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HOUSEKEEPING, FOOD, AND ENGINEERING: THE BACK OF THE HOUSE

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Although most top management and executive positions lie in the front of the house, the best sources for experience and the most opportunities for advancement lie in the back of the house. The back of the house refers to those operations of the hotel that deal with housekeeping, food, and engineering, and which are seldom observed by guests. While restaurant operations involve direct contact with guests, they are so integral a part of food operations that they are described in this section.

THE FOOD SERVICE INDUSTRY

Knowledge of food operation, control, and service is essential for the profitable operation of a hotel. Because of increased costs of labor and materials, the minimum percentage of room occupancy at which hotels can be operated profitably has been rising in recent years. Successful food operations can be a major factor in profitable hotel operation.



Most knowledge about food is not obtained from books but only from actual experience and training. Complete your studies, prepare for hotel work in special hospitality schools, but also learn restaurant and food management and operation by actually working at it in the kitchen and the dining room. This experience will be a great advantage in furthering your hotel career.

One of the best ways to enter the hotel industry and the restaurant field as well is through the food and beverage areas, according to Brian Daly and Tony May, whose D-M Restaurant Corporation operates the internationally famous Rainbow Room and Rainbow Grill, both atop the sixty-fifth floor of Rockefeller Center, at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

Writing for Opportunities in the Hotel Industry, Daly and May, whose company operates a full floor of private rooms that compete with New York's leading hotels for banquet business, said:

We know of no other business that offers as many opportunities to neophytes just starting out on their careers than the food and beverage field. Opportunities, we mean, that are available to almost everyone who chooses this as a lifetime career, regardless of background, education, or environment.

Many of today's top executives in food and beverage started at the very bottom of the ladder, some with more education and training than others, but all imbued with the same common element-a willingness to work hard and a desire to succeed.

There are, in addition, more chances for beginners to get into the field, and perhaps these opportunities are greater than in many other fields because many of the starting positions are seemingly low-as assistant waiters, dishwashers, kitchen assistants, and similar laboring areas. But from these have come some of today's chefs, stewards, sales executives, and, yes, even managers of hotels and restaurants.

This is not to belittle the importance of training and education. Not all chefs, stewards and other food and beverage executives started in lowly positions. European schools have long been turning out chefs of the highest order. To enter the business with a culinary degree or certificate from a European school, or hotel training course, is tantamount to entering the business world with an M.B.A. from Harvard.

In addition, most of the schools and colleges in this country that turn out finished chefs and kitchen experts have the same aura of attainment as their European counterparts. In many instances, the connections made at these American schools of cuisine become important links later on in those hotels and restaurants where previous graduates have important spots.

We heartily recommend the food and beverage area of the industry, because it is first of all extremely challenging and interesting; second, because the preparation and serving of food is self-rewarding; third, because the field is an important one in the hotel and restaurant industry, if not in the entire economy; and last, because success in food and beverage is financially very rewarding at the top.

The food service industry is still the pioneer's frontier as a business venture and a profession. The last few decades have witnessed a constant expansion of food service in all of its segments- commercial restaurants, industrial and institutional food service, airline food service, and so on. Along with this constant expansion, new opportunities have been opened to thousands of men and women.

Looking into the future, it can be readily seen that the industry has not reached its limits. There are still many years ahead of us in physical and management development. The food service industry is still one of opportunity, perhaps more so than any other field. By the same token, the fact must be stressed that knowledge of the business details, of operations and management, is nowhere more required than in this industry.

In reality, a restaurant operator procures raw materials, manufactures the materials into a finished product, and finally places the product for sale on the market. Such a business process requires exacting knowledge because errors or ignorance can prove to be very costly. Perhaps that is why some of the most successful operators in the industry are those who have come up through the ranks. Regardless of formal education, knowledge and experience gained while working your way up through the ranks is extremely valuable and desirable.

However, promotion, even from the ranks, never is easy or simple. Competition for advanced positions is keen. As the industry matures, such competition will become even more pronounced. The axiom, that advancement must be earned holds true in this industry as much as in any other.

FOOD AND LIQUOR DEPARTMENT

The activities of the food and liquor departments are generally supervised by one person. In smaller hotels, the manager or owner may personally supervise these operations. However, in larger institutions, the overseer of these departments is either an executive vice president or a catering director. It is this executive's duty to supervise the food and liquor operations, to see that all foods purchased meet the requirements of the hotel, the menu, and the food cost policy. This person will also supervise the general service in these departments and dovetail operations with other departments where required. This executive must also keep close daily control over these operations so that at all times the operation and food costs are maintained at maximum operating efficiency and to the best advantage of the hotel.

One rises to this position only after many years of training in this field. A beginner cannot hope to aspire to this post except after many years of hard work and experience. As one of the top posts in a hotel organization, the pay here is quite high and often augmented by bonuses.

There are assistantships and office positions available in this department. The assistantships require almost as much experience as the top post, and appointments to the top post are often made from the ranks of assistants. Directly under the catering director are the chef-steward and wine steward, and, in some hotels, the banquet manager is partly responsible to the catering director for the food preparation and pricing of sales.

The Chef-Steward

The chef-steward is in charge of the preparation of all food sold in the dining rooms and through room service and banquets. He or she plans menus; purchases, prepares, and serves the food dishes; and supervises the various assistant chefs and other personnel in the department. The chef-steward usually is directly responsible to the catering manager. In some hotels, the chef is independent of the catering manager, and is sometimes assisted by a steward who makes purchases and supervises the non-cooking or baking employees of the food department.

The purchase of food at hotels is usually a daily function. It would be impossible to store all the fresh vegetables, fruits, bakery products, meats, and fish it takes to provide the thousands of meals served daily by some of the large hotels.

As the catering manager and chef are both interested in food costs and control, menus are generally planned according to availability, season, and daily market quotations. In large operations, the saving of a fraction of a cent per dish can mean a good-sized profit. For this reason, the chef and catering manager try to base their menus on the best-priced seasonal items where they can make cuts and save, without impairing the quality of the food. Working as closely as they do, it is generally difficult to make up menus more than a day or two in advance.
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