When it comes to good eating and drinking, nobody is arguably more proficient than a hotel's food and beverage (F&B) manager.
Sammy Wu, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong's F&B manager, starts work at 7:30am to review the previous day's operation reports and oversee breakfast. He eats his three meals at the hotel to ensure food quality.
"Lunch and dinner are the peaks for our restaurants. Apart from assuring [they] run smoothly, I try to meet our regular guests and get their feedback so we can improve our service. We take our guest comments and feedback very seriously," he says.
To ensure smooth operations during peak periods, Wu usually spends up to 14 hours a day at work, from 8am until after 9pm when dinner is about to end. Festive dates are the busiest times, he adds. "I am on duty and oversee the restaurants operation on festive dates such as Christmas Eve, Valentine's Day, Chinese New Year and public holidays with fireworks display."
To maintain high standards, Wu goes beyond mere internal inspection and sometimes spends time with colleagues, visiting other restaurants with the hotel's chefs to understand what competitors are offering and establish the hotel's position within the industry. Wu also works on promotions and menus.
"I am lucky enough to have visited wineries in Spain and France, whisky distilleries in Scotland, coffee companies, food product farms in Italy and I have just returned from selecting Shanghai hairy crabs," he says.
The sector is a people industry, so an F&B manager must be a people person who thrives on providing outstanding service to guests and understanding what they want, and is aware of different cultures, Wu says.
An F&B manager usually has more than 15 years' experience in the industry, and many start as waiters. "There are no specific academic requirements to enter the industry, [although] an academic background in hotels is an advantage. The career ladder spans the roles of waiter, captain, head waiter, restaurant manager, assistant F&B manager, and manager," Wu says.
An F&B manager's salary is usually more than HK$35,000 depending on the hotel's size. Wu says top performers can become F&B director, hotel manager or even a hotel-chain executive. Many F&B managers become restaurant owners, restaurant chain company executives or wine company executives.