What’s involved in this job?
Work in hotels and other accommodations can be demanding and hectic. Hotel staffs provide a variety of services to guests and must do so efficiently, courteously, and accurately. They must maintain a pleasant demeanor even during times of stress or when dealing with an impatient or irate guest. Alternately, work at slower times, such as the off-season or overnight periods, can seem slow and tiresome. Still, hotel workers must be ready to provide guests and visitors with gracious customer service at any hour.
Food preparation and food service workers in hotels must withstand the strain of working during busy periods and being on their feet for many hours. Kitchen workers lift heavy pots and kettles and work near hot ovens and grills. Job hazards include slips and falls, cuts, and burns, but injuries are seldom serious. Food service workers often carry heavy trays of food, dishes, and glassware. Many of these workers work part time, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.
Service workers are by far the largest occupational group in the industry, accounting for 65 percent of the industry’s employment. Most service jobs are in housekeeping occupations, including maids and housekeeping cleaners and janitors and cleaners, and in food preparation and serving jobs, including waiters and waitresses, bartenders, fast food and counter workers, and various other kitchen and dining room workers. The industry also employs many baggage porters and bellhops, gaming services workers, and grounds maintenance workers.
Workers in cleaning and housekeeping occupations ensure that the lodging facility is clean and in good condition for the comfort and safety of guests. Maids and housekeeping cleaners clean lobbies, halls, guestrooms, and bathrooms. They make sure that guests not only have clean rooms, but have all the necessary furnishings and supplies. They change sheets and towels, vacuum carpets, dust furniture, empty wastebaskets, and mop bathroom floors. In larger hotels, the housekeeping staff may include assistant housekeepers, floor supervisors, housekeepers, and executive housekeepers. Janitors help with the cleaning of the public areas of the facility, empty trash, and perform minor maintenance work.
Workers in the various food preparation and serving occupations deal with customers in the dining room or at a service counter. Waiters and waitresses take customers’ orders, serve meals, and prepare checks. In smaller establishments, they often set tables, escort guests to their seats, accept payment, and clear tables. In larger restaurants, some of these tasks are assigned to other workers.
Hosts and hostesses welcome guests, show them to their tables, and give them menus. Bartenders fill beverage orders for customers seated at the bar or from waiters and waitresses who serve patrons at tables. Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers assist waiters, waitresses, and bartenders by clearing, cleaning, and setting up tables, replenishing supplies at the bar, and keeping the serving areas stocked with linens, tableware, and other supplies. Fast food and counter workers take orders and serve food at fast-food counters and in coffee shops; they also may operate the cash register.
A variety of food preparation workers prepare food in the kitchen. Larger hotels employ chefs and head cooks who create menus, develop recipes, and oversee food preparation operations and personnel. Food preparation and serving supervisors direct workers and supervise specific tasks, such as overseeing banquet cooks or bartenders and servers at a private function, while the chef tends to other activities. Restaurant cooks specialize in the preparation of many different kinds of foods and menu items, generally cooking from scratch and typically only when ordered by diners. They may have titles such as salad chef, grill chef, or pastry chef. Individual chefs may oversee the day-to-day operations of different kitchens in a hotel, such as a full-service restaurant that specializes in fine-dining, a casual or counter-service establishment, or banquet operations. Chef positions generally are attained after years of experience and, sometimes, formal training, including apprenticeships. Larger establishments also employ executive chefs and food and beverage directors who plan menus, purchase food, and supervise kitchen personnel for all of the kitchens in the property. Food preparation workers shred lettuce for salads, cut up food for cooking, and perform simple cooking steps under the direction of the chef or head cook. Beginners may advance to more skilled food preparation jobs with experience or specialized culinary training.
Many full-service hotels employ a uniformed staff to assist arriving and departing guests. Baggage porters and bellhops carry bags and escort guests to their rooms. Concierges arrange special or personal services for guests. They may take messages, arrange for babysitting, make restaurant reservations, provide directions, arrange for or give advice on entertainment and local attractions, and monitor requests for housekeeping and maintenance. Doorkeepers help guests into and out of their cars, summon taxis, and carry baggage into the hotel lobby.
Hotels also employ the largest percentage of gaming services workers because a large share of gaming takes place in casino hotels. Some gaming services positions are associated with oversight and direction—supervision, surveillance, and investigation—while others involve working with the games or patrons themselves, by tending the slot machines, handling money, writing and running tickets, dealing cards, and performing related duties.
The industry also employs a large number of recreation and fitness workers. At resort hotels and at vacation and recreational camps, recreation workers organize and conduct recreation activities for guests and campers. Camp counselors lead and instruct children and teenagers in outdoor-oriented forms of recreation, such as swimming, hiking, horseback riding, and camping. In addition, counselors at vacation and resident camps also provide guidance and supervise daily living and general socialization. Other types of campgrounds may employ trail guides for activities such as hiking, hunting, and fishing.
Office and administrative support occupations. These positions accounted for 19 percent of the jobs in hotels and other accommodations in 2008. Hotel desk clerks, bookkeeping and accounting clerks, and switchboard operators ensure that the front office operates smoothly. Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks process reservations and guests’ registrations and checkouts, monitor arrivals and departures, handle complaints, and receive and forward mail. The duties of hotel desk clerks depend on the size of the facility. In smaller lodging places, one clerk or a manager may do everything. In larger hotels, a larger staff divides the duties among several types of clerks.
Management, business, and financial operations occupations. Hotels and other lodging places employ many different types of managers to direct and coordinate the activities of the front office, kitchen, dining room, and other departments, such as housekeeping, accounting, personnel, purchasing, publicity, sales, security, and maintenance. Lodging managers, typically the general manager and assistant managers, make decisions that affect the general operations of the hotel, including setting room rates, establishing credit policy, and having ultimate responsibility for resolving problems. In smaller establishments, lodging managers also may perform many of the front-office administrative tasks. In the smallest establishments, the owners—sometimes a family team—do all the work necessary to operate the business.
Other managers are responsible for different phases of hotel operations. For example, food and beverage managers oversee restaurants, lounges, and catering or banquet operations. Rooms managers look after reservations and occupancy levels to ensure proper room assignments and authorize discounts, special rates, or promotions. Large hotels, especially those with conference centers, use an executive committee structure to better facilitate departmental communications and coordinate activities. Other managers who may serve on a hotel’s executive committee include public relations or sales managers, human resource directors, executive housekeepers, and heads of hotel security.
Other occupations. Hotels and other accommodations employ a variety of workers found in many other industries. General maintenance and repair workers fix leaky faucets, do some painting and carpentry, make sure that heating and air-conditioning equipment works properly, mow lawns, and exterminate pests. The industry also employs cashiers, accountants, personnel workers, and entertainers. As properties acquire and use more sophisticated computer systems, they employ more computer specialists to help maintain these systems as well as the hotel’s Web site, and computer connections for guests.
Also, many additional workers inside a hotel may work for other companies under contract to the hotel or may provide personal or retail services directly to hotel guests from space rented by the hotel. This group includes guards and security officers, barbers and cosmetologists, fitness trainers and aerobics instructors, valets, gardeners, and parking attendants.
Some significant points:
- Service occupations account for almost two-thirds of the industry’s employment—by far the largest occupational group.
- Hotels employ many young workers and first-time job holders in part-time and seasonal jobs.
- Job opportunities should be good as low entry requirements for many jobs lead to high turnover and replacement needs.
What training do you need?
Most large hotel properties employ persons in occupations that require a wide range of skills and experience. Most entry-level jobs require little or no previous training; basic tasks usually can be learned in a short time. Lodging managers and many department heads usually require some formal training, or years of hospitality industry experience, or both.
All positions in this industry require employees to maintain a customer-service orientation. Almost all workers in the hotel and other accommodations industry undergo some on-the-job training provided under the supervision of an experienced employee or manager to acclimate new employees to any unique characteristics of the property or the local area.
Hotel managers and owners recognize the importance of personal service and attention to guests, so they look for persons with positive personality traits and good communication skills when filling many guest services positions, such as desk clerk and host and hostess positions. Many hotel managers place a greater emphasis on customer service skills while providing specialized training in other skill areas, such as computer technology and software.
Vocational courses and apprenticeship programs in food preparation, catering, and hotel and restaurant management, offered through restaurant and lodging associations and trade unions, provide training opportunities. Programs range in length from a few months to several years.
Most service workers need only a high school diploma or equivalent to get hired, but some can be hired with even less. Some entry-level jobs are filled by students looking for part-time or seasonal work. Most hotels, particularly the chain hotels, have some formal training sessions for new employees that may include video or online training.
The hotels and other accommodations industry is expected grow by 5 percent over the 2008-18 period. The industry employs large numbers of part-time and younger workers who typically do not stay in these jobs for very long. The need to replace these workers will create job opportunities in an array of occupations and localities.
Although most of the hotels opening over the next decade will be limited-service hotels, most of the job openings will arise in full-service hotels, including convention, casino, and resort hotels, because they employ the most workers. Limited-service properties do not operate restaurants or lounges; therefore, these establishments offer a narrower range of employment opportunities.
How much do hotel service employees make?
Earnings in hotels and other accommodations generally are much lower than the average for all industries. In 2008, average earnings for all nonsupervisory workers in this industry were $402 a week, compared with $608 a week for workers throughout private industry. Some workers in this industry earn the Federal minimum wage, which was $7.25 per hour as of July 2009. Some States have laws that establish a higher minimum wage.
Food and beverage service workers, as well as hosts and hostesses, maids and housekeeping cleaners, concierges, and baggage porters and bellhops, derive their earnings from a combination of hourly wages and customer tips. Waiters and waitresses often derive the majority of their earnings from tips, which vary greatly depending on menu prices and the volume of customers served. Many employers also provide free meals and furnish uniforms. Food service personnel may receive extra pay for working at banquets and on other special occasions. In general, workers with the greatest skills, such as restaurant cooks, have the highest wages, and workers who receive tips have the lowest.