attention to them and their booking.

Working in reservations enabled me to improve my telephone skills, computer skills, customer service skills and sales skills. I made it my aim throughout my time in reservations to improve my sales skills as much as possible as I had not had a great deal of sales experience in the past. Through repetition and trying to sell to guests again and again I was able to read the guests through the conversation to be able to identify what extras and add-on packages they would be most interested in purchasing. My time in reservations also taught me how important it is to ensure all bookings are correct and to collect as much information from the guests as possible in order to make their stay memorable and of 5 star qualities.

Reception and Switchboard

I began working in Reception on 17th February and was working both in reception and on switchboard. I only worked in this department for one and a half months due to having limited time left of my placement year and I wanted to see more departments.

My responsibilities whilst on switchboard were to answer phone calls and transfer them to the necessary department or member of staff, complete the excel spread sheet called the E-report, cut the electronic room keys ready for arrival, input guests pre-authorisations into the database and to file all departures from each day.

My responsibilities for reception were to check guests in and out of the hotel, set up any extra packages in the rooms e.g. romantic package, cut electronic room keys for arrival, complete arrival checks, assist concierge when they were extremely busy and also complete banking at the beginning and end of each shift.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time working in reception and switchboard as I had never worked in the front of house before; I had mainly worked in food and beverage departments. I was excited to work in reception because I would get the opportunity to see some of the bedrooms when I needed to set up packages in the bedrooms. I was also looking forward to working with computers and inputting data to the hotel systems and programs.

I feel from my time in reception and switchboard I have definitely improved my customer service skills as I was working towards helping customers on a daily basis. I also feel that I have become more confident with dealing with complaints and ensuring that customers leave the hotel happy. Having worked on a computer every day when working in this department I feel that my computer skills have improved a lot and so I feel that I could comfortably work a job that uses computers on a daily basis. Working in reception also taught me how important communication between all departments is. For example, reception needed to communicate with housekeeping and room service on a daily basis to ensure that rooms were ready for guests to be checked in. This included room service as some people had packages in their room that would involve room service putting a bottle of champagne, birthday cake, welcome back cupcakes or anniversary plates in the room prior to arrival.

Below is a photograph of rose petals on a bed that reception would do for romantic packages.

Photo 6

Ascot Bar

I worked in the Ascot Bar for two weeks in January from the 1st until 16th as the Latymer was closed for two weeks following on from Christmas.

I was very excited to work in the Ascot Bar because I love learning new things and seeing new areas of the hotel. I was also very much looking forward to seeing the wonderful cocktails and learning how to make them myself. Every month the Ascot Bar create a ‘cocktail of the month’ and this will always be a creation from one of the bartenders themselves. I found this very interesting, learning how to create the perfect cocktail for the month and knowing which flavours would work together.

One of the areas that the Ascot Bar is very well established on is serving Afternoon Tea. This is served every day of the week from 13.00 to 17.00. The afternoon tea includes an extensive range of teas and coffees, homemade sandwiches, scones and cakes. I felt extremely proud to be serving afternoon tea to our guests as they were beautifully presented and the guests were utterly amazed by the efforts and detail put into every portion. The feedback that we received from our guests was particularly motivating as it encouraged me to keep the noticeably high level of service as constant.

One aspect that I feel shows through a lot more in the service at the Ascot Bar is that each guest is made to feel important and special. For example, when serving afternoon tea to guests we offer an unlimited amount of refills for tea and coffee, and to do this we ensure that we remember what tea each person has in order to just refill their beverages without needing to ask them which tea it was they were drinking.

The key skills that I believe I improved on during my time in the Ascot Bar were attention to detail, remembering information about guests and also customer service. By remembering information about guests I was able to impress them and exceed expectations regularly, this was for example knowing a guests favourite drink and making it for them before they had asked for it. My experience in the Ascot Bar has definitely been interesting and has made me more motivated towards meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations and showing exceptional customer service.

The Latymer

The Latymer is a two Michelin star restaurant run by head chef Michael Wignall. I started working in the Latymer on 15th October and was working here mainly as a commi-waiter.  I would also assist both the Chef De Rang’s and the Sommeliers. During the week I would work as the hostess for the restaurant and it would then be my responsibility to greet guests, show them to their table, offer an aperitif and also ask if they had any allergies or dietary requirements that the kitchen should be aware of. One area of The Latymer which impressed me was the way in which they catered for guests with allergies or dietary requirements; they would always make all guests feel special and it was important to them that every dietary need was catered for that there was no effort shown to the guest.

When working as a commi-waiter there were several tasks that I needed to complete each day. One of the main tasks was to complete the mise-en-place for service. This would include many things that were needed in order to allow service to run smoothly, for example, preparing the bread boxes and ensuring the hot and cold passes were filled with the correct plates and sufficient number of them. After completing the tasks of commi-waiter I would then need to assist the Chef De Rangs with the tasks that they were doing to prepare and complete mise-en-place for the front of the restaurant. This included tasks such as, ironing tablecloths and napkins, setting the tables with the necessary glasses, cutlery and show plate.

The Latymer’s menu’s were changing daily depending on which seasonal ingredients were of highest quality at that time. This therefore meant that every day each staff member needed to learn and familiarise themselves with the new dishes in order to be able to serve them to the guest accurately. Furthermore, each dish had its own plate that it was served on, this meant that we would need to remember which plate was used for which dish in order to be able to keep the hot and cold passes filled up at all times. For example, the ‘Cod’ dish would always be served in the nikko bowl and the ‘Tuna’ dish would always be served on the blue rectangle.

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The Latymer can hold a maximum of 50 guests in the restaurant and 10 guests in the Chef’s table for one service. The Chef’s table is located in its own private room in the heart of the kitchens. This room has adjustable lighting and a large LCD TV for guests to be able to view the chefs at work on and see them preparing and plating up their dishes before they were served to them.

Chefs Table 2

The quality of service in The Latymer is extremely high and so it was exciting for me to work as part of the team, however, it also made me slightly anxious to be working towards such high standards and expectations. I was motivated to work well within the department and to learn everything I needed to know as soon as I could in order for me to get my footing and be able to work comfortably within the team. Having never worked in such a high standard restaurant before I was eager to see how things worked and how the running of the restaurant differed to any other restaurant. Being a fast learner I was able to pick up all of the necessary information quickly and get to work straight away, it was not long at all before I felt comfortable that I knew a lot of knowledge about the department.

After completing my work in The Latymer I can see that I have gained an unbelievable amount of information on both the high quality food and the ingredients that are used for all the dishes; I have also grasped valuable knowledge on the level of service that runs alongside this . It is not possible to receive two Michelin stars without having both the faultless food and the faultless service to go hand in hand. I am extremely happy that I have had the opportunity to work in the Latymer and I know that the experience has improved my skills immensely. I have gained confidence and more knowledge on the skills needed to work successfully within high standard food and beverage environment. I do believe that working in The Latymer for three months has ensured the development and improvement of my existing skills, such as, attention to detail, customer service, organisation, dealing with complaints/difficult customers and also working to tight deadlines.

Below are some photographs of me working in The Latymer for an event that we held.Photo 16 Photo 19

Themis and Pool Bar

The Themis is the relaxing, calm and peaceful restaurant inside The Spa and the Pool Bar is the outside bar and decking area by the pool and Canada tubs that is run by the same team as The Themis.

Spa 6  Spa

I started work in The Themis and Pool Bar on Wednesday 3rd July for a short four hour shift. This was to enable me to get an idea of the procedures, how things work and how the people work within this department. During this first day I was given documents to read through and sign indicating how to work the electrical items, such as using the smoothies juicers in a safe working manner, and also how to carry out certain tasks such as how to use the till and billing system correctly. The following day I began working regular forty hours per week with two days off each week. The rota was changing each week and so no two weeks shifts were the same. To begin with this was hard to get used to as I could never plan ahead for my days off, however I quickly adapted to the way that the rota was set. Having worked for a few hours on the first day I could see that it would be likely that the Pool Bar outside could get a lot busier over the summer with the expected good weather, and after working over the summer months I saw that my prediction was correct.

The Pool bar had a reasonably small menu and so it was quick and easy to learn all of the food and beverages that we had on offer to our guests and was therefore straight forward to be able to answer any of the guest queries. The Pool Bar had a barbeque outside that ran alongside it so all the products on the Pool Bar menu were prepared, cooked and served here.

Spa bbq

I worked for just over three months in the Themis and Pool Bar and learnt many things about meeting customers’ expectations and what to do when expectations were not met. I quickly learnt and adapted my skills accordingly to the work that I was to be carrying out during my time in The Themis and Pool Bar and soon after I began working I was being left alone to open and close the restaurant and pool bar. This was because I showed capability of completing jobs alone and I also had motivation to complete the tasks to the expected high standards. I thoroughly enjoyed being given opportunities to enable me to prove my skills and to test myself with more challenging tasks.

Nearing the end of my time in The Themis, on 12th October, the Operations Manager of the hotel held a small meeting with the staff in Themis to look back and evaluate the summer months using the figures he had collated. We found out from this meeting that there was a noticeable increase and growth from the previous year and that at that time we approximately £60,000 above the forecasted budget. Unfortunately as the summer has become so busy and we were not able to meet all expectations of customers we did fall under target for beverages. Our target of profit for beverages alone was 76.5% however we fell short of this target by approximately 9%. This was due to using beverages as a method of complaint recovery in some cases. For example, if it had taken far too long for a guest to receive their drinks and they had complained then it would be possible that the manager would offer the drinks complimentary to amend the issue and recover the complaint. I found the meeting with the Operations Manager extremely useful and interesting as it gave me the opportunity to compare the practical side of the work to the results that were given in proven figures.

Introduction To My Placement!

I moved into the staff accommodation on Sunday 30th June and started having a look around the area on the Monday to begin to familiarise myself. On Tuesday, 2nd July, I had my induction day from 9am-4pm and was told that I would be starting my placement year in The Themis restaurant and Pool Bar. The induction day is a compulsory day that all new starters have to attend before they can commence their work in the hotel. I found out from the induction day that I would be working in the Themis Restaurant and The Pool Bar for the first three months of my placement. I would then move on to The Latymer, Reception and Switchboard and finally Reservations. We were given a brief overview of the hotel and the Exclusive Group during the induction. Exclusive Hotels are a family run group of hotels in the south of England. There are four hotels and two venues within the Exclusive group and I will be completing my placement year at the largest of the hotels; Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa. The Spa at Pennyhill is a 45,000 sq.ft spa that has ’twenty one therapy treatment rooms’. (Exclusive Hotels, 2010) Further posts through my blog will describe the areas that I worked in throughout my time on placement and the skills that I learnt and developed. I will also explain the tasks that I needed to carry out and my thoughts and feelings towards the departments that I worked.

I have attached a photograph of myself in one of my uniforms at Pennyhill Park.

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