Article from servingcareers.com: OUR STORIES
HOW HOSPITALITY SERVES ME
From the front of the house to the back, the staff at Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels in Greensboro provides insight into how their hospitality careers allow them to grow and develop professionally. The company, which includes Green Valley Grill, O.Henry Hotel, Proximity Hotel, Print Works Bistro, and Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, employs full-service hotel and restaurant teams.
Their tenure in hospitality ranges from a few months to decades of service. Many say the skills they’ve learned serve them in other areas of their lives, while the bonds they form with customers and co-workers often see them through life’s biggest milestones.
Here’s what they say about how hospitality has served their careers and personal lives.
Chris Lampkins, Events, Proximity Hotel
Lampkins’ first hospitality job as a restaurant server eventually led him to bartending and then to several restaurant management positions. While it was clear that he excelled in hospitality, he wanted to pursue professional sports. When injuries derailed those dreams, he turned to what always brought him comfort: kitchens. Much of his boyhood was spent in kitchens with his great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother.
Despite his success, he also wondered if he should try something else. In his mid-20s, he left hospitality for web development and digital marketing. While he enjoyed the work, he didn’t love sitting at a desk for most of the day. When the pandemic forced companywide layoffs, he returned to the hospitality industry, just as many were fleeing it. He earned a degree in culinary operations so that he could work in hospitality management.
“It was an opportunity where I was able to reinvest in myself,” he says.
On the parallels between sports and hospitality leadership:
“Being detail-oriented … If we’re on the field and we’re calling a play and making sure that everyone knows exactly what their position and their role is so that we can execute at the highest level, that kind of goes hand in hand with this industry.
“We have to have everything down to a T. Every specific detail has to be there for us to be able to really feel happy within ourselves and within our jobs, to know that we’ve been able to pull off something so amazing for the guests. Also, having a great coach and a great leader is how we get better within ourselves. Not just for ourselves, but for the companies that we work for.”
Maizie Plumley, Guest Services Representative, Proximity Hotel
Prior to her role as a hotel guest services representative, Plumley worked in historic preservation and public history. Although she was initially nervous about her new role, she quickly came to love it.
“I really enjoy helping to make people’s day when they see me. We’re the first people they see when they enter the hotel, usually,” she says. “Being able to help people in a way that you don’t always think is impactful to other people, but when you see how happy you can make them—it really makes it worthwhile.”
On the value of learning the softer side of hospitality:
“I do see myself utilizing a lot of the soft skills that I’ve learned in hospitality—just empathy and being able to understand what people are going through and what they might need. I’m a little early in my career in hospitality, but I would love to continue my path here. And I think it’s a flexible enough career that I could see myself in different departments, just really building on those skills that I’ve already learned.”
Joyce Phillips, Front Desk Service Manager, O.Henry Hotel
Phillips is responsible for ensuring that all operations run smoothly and that guests’ needs are met. While this level of responsibility might cause some to sweat, Phillips’ eight years in the Marine Corps prepared her for high-pressure situations.
She started as a hotel manager on duty, and then she worked as an executive housekeeper before moving into the service manager role. Phillips says the military required her to be stern and to exude a tough exterior. Now that she’s had time on the civilian side, she prefers this softer version of herself.
On the transferrable skills the military instilled in her:
“A lot of the things that I had learned in the military have actually helped me in the position that I am in right now. Just being determined, self-motivated and really fine-tuning anything that I learn and ensuring that I learn it to the best of my ability.
“A lot of the opportunities that come up in my role as the service manager have been introduced to me because of the determination that I have in just learning hospitality. Since one of the things that actually brings joy is hospitality, I honestly have gotten this from just having that internal want and desire to make others happy.”
Cassandra Brown, Senior Service Manager, O.Henry Hotel
Brown started her hospitality career in restaurants. She switched to hotels—where she’s remained for more than 20 years—on her son’s recommendation after a school field trip to the hotel. She had been an executive housekeeper for about 12 years when she was presented with an opportunity to work at the front desk.
“Making sure people have great experiences while they are staying here at the hotel—even while dining at the restaurant—that’s my thrill,” she says.
On what it takes to work in hospitality:
“Working in the hospitality business, you’ve got to be a person who wants to serve people. And there are going to be some times where you got to be here when everybody else is off, but you’ve got to be here. My main thing is serving people, having that energy to want to take care of people—and that will help you go a long way in hospitality. It’s got to be more than a paycheck. You’ve got to want to come in and serve the people.”
Alex Chilton, Porter, O.Henry Hotel
Chilton’s summer job as a hotel porter may seem somewhat removed from what he’s studying at Savannah College of Art and Design, but he believes the skills he’s learned in hospitality will serve him well whether he pursues music or acting.
In his first job at Chick-fil-A, he learned how to work quickly and efficiently while still providing good customer service. As a porter, he assists guests with their luggage and keeps windows and doors spotless. He also learned how to read people and to anticipate guests’ needs before they have to ask. But the most important skill he’s learned is how to connect with people.
On what good customer service entails:
“There’s a balance between communicating and the level of communication that you provide for certain guests. It’s kind of been surprising, because when you think about providing customer service, you think, ‘Oh, well, I need to talk to them a lot and make them feel comfortable and say as much as I can so that they feel like they are ready to stay at the hotel.’
“It’s more so reading than it is actually talking. You read [their behavior and body language] before you talk so that when it’s actually time to serve them and help them find a room and help them feel comfortable, you know what type of customer you’re dealing with.”
Jade Ingram, Housekeeping, O.Henry Hotel
Prior to her role as a hotel housekeeper, Ingram worked at chain and at locally owned restaurants. She’s been a Chick-fil-A crew member and a Chipotle service manager, and she’s filled multiple roles at a family-owned Greek restaurant.
“I wanted a different aspect of hospitality,” she says. “I’ve done the face-to-face; I’ve done the upfront and close and personal. I wanted to take a step back and see what behind the scenes was about. So just to take on a different task, learn different things, and expand my horizon in hospitality.”
On what’s next for her:
“I’m looking to become a housekeeping supervisor. I’m looking to really expand and learn more about the depths of housekeeping and not just the basics of cleaning the room, the inspection part. I want to know more about the interactions that the supervisors have with front desk. I really want to try to expand as much as I can.”
Shamika Godbolt, Housekeeping, O.Henry Hotel
Godbolt has been a housekeeper for 10 years for two reasons: She loves to clean, and the people she meets.
“I really love hospitality and housekeeping,” she says. “Housekeeping and cleaning help me relieve stress. I like meeting new people. I also like helping people. So being in this industry helps me meet new people from different backgrounds. I get to experience things I’ve never experienced before in my life and learn about different cultures.”
On the best part of her job:
“The best part of my job is, to me, the people, as well as the workers that I work with and the guest interactions. I love coming to work. I do not wake up in the morning and say, ‘Ugh, I have to go to work today.’ I never do that. I wake up; I’m excited to come to work. Everyone speaks to everyone. I have not even had a bad interaction here at the hotel. As long as you smile, talk to people, usually you get the same reciprocation.”
Rachel Massengale, Bar Manager and Bartender, Print Works Bistro
Although she’d had numerous service jobs, Massengale’s entry into serving at Print Works Bistro was unforgettable. Her first day on the floor, she dropped an entire tray of drinks at her table. From that moment on, she was determined to improve. She set personal goals and tried to get as much experience as she could in different areas. In time, she began to advance in her career.
“Hospitality became my career and passion when I realized it was something that I was good at,” Massengale says.
On setting goals:
“I was young and inexperienced, and through the years, I set personal goals and I was determined to meet those goals. The overall goal of working any job I’ve ever worked is to be able to do as many positions or roles as I possibly can, to be utilized where I’m needed. And with our company, I just came in as a server, and I set a goal that I wanted to learn how to do room service or breakfast serving. And then once I met that goal, I set another goal.
“I’ve gotten to where I’m at today because I wanted to learn how to bartend. And that has evolved into managing the bar, and I became the manager of our bar. I had to challenge myself. And not only that, but challenge the people around me because I thought I was such a disaster when I started. I wanted to prove to myself and to everyone around me that I was better than that inexperienced server who walked in the door.”
Edgar Galicia Lujan, Server, Green Valley Grill
Galicia Lujan has been a server at Green Valley Grill for 21 years. He loves his job because he’s constantly learning new things about food and wine. His company offers classes about new menus, food trends, and the latest wines. The skills he relies upon most for a lucrative shift are sincerity and being able to read his customers to anticipate the kind of service they want.
He also wants more people to realize that his is a legitimate profession.
“I think sometimes servers are underappreciated, because, like I said, we need to know about food; we need to know about wine; we need to be able to read tables. Now we need to be able to be good photographers because everybody wants that picture. So, you have to be able to see which angle is the best or which way the light is coming. And sometimes you get regulars, and they start telling you about their lives. So now you’re also kind of a friend. And the money is real. You make a pretty good living doing this.”
Austin Braund, Server, Print Works Bistro
Braund was an introverted child who hid behind his mother whenever strangers were nearby. Today, he’s a popular and outgoing server. Customers have even been known to shout, “Awesome Austin from South Boston!” when they see him outside the restaurant. Braund says 15 years in hospitality helped him overcome his shyness.
On having a flexible schedule:
“Flexibility in my schedule absolutely allows me to spend time with my two young children and wife, who I love dearly. I get to spend three days a week with them, and I get to play around with my schedule, work when I need to work, and have off when I want to have off.”