Operations Planner
«  »

Questions I Wish You Would Ask Me™- Meg McDonough, President of Luxury Hospitality Consultants, LLC

publication date: Mar 29, 2011
author/source: HospitalityEducators.com Resources

  1. Name your favorite hotel and why it is special to you
Princess Hamilton (Bermuda) as visited during the summers of September 1967 and 1968. I was impressed with the professional standards of the hotel operations overall: the staff were exceptionally attentive to providing the penultimate in services; waitstaff were mostly European-trained (many were interning at the hotel and their cross-training efforts were requirements for their future employer (a major cruise line) - I believe this was standard for that time period. White-glove service for fine dining on 6-course meals. No price menus were provided to our guests (only the host received the priced menus, as was appropriate at that time, and as a form of etiquette/courtesy to ones guests). Five-piece orchestra provided music during the dinner hour, followed by dancing. An outdoor gazebo lounge provided live jazz ensemble for entertainment and the bar was at capacity through the late night hours. The hotel also had two outside swimming pools (one with fresh seawater) which provided an alternate choice of pools. Complimentary Rum Swizzlers greeted every guest upon arrival (nice touch). The hotel also maintained a private beach enclave to which complimentary coach service was provided throughout the day. F&B also available at the beach site. Although there were no televisions to the hotel rooms (in those years - it may have changed since), an oversized Drawing Room in the common area was the choice place to meet other hotel guests and socialize over cocktails and card games. This was truly a place of leisure for the hotel guests and was always a social hub for cocktails and high tea service. Subsequent years led to the expansion of the hotel chain by adding a newer hotel - The Southampton Princess (set on the opposite side of the island).

My recent hospitality educational coursework led me to incorporate many of the hotel's features within my own proposed hotel project for branding a collection of independently operated boutique hotels geared towards the high-net worth individual, specifically. My marketing / business plan incorporated seasonal stays at the hotel as an option for those who desired the experience of living at such a hotel within a resort environment.

2. Name your favorite restaurant and why it is special to you

My favorite restaurant (chain) was the former Magic Pan (Creperie) with two operations in Boston: Newbury Street and Faneuil Hall. I found the business model to be a great concept for not only its wide range of menu selections of hand-made crepes but also the aesthetically attractive interior design. Aside from its great location at Faneuil Hall in the historic district, there was an oversized fired crepe-making machine covered in a resplendent use of porcelain tiles to its massive surround. This certainly became the focal point for guests as they entered the restaurant. Crepes were served as appetizers, entrees, and desserts and complimented by their signature house salad incorporating a mild yet tangy combination citrus vinaigrette. Dining at The Magic Pan was always the choice location for social and business power lunches. I had the pleasure of knowing the interior designer for these two particular restaurants as she worked in our firm in Harvard Square (Cambridge) known as TAC (The Architects Collaborative), founded by Walter Gropius. Unfortunately, the entire chain was phased out in late 1989. I have incorporated the fundamental Creperie dining experience as part of my business/marketing plan for my proposed boutique hotel collection (currently under review for investor relations).

3. Where do you vacation the most often?

A favorite place for us to vacation and visit with family is at The Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida. We have been patronizing the member's only private club since the 1970s. You will note my earlier Q&A interview with the Club's current Senior Director of Culinary Operations, Philippe Reynaud, and therefore my continued interest in this location. Although this Club tends to be a seasonal highlight for members who either stay at their vacation homes, or on their yachts at the marina, there are a few full-time residents who live at ORC and enjoy the wide array of hospitality services, dining options, shopping, and sports activities. Its tranquil setting is ideal for getting away from business. A private jet airstrip on the property offers quick access to major airports; limited takeoff / landings are strictly enforced.

4. What is your favorite charity or cause?

The Southeastern Guide Dogs - They are a local charitable group that creates and nurtures a partnership between a visually impaired individual and a guide dog, facilitating life's journey with mobility, independence and dignity. They have a wonderful Paws for Patriots program providing beneficiaries with veteran status the aid of a guide dog which has been specifically trained to meet the individual's needs. www.GuideDogs.org

5. Name your pet service peeve, why and any ideas you may have to address it

I am, personally, not fond of certain chain restaurants where the climate permits (encourages) servers to become overly friendly with the dining patrons and host/hostess. My list includes: servers who are encouraged to sit down alongside the guests while taking an order, loud announcements of the "daily specials" and a recitation ad nauseum on how dinner will be prepared (which can be quickly countered by addressing these issues in writing posted on the menu for quick edification); constant interruptions and return visits to the table to ensure everything is OK (even to intrude on guests' conversations with one another to make their point) - it's just plain rude and, believe me, we will certainly let the waitstaff if there is anything we need. I would opt to suggest someone develop a "silent buzzer" system discreetly placed within reach of the dining host/hostess to call for service when needed (recollecting the formal home setting with the dinner bell was always placed at the host's setting).

6. Who was the most important mentor in your life and why?

Giles S. Gianelloni (my father) continues to be my most important mentor in my life for his lifelong conversations on keeping truth and integrity at the forefront of everything you do. He constantly promoted dignity and respect for all, notwithstanding social level, ethnicity, race, age, or handicap. He maintained a strong work ethic during his work years and was an equal among his fellow workers and colleagues wherever he went. I have great respect for the level of camaraderie and social integrity for someone who guided me through all the choices I would make during my career years and a great defender of continuing onward whenever choices were either bleak and seemed defenseless: it just meant persevering forward, never faltering to educate oneself and learn new skills and careers - if necessary.

8. What is the one piece of advice you would offer to a graduating student with a hospitality degree?

While I was a student at USF (Sarasota) where I received my Certificate in Hotel Management, I took advantage of my prior 38 years of work experience as a corporate professional executive secretary / personal assistant. I already knew enough about how private-sector corporations operated and had sufficient insight on how high-level "think tank" operations worked vis a vis public, government, and private fundraising activities.

My knowledge and levels of expertise came through years of hard work and not being complacent in undertaking new tasks and assignments that were required of me. As I observed the interaction (or more precisely put - lack of interaction) of my fellow classmates during my coursework, I sensed a lack of commitment to learn, observe, and communicate in appropriate settings. Although most of the students had current work experience in the hospitality trade, they appeared impervious to the fact that their own interaction among their fellow classmates - as well as the faculty, instructors and visiting corporate department heads from area hotels and restaurants - came across as outright negligible to (in some cases) rude and blatant disregard for authority figures.

 It would concern me that these particular students might not fare well or succeed in anything that would require them to make a living at a job that demands the utmost in professionalism and being capable of making critical decisions when necessary. With the expectation that students of the future seeking to expand their repertoire in their particular trade / career, I am a proponent of students undertaking internships that will provide them with not only hands-on knowledge and experience but also learn how corporations value their employees with security and promotions.

 Many students could not see a future path in their field of studies other than to take the requisite courses needed to get a passing grade. The lack of dynamic thinking amongst this particular group of students seemed to have been overwhelmingly simplified and met only with their lack of etiquette and professionalism beset by the constancy of quick texting and superfluous conversations on cell phones (and this was done during class time). The path to a successful career in hospitality does, at times, require the use of technology and social media components; however, the ability to listen, communicate and focus on one's chosen field in hospitality, per se, requires a graduating student to have sufficient decision-making capabilities built on knowledge learned, merits earned through successful completion of assignments / tasks, and ownership of a problem when it may arise - and not by default through complacency and insubordination. The student who meets a stricter set of priorities will be successful and recognized for growth within their chosen field.

Aside from the psychology of challenges any hospitality grad student will face will be the need to recognize that continuing education, training, and leadership skills will be the constant in their career path. Having a former instructor act as your mentor would be beneficial for the novice and experienced worker alike.

9. What is the one question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview today?

Some of my most relevant and important questions I typically pose to an interviewer have to deal with the current structure of the corporation, specifically: what has occurred to create the position for which I am interviewing. I want to know what may have been a deciding factor for the opening as this would divulge the level of factors for my own decision to "accept" or "decline" the position as offered. Scenarios range from poorly performing former employee (where was there fault - difficult employer or difficult employee - not a good path to follow); change in management structure or re-structuring to meet growth demands (this is good); vacancy due to lawsuit involving former employee (you really want to know a little more about that situation - as much as you can legally extract and with some sort of decorum - you want to avoid future challenges); maternity / paternity leave has given way to a full-time opening (and the firm has no plans to return the former employee to their job - really an unsafe choice); or DOA (overworked employee falls over dead on her first day - tune yourself into the abstract excuses you may receive).

Now... I only wish someone would ask me why I (as a qualified and experienced professional, with references ready on demand, and a multi-year career path noted in a well-written resume, etc.) am applying to a job which states the minimum requirements to become a candidate for employment. My resume, job skills and conversation level clearly indicate I have not only met their minimum criteria but now that I am "over-qualified", there is no interest to proceed with an interview. The fear factors: (1) won't be staying long on this job and will leave us as soon as something better comes along - quite possible; (2) will be quickly bored for the simple tasks accompanying this position and become stigmatized and leave us (not too bad on that one); wants "my" job (said the interviewer to self) - the threat of possibly taking the interviewer's job is quite paramount and easily recognized when the level of questions become defensive and brisk (trying to dissuade interest from applying at all) - close, but no banana; or even the contention that this job only requires English-speaking candidates (concern that my other spoken languages might interfere with some strange union-afflicted drama about to take place and I might interfere with ongoing negotiations with the other staff or tradesmen (huh, but worthy of rewaxing my eyebrow by this time which has become stuck in the up-position).

So, when asking me why I would apply at all to a position that is, in someone else's mind, subservient to my repertoire of skills and abilities, I remind them that I am present before them to provide in good conscience a bona fide interview, backed with a truthful resume, and complemented with past reference letters, etc. because I have: (1) researched the company and feel my contributions in the position as advertised would be beneficial to the company and look forward to becoming a part of the company and its future (generous mindset); (2) I am clearly a candidate willing to undertake other assignments that may come forward and which may accentuate new avenues the company had not yet considered (team player); (3) I may be the solution to your mutual future corporate path by cross-training in the company's various departments (less reliance on hiring temps and agency fees in the long run); and (4) I can be relied on (that should have some level of impact).

Meg McDonough      


Search the Site