Career Perspectives: Hospitality

RC: Noah Brodsky
Company: Four Seasons
Industry: Hospitality: Food & Lodging
Position/Function: Restaurant Manager
Locations: Costa Rica and Maui
Responsibilities: Managed the fine dining restaurants and bars

So is it really as good as it sounds?
Yes! The lifestyle is fantastic. I went to the beach every morning before work, played golf twice a week, and ate lobster and steak every evening. I wore a short sleeve shirt to work every day. I don’t think it gets much better than that.

What did you actually manage?
The waiters, the kitchen, the bar-everything that makes a restaurant tick. We had an amazing Italian chef. I just helped him with whatever he needed to get his job done.

Describe your typical day.
My goal was to make every guest feel like the most special person that ever came to our restaurant. Whether I’m serving Oprah or Arnold or Britney or Ozzy or Joe normal, I want them to feel like we have created the entire dining experience just for them. So that’s what I focus on every day. I arrive at work by 2pm and spend my first few hours making sure everything is getting done by the cooks, bartenders, and waiters. Then I spend a lot of time preparing for the guests arriving that night. I memorize the name of everyone that has a reservation, and if they are returning guests I pull all their old checks. I know what they eat, how they like their martini, and what their children are allergic to. And then I make sure that the waiters know, and the kitchen knows, and the dishwashers know. I want everyone to know everything about everyone. If anyone is walking though the restaurant, even a busboy in another waiter’s section, and someone at a table asks for a drink refill, that busboy is going to say “Another gin and tonic for you, Mr. Smith?” Because that busboy already knew that Mr. Smith was sitting there and drinking that, and that creates a big “Wow!” for our guest. That’s what I do every day; I facilitate the flow of information between 30 people creating world class service moments.

What type of person would love this job?
Someone who loves making things run. Someone with an eye for detail, who loves great food and wine, and loves making small talk for hours and hours. You’ve also got to have a stiff upper lip: cooks cursing, waiters whining, dishes breaking, hostesses crying, cocky bartenders, crazy chefs, and irate customers keep the excitement and the challenges fresh.

What did you like the most about this job?
It’s the people that really make this job so amazing. I had a world-class team. When we opened Costa Rica in January 2004 I told my staff that we would be ranked the best restaurant in Latin America within two years. And every person worked passionately every day to make that happen. I loved going to work. I loved watching us get better and I loved hearing our guests telling us we were getting better.

Did you accomplish your goal?
This November Conde Nast ranked us #1 in Central and South America. One of my old assistant managers, who I promoted into my job when I left, threw a party and sent me pictures. They were still committed to the goal. That’s why I loved that job.

Sounds too good to be true. What’s the downside?
The money. You can’t do hospitality for the money. There is a lot of potential to get rich in this industry, but it takes years of hard work to get there. You’ll be working for a long time for a lot less than everyone else who went to HBS. But the payoff is there in the long term. Meanwhile, if I’m ever really feeling underpaid I can step out of my office onto the sand, watch the sun set over the ocean, and think about all my section-mates stuck in cubicles.

February 21, 2006
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