Many restaurants and hotel food departments show a loss because of inefficient food controls. Hidden costs and wastes that do not show up on general cost figures can result in inefficient and unprofitable operation at the end of a fiscal period.
Some sort of checking system is employed in all hotel operations to control food and liquor orders. The systems vary with different hotels and types of employees. But some sort of control is necessary in order to prevent loss of revenue caused by inefficient billing or fraud. Checking is also important in compiling food statistics for use in analysis of food operations, costs, and profits. Checkers, responsible to the accounting department, perform this control function.
Managed well, room service can be a highly profitable food operation for a hotel. However, it must be constantly promoted and conducted efficiently. In smaller hotels, room service is provided by bell persons or regular dining room attendants. In medium-sized and large hotels, room service is set up as a separate department.
There are many opportunities for employment here, including positions as waiters, assistant waiters, telephone order takers, assistant managers, and room service manager. The manager of this department is responsible for the efficient operation of the department and for the interviewing, disciplining, instructing, and discharging of the employees in room service.
In hotels where room service is provided as a separate service, the department is usually set up on a two-shift system, with the night shift eliminated. Occasionally, some hotels will stagger the day shifts so that service is provided until 1:00 or 2:00 A.M.
Room service positions can lead to positions of management in one of the dining rooms or the banquet department. Further steps up the ladder are to positions as banquet head-waiter, catering manager, and eventually managerial work.
There are opportunities to enter the room service department as an apprentice waiter. Most hotels insist on experience for waiting in room service, but some will employ people who have had no previous experience and train them. Positions in this department may lead to that of head of the room service department and so on up the ladder.
The Wine Steward
The sale of wines and beverages varies. In some areas, the sale of intoxicating beverages is forbidden. In others, local options are in existence whereby the laws may differ even from city to township. You will have to judge the setup according to local conditions.
In states where bottle clubs are common, hotel managements provide bar service, although the liquor is provided by the guests themselves. In certain states, such as New York, hotel managements provide complete bar service, including service bars for use by waiters selling wines and beverages to the table trade.
Usually, the wine and beverage departments in larger hotels are supervised by the wine steward. An expert in the field, this person generally supervises the placing of orders, the storage, and the issuance of wines and liquors for use by guests. He or she is required to know well from bad vintage years, the proper care of wines and liquors, and the history of the profession and its products. The wine steward also supervises the work of the employees of the department, interviewing, instructing, disciplining, and discharging employees as required. He or she is responsible for seeing that wines and liquors are on hand in sufficient quantity and quality to meet all guest demands, that they are ordered according to demand, and that the department shows a profit from sales.
The position of wine steward is a highly honored one in a hotel and was originally handed down from generation to generation or given to one only after many long years of apprenticeship and experience as a wine steward's assistant. Today, promotion to this position is made from the ranks of assistant wine stewards or head bartenders. A great deal of specific experience is needed here, gained only from long, hard years of work and training in this department.
Of course, there are opportunities for beginners to enter the food and liquor departments. Openings exist for apprentices in the kitchen; for assistants and student waiters in the dining rooms, the banquet service, and room service departments; and for assistant bartenders and assistants to the wine steward in the liquor department.
For persons with experience, there are openings as bartenders in many hotels. Bartenders mix and serve alcoholic beverages and are required to know many, if not all, of the concoctions common to liquor service. Hotels with special house mixtures will train their bartenders in the mixing and serving of these drinks. Assisting the bartenders are the assistant bartenders, who chop ice, remove empty glasses or trash, bring in supplies, and set up ingredients for use by the bartender. From assistant bartender, the next promotion is to bartender or assistant to the wine steward. From bartender, one usually advances to head bartender and then to wine steward.
Most bartenders are required to have previous experience, but assistant bartenders and cellar men who have had no previous experience are given consideration. There are also numerous commercial bartenders' schools that offer courses of one to a few weeks at various tuition rates. If you consider a bartending school, it's wise to check its reputation with the institution where you want to work, and be sure the training you receive would be looked on favorably for employment. As with other hotel positions, a high school education is at least preferred, but beginners are trained in the duties and business of wines and liquors by the wine steward or an assistant in most large hotels. Smaller hotels generally have no openings for assistant bartenders, cellar men, or wine stewards because of the small staff size.
The average bartender had median weekly earnings (including tips) of about $310 in 1996 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The middle 50 percent earned between $200 and $350; the top 10 percent earned $470 a week. Wages will depend largely on the size of the hotel and community and the responsibilities of the job, as well as on the amount of experience one has had in this field. Meals and uniforms are supplied by some hotels in addition to cash earnings.
The usual workweek is five or six days, eight hours a day.
The preparation and serving of food has always been, and always will be, one of the most important and most skilled functions in any hotel, large or small. Since profit so frequently depends upon efficient and skillful operation of the food departments, the success or failure of a hotel depends in no small part upon the ability and experience of the chef-steward.
The best opportunities for entrance into the hotel field exist in the food department. There is actually a shortage of skilled trained executive chefs in this country. For every top hotel executive with experience and know-how of food operation, there are probably ten other hotel executives who lack such knowledge. Many hotel executives strongly recommend that the beginner consider this field before all others. In their opinion, knowledge of food is more important than almost anything else in the hotel business.
Large staffs of cooks who specialize in the preparation of different kinds of food are common in most large hotels. The head of the cooking staff is the chef-steward who plans the menus, orders the food, supervises the other cooks, institutes the style of cooking, and originates the recipes. This person is responsible for the ordering of sufficient food to meet all guest needs, proper preparation and serving of the food, and the operation of the department at a profit.
In some of the larger hotels, the chef-steward may be aided by a steward, who purchases the food and supervises the non-cooking personnel. Other cooks in the kitchen may include a salad chef, cold meat chef, roast chef, sauce chef, dessert chef, and so on. There may also be butchers, bakers, and pastry chefs. The specialization will depend upon the size of the staff. In addition, there are helpers, assistants, and apprentices.
One of the most important jobs in the hotel field, the chef position is sought by most that enter the cooking field. It is reached generally only after many years of experience. Although most chefs or under chefs are employed on the basis of their previous experience, one can enter this field with little experience and gain on-the-job training.
At least two or three years of apprenticeship in a large-staffed hotel kitchen is necessary in order to become a cook. Many hotels require additional years of training and experience as an assistant chef in order to be considered for the job of chef. The years of training will vary somewhat, depending upon the size of the hotel and your own ability and talents for this profession. To help you in this career, numerous schools have instituted courses in this work, and for your convenience these classes are often given day and night.
Many hotels today are increasing their apprentice-chef training programs, and many more opportunities are being made available for persons interested in this work as a career. Not only do you learn a trade here, but also you get a solid background in one of the most important subjects needed for top executive management.
Although most cooks are on a forty to forty-eight hour week, these hours vary, and some cooks will even work as many as seventy hours a week. The hours, schedules, and times will vary with the hotels and communities.
The average weekly wage for most cooks is between $250-$500 a week for staff cooks, while executive chefs earn about $38,00O-$75,00O per year, and more, in average hotels (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1996). In the large hotels, executive chefs make a great deal more, and it is difficult to estimate their earnings. They also receive bonuses for instituting savings on food costs. In addition to cash earnings, cooks, chefs, and other department members usually receive one or more meals daily.