As part of our series of content about building a career in your chosen industry, we interviewed Giles Thomas, Operations Director for the Manor Collection – A group of 3 hotels in Surrey and Kent.
In this article we focus on his role and advice for others looking to get into an Operations role within the hospitality industry.

What career progression path have you followed to date in your career in hospitality?

At 16, I started working in hospitality as a General Assistant at a Golf and Country Club. Towards the end of my time in the role I was training other General Assistants and helping recruit others for the department. This role included cleaning and tidying around the Golf and Country Club and interacting with lots of departments.

I moved onto working in their bar and waiting department and was then involved in some supervisory roles, such as ordering, training of junior team members and running small events.

I was promoted to a Duty Manager, which involved managing the club’s day-to-day operations, from early mornings to late nights. This gave me a broad level of learning and opportunities to develop in other departments like reception, sales and an understanding of how the gym operated.

I went off travelling and also to university to study Accounting and Law, returning in my summers to work. I also took a placement year to work in Accounts at the Golf and Country Club.

After university I couldn’t find an Accounting job due to the recession. I continued to work at the Golf and Country Club and a role came about as Food and Beverage Manager, which I jumped at. I managed to transform the management of this department and after my two years in the role it went from making no profit to £250k profit over the two years.

I applied for a promotion as a General Manager which I was unsuccessful for. The feedback being that I was too young at 25.

I started working at Hadlow Manor in October 2011 and was promoted to Group General Manager, looking after Reigate Manor as well in September 2012. In December 2016 we bought Hartsfield Manor to add a third hotel to our group and I was promoted to Operations Director.

I have taken some extra vocational jobs, including being Vice Chair of Reigate Business Guild and an Enterprise Advisor for The Priory School in Dorking.
What specific qualifications do you need for your role in hospitality?

My Accounting degree has helped me in my hospitality career, as understanding numbers, budgets, forecasts and planning is essential for any business leader.

I have done lots of relevant training on the job to improve my skills; WSET training, Food Hygiene, Fire Safety, Health and Safety, First Aid, Mental Health training to name a few.
There is no requirement to do a hospitality degree to progress in the hospitality industry and there is a lot of training you can do once in a role, which makes it appealing.

Is there any additional training that has helped you to progress in your chosen career?

I have taken many courses, several of which I have stated above. I am a strong believer of understanding all job roles in the organisation, in order to develop a business completely. Having worked in food and beverage, kitchen, reception, sales, housekeeping, event management departments, I would always suggest for someone to take time in each department to understand how they add value to the business.

I also believe a key training tool is learning from your colleagues and utilising their skill sets.

What are the main interpersonal skills needed for a career in hospitality?

You need to be a good communicator, being good with people, team members and guests.
If your team is happy, your guests will be happy and feel looked after.

I’d also add the ability to think on your feet to find solutions and stand out from the crowd.

What are the things you love most about working in the hospitality industry?

Variety. Meeting lots of people and talking to lots of people means that every day is different.

What advice would you give to others trying to get into the hospitality industry?

As a company we are always looking to expand our teams. I would suggest looking at some trial days in certain departments to see if you enjoy that role. Always be open minded and willing to work with others to find the best solutions.

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