The Bay Area is the state's second largest tourist destination as well as a popular spot for corporate groups to host professional conferences and events. An entire industry of hotels, restaurants, and catering companies exists to serve this rotating population of short-term visitors. All the players in the hospitality industry took a hit with the tourism drought in the months post September 11th. These days, however, the Bay Area is once again host to a large population of tourists–and employment opportunities within the hospitality industry abound.
Joie de Vivre is a boutique hotelier with more than 30 hotels, restaurants and spas in California, including 15 San Francisco hotels such as the Hotele Vitale on Embarcadero and Galleria Park Hotel in the Financial District. Jane Howard, the company’s VP of People Services, discusses what it is like to work in the hospitality industry in the Bay Area.
When the dot-com boom was alive and well, it was difficult to recruit people. We focused a lot of promoting from within and we created training programs. Like all cycles, what goes up comes down, and right now the hotel market is thriving. We are growing a lot all over the state. This is in part a function of the vibrancy of the economy. Local businesses need places for people to stay, so if they are doing well, we are doing well.
This is a great career path because you can move from hourly to supervisor to management. You don’t have to have gone to an Ivy League college. It is an accessible career for a lot of different demographics. There is lots of on-the-job training, and it’s not boring if you like people. Our largest number of positions would be in areas such as room attendants, front desk hosts, servers, bartenders, and front office staff.
In terms of the future of this industry, they say that there will be a shortage of workers given the change in the age structure of the population. I think it is incumbent on those in this career to reach out to high schools and colleges to show them why this is a great industry. We are in an enviable position because we are known as such a positive employer.
We are known for having a very vibrant corporate culture. Our philosophy is that people matter here. It is very participative and non-hierarchical with lots of opportunities for advancement. Plus, we have lots of fun parties!
We’re just in the process of getting more scientific about how we screen applicants. The ideal candidate would have a desire to serve people and show a can-do attitude. Bigger chains are a lot more formal, but our approach is much more oriented to wanting our team members to connect with our guests. During our new-hire orientation we stress that you have permission to be you. People have a lot of leeway to share stories about their favorite hidden spots in the Bay Area. That goes a long way.
The Four Seasons is another major hotel chain with a strong presence in the Bay Area. Austin Watkins, Director of Marketing, discusses what it has been like to work in the hotel industry for over 15 years.
For the hospitality industry the one thing that is consistent – regardless of what level hotel – is that it is about people. It is all about providing dollar value for the service provided. We use a behavioral-based interview process to select candidates, and we say that we hire for attitude, not aptitude. Since we can teach people the inner workings of their position, we want to know if they are a good fit with the company.
As far as Four Seasons in the Bay Area, we aren’t looking at any planned growth in the near future, but the city’s hotel industry as whole definitely is. One of the trends that isn’t new, but is becoming more and more common, is hotels that are used for long-term stays. This is for people who essentially move in permanently or for long-term recovery situations for people who are overcoming a health issue.
In terms of recruiting people, we advertise a lot online. The best way to find out if there are jobs available is to call our jobs hotline at (415)262-0204. We do open interviews here, as well at job fairs that we host occasionally. These job fairs allow us to fast-forward the interview processsince an applicant doesn’t have to be called back in for an interview with a division manager. We know applicants don’t like to wait around, but we will never compromise on the volume of interviews before someone is hired. This is simply because of the investment required in hiring and training a new person. Depending on a couple of factors, it costs between three thousand and six thousand dollars to bring someone new on board.
The Four Seasons is known for being a competitive salary provider. In any given area we like to be in the top three in terms of the wages we pay our employers. These are some of the reasons our turnover is between 16-18%, whereas industry standard is closer to 30%.
Life is too short not to love what you do. I started out as a parking attendant in southern California, and have done just about everything between that and my job now. I love my job!