When he was visiting Vatel Nimes to speak with 4th year students, Pierre-Yves Le Gal invited us to contact his friend from the Vatel Paris class of 2009: Nicolas Niel, who is currently the Food and Beverage Manager at the Villa du Lac Residence & Spa at Divonne-les-Bains.
A few hours later, Nicolas answered our questions.
Nicolas, could you tell us about La Villa du Lac and your job there?
On the outskirts of Geneva, right on the lake, our hotel is located in an exceptional environment and has a magnificent view overlooking the Alps, the Mont Blanc and the Jura mountain ranges. It has 88 rooms, 96 apartments and eight conference rooms. As the F&B Manager, I’m in charge of all catering services: the restaurant, the kitchens, banquets, conferences and the bar. In addition to this operational dimension and this “on the floor” management of my team members, of course we can’t forget the guest relationship part. And then we have to factor in the administrative work involved. This includes managing human and financial resources, meaning that I have to respect F&B ratios, reach my turnover goals, and take care of payroll and procurement tasks. And finally, there’s a sales aspect in this when I promote and sell our Banquet and Wedding services. And it’s true that we have to pay very special attention when we organize wedding celebrations because we’re in charge of making sure it’s the best day of our bride and groom’s life!
What advice could you give to our students who would like to be F&B Managers too?
To succeed professionally, there are some rules you have to respect:
- Work more, work hard, and work longer than the others.
- Stay humble and learn as much as you can from your managers.
- Never forget that without your team members, you are nothing.
If you respect those rules, there’s no reason that you won’t reach the goals you’ve set for yourself.
What three qualities to you need to develop to succeed in this job and what are the three shortcomings to avoid?
I think the three main qualities are the following:
- Leadership: without our team members, we can’t succeed. So that means it’s up to you to create an atmosphere where they’ll give everything they’ve got.
- Flexibility: this is the golden rule! You have to be able to adapt yourself to any situations, to all types of personality, and always be able to find a way to work things out.
- Capacity of analysis: both when using figures and in interpersonal situations, an ability to analyze allows you to make the right and intelligent decisions, even during stressful situations.
On the other hand, the greatest faults you really have to avoid include:
- Being too proud
- Dispersion: forgetting your main goal which is customer satisfaction to the detriment of secondary goals can be very, very dangerous in our jobs.
- Not being demanding: just think like Churchill “I’m not demanding; I’m happy with the best.” This should be the motto of everyone working in the hospitality sector!
You chose Vatel then because you are demanding?
Exactly! Both in theoretical and in practical aspects, it seemed to me that the best education and training I could ever have was given at Vatel. And I’ve never regretted this choice!
Can you remember a particular fact or experience when you were attending Vatel, either in one of the courses, or during your practical application work or internships that still impacts you today in your professional life?
When I started, I wanted to work in the hotel and restaurant field in order to work in prestigious hotels that were offering top class “French style” services. My internship at Fouquet’s Barriere allowed me to live this dream, and especially so during the Cesar Gala night, where I was in charge of welcoming famous guests. I’ll never forget that evening. Famous people coming and going, an EXTRAordinary show, and huge organization and success that was broadcast all over the globe. We all keep events like these tucked away somewhere in our heads and hearts.
And this internship was the one that got you hired.
Vatel’s outreach allows its students to access top-notch internships in strategic departments of famous hotels or restaurants. That’s what happened to me after my second year of the Postgraduate Degree program. I was able to join the Fouquet’s Barriere team for a nine month internship as the Financial Manager’s Assistant in charge of Sustainable Development.And finally I was hired after six months, without having finished my internship!
What are you short, mid and long-term projects?
My short term projects include completely mastering my present job, building team loyalty, fulfilling our initial goals and meeting levels of turnover and quality that had never been met before with my team. As my mid-term goal, of course, I’d like to manage a hotel. To achieve this, I take advantage of everything my Manager can teach me and all the training sessions given at Group level to be ready on D-Day!
It’s easy to tell that you really feel that you are a Vatelien!
That’s for sure! And to support this special link that I have with Vatel, we regularly open our doors to host students who come in from all the campuses throughout the world. That allows me to convey a bit of the knowledge that I have and to participate, as an alumnus, in what makes Vatel such a great School.
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