A life of leisure

By at home

If you’re a good communicator and thrive under pressure, a career in hospitality could be just what you’re looking for.

Free time. Most of us have at least a little bit of it, and all of us want to get the most out of it. That’s where the leisure industry comes in. It’s estimated that the places people go to relax, have a meal out, meet friends for a drink or spend a few days away, account for 13.5% of all UK jobs. Hotels, restaurants, pubs and holiday resorts have moved on since Fawlty Towers, when the legendary intolerant and aggressive Basil Fawlty made his guests feel about as welcome as a 5am wake-up call.

These days, while the right training and qualifications are certainly important, so is an enthusiastic personality and genuine ability to get on with others. Flexibility, tip-top communication skills, a knack for problem-solving, being a great team-player and thinking on your feet are all also must-have traits. So whether you’re an established professional, or a school or college leaver looking to enter the field, read on to find out more about the leisure industry…

Food, glorious food. If you don’t just love eating it, but are also into preparing it, serving it and seeing other people enjoy it, too, the restaurant business might be the one for you.

Just the job
There are dozens of roles in a restaurant, including the various levels of chef; waiting and bar staff; those on reception and the management team. Most of these roles entail shift work. And for big restaurants and chains, don’t forget human resources, sales and marketing. Some people start off as waiting or kitchen staff and work their way up to managerial positions; others get onto a management training scheme after getting a qualification such as an HND or foundation degree in hospitality management.

In profile: head chef
This role has responsibility for the kitchen and must be able to create and produce dishes that customers come back for again and again. He or she needs a passion and talent for cooking, and should be an expert multi-tasker. Qualifications are not needed to start work in a kitchen, but some apprentices spend time working towards NVQs Levels 2 and 3 in professional cookery.

What’s in your pay packet?
Casual staff can expect to work for national minimum wage, while chefs’ salaries can vary from £12,000 to over £60,000 a year. Managers can expect salaries comparable with other service industries.

Learning curve
Many chains have management training programmes aimed at graduates, regardless of degree. Those aiming for management level might be interested in an Institute of Hospitality qualification. 

Having a career in one of the UK’s 55,000 pubs involves more than pulling pints. Their main role is obviously to sell beers, wines and spirits, but increasingly establishments are offering high quality food as well. Shifts can be physically demanding, as under the Licensing Act 2003 pubs can now apply to open 24 hours a day.

Just the job
There are lots of casual bar jobs available, and many bar staff work part-time. Plus larger brewers are always on the lookout for new managerial talent, especially those who can demonstrate good organisational skills or managerial prowess in a previous career.

In profile: Pub manager
All those who work as pub managers need to be hard workers with excellent communication skills, but the rewards are tremendous. What’s in your pay packet? Casual bar staff can expect national minimum wage. The average pub manager salary is £24,000, with some up to £60,000.

Learning curve
Most pub firms have their own courses. The British Institute of Innkeeping offers a Level 2 National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders.

While TV’s Hotel Babylon might conjure up images of near-constant scandal and intrigue, the truth may be a little tamer. But only just. There’s real variety to the work, a great social life, and often a feeling of being part of one big family. Most hotels are open all year round, which means working weekends, bank holidays and perhaps the dreaded graveyard shift during the early hours.

Just the job
There are more than 12,000 hotels in the UK, and hundreds of different roles to choose from. Whether you’re investigating why the guests in Room 11 didn’t receive their newspaper, or devising new promotions to attract new customers, jobs range from housekeeping and front-of-house including receptionists and porters to kitchen, bar and restaurant work, sales, finance and human resources.

In profile: hotel manager
The person in this role is in charge of all aspects of running the hotel, ranging from general maintenance and housekeeping to setting and managing budgets and dealing with customer complaints. Depending on the size of the premises, a hotel manager might be purely office-based as he/she focuses on one particular area of the business, or deal directly with customers for most of the day. Managers either work their way up or complete a qualification in hotel and hospitality management.

What’s in your pay packet?
Basic roles may only pay minimum wage, but in some hotels living expenses, such as meals and accommodation are provided. Receptionists’ salaries can range from £12,000 a year to around £24,000 for head receptionists. Hotel managers can expect to earn from £12,000 to £100,000 or more.

Learning curve
Larger hotel chains usually offer internal training programmes or support to take on external study such as NVQs or hotel and catering training.

Holiday resorts
As part of the recent ‘staycation’ trend, UK holiday resorts have seen profits rocket. Working in one is a great way to gain experience and develop customer care skills over the holidays, and some now offer conferencing facilities all year round.

Just the job
Opportunities are not limited to redcoats or bluecoats. Staff are needed to help out in all departments, from entertainment, accommodation and restaurants, to management, finance, human resources, and health and safety.

In profile: Head of Entertainment
It’s up to the entertainment manager to come up with ideas and to book the acts. Key duties usually include organising the shows and equipment, managing budgets and overseeing the diary for the season. An entertainment manager might even be one of the performers, in which case he or she is likely to be confident and outgoing. Some experience of stage management is essential, and qualifications in business or event management might help, too.

What’s in your pay packet?

Most basic roles pay at an hourly rate at national minimum wage. Further up the career ladder, salary depends on the individual holiday resort. It’s also common to get accommodation and food included as part of your package.

Learning curve

Major resorts offer training, both on the job and support towards gaining exterior qualifications in relevant subjects. Further training is a must if you want to be promoted.

Pictures: getty images

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