I started as a dishwasher and today I am a hotel manager

Mariëlle de Wilde is a hotel manager and Baljit Singh is responsible for the F&B at XO Hotels Blue Tower. Each with their own background they have worked hard to get where they are today. They are especially fond of Amsterdam and promote various hotspots to their guests.

What has driven you to start a career in the hospitality industry?

Mariëlle: “I always wanted to be a chef, from an early age. When I was four I started baking apple pies. That went wrong because I didn’t know what a pinch of salt was so I threw in half a salt jar (laughs). But otherwise it was probably quite tasty.”

Mariëlle clearly has a taste for it and decided to start her career in the catering industry when she was still at school. “I started as a dishwasher and partly as a cook. I just wanted to start gaining experience and take steps up from there. From there I went to Van der Valck to work in the cold kitchen. I made preparations in the warm kitchen. I really liked it. Then I went to secondary hotel school in Tilburg. I completed it, but in the first two years I was like: this is quite stressful in the kitchen and I don’t like it at all. I just want to take the time to cook. My vision had changed a bit there, the kitchen no longer fascinated me so much and I had become more interested in the restaurant.”

“In the first instance I did an all-round internship at Rembrandtplein because I didn’t really know what I wanted. There I came into contact with the reception when I was allowed to work there. I really liked this. Then I did an internship where I could do a combination of housekeeping and reception. Then I thought: well, I really like reception. My internship supervisor arranged a job for me at The Brands, which is 5 star. I worked there at reception for a year. From there I continued to search because you are not allowed to do many other tasks at this level, it was mainly check-in and check-out. It’s nice that celebrities came to stay and you can meet them. But in terms of reception work, it was not very nice. And then I started working at the Rembrandthotel. I spent almost 10 years there behind the reception. It was a nice team and a permanent team. But then a new owner came. Our mindset did not match, so I decided to look further. Then I came to Blue Square working behind the reception. And from there I continued as a front office manager. I left there at some point because I wanted to work at set times. Then I joined the Reservations department. Then I took a piece of Yield. I determined the pricing policy of three hotels. It was fun to gain experience but it was not for me. I missed contact with people. The reservation manager of that time, whom I had known for years, told me that I can do more and that I have to continue looking because I could not get another contract. I ended up at a 2 star hotel where I was a hotel manager. But that was not really my thing. Finally I came back from where I came. There I again worked as a front office manager for a number of years. And then the manager left here, that is two years ago. And then I took my chance (laughs). And here I am now! ”

Baljit: From an early age I often went to restaurants with my parents. I went to MBO for HORECA for two years after which I completed my secondary studies. After that I worked on a temporary basis for a number of years. Through a friend I ended up at Rembrandt where I eventually worked for four years. I then got the opportunity to work part-time at XO Hotels, which eventually became a full-time job. I’ve been doing this for ten years now, I’m a F&B manager today.

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What appeals to you most in your current role?

Mariëlle: The contact with people. For example, everyone among the staff is very different. I also notice that I can learn a lot from them and that it is not always easy. That is really a challenge. As a manager, I have to get all noses in the same direction. Contact with the guests is also very important to me. I try to stand behind the reception every now and then, and in the restaurant I also occasionally participate. This way I know directly whether people are satisfied. My office is near the reception and it is open. The moment something happens at the reception I immediately hear it. That way I can intervene and stay close to people.

Baljit: The working hours are ideal for me. We start here at 6 in the morning, and our day ends at 2 pm. You have the rest of the day to yourself.

And undoubtedly the fact that you are dealing with guests. Every week we see different faces. You get to know guests who stay longer in a certain way. You also address these guests differently. We meet people from all over the world. We also see local people, but we see them less and they often stay for a weekend.”

Mariëlle: “We have to ensure that the rooms remain clean, do they still look the way they should? This includes housekeeping, but also chores such as curtains that have to be hung, or safes that work correctly. Sometimes I give such tasks to someone else, but I usually do these checks myself and then pass on to the staff what they need to pay extra attention to.”

Do you still serve the same as 10 years ago?

Mariëlle: “At breakfast we always bring enough variety in the products and adjust the offerings according to the demand of our customers. We also have a short follow-up for their feedback. We check the opinion of the guests before they have checked in, during their stay, and when they have checked out again. And this is supplemented with reviews on external websites. Based on that, we try to adjust what we offer, including what is served at the breakfast table. The restaurant menu is also regularly updated. For example, I recently had a conversation with a supplier to put healthier products on the map. We are thinking, for example, of smoothies. There is simply a demand for it, people want to eat healthier. ” With the increasing demand for adapted meals for allergies and intolerances, are you adapting the menu accordingly? “This is usually stated in advance, we take this into account, but our general offer is not adjusted accordingly. The adjustments are mainly made on reviews and feedback. ”

Do you see an evolution or trend among your guests in recent years?

Baljit: “The hotels in Amsterdam are often full and we see the trend that people skip breakfast more often. They sleep in later and head into town for brunch. Amsterdam has a lot to offer in that area. ”

What makes you happy?

Mariëlle: “When people are satisfied. Or someone who initially comes up with a complaint, and you get it resolved, so that they are very satisfied afterwards. Happy guests pay your salary, they are the showcase of our business. ”

Baljit: “My day is successful when we have a busy breakfast table. This way we are always busy and we always have something to do. All the better the break afterwards (laughs). At the end of the day, we sit down with the whole team and evaluate the shift. In this way there is always something to discuss and we also learn from it. ”

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