These few months in North America changed him so much that when he came back, the only thing that he wanted to do was to pack his suitcases again and work in the USA. The Miami Sofitel opened its doors to him as did the New York Sofitel, where he currently works as the F&B Assistant Manager.
Adrien, why did you decide to work in hotel management and why did you choose Vatel?
I decided to enroll in Vatel after having worked in my father’s brasserie-restaurant in the kitchens and then as a busboy. Though my experience in the kitchens was a good one, it was working in the restaurant that made me love this field. I was sure that I wanted to work in the world of hospitality, restaurants, catering and tourism. But my father flatly refused this, telling me that I had to start off by studying hotel management rather than just trying to learn on the job without formal training. So we went together to a Vatel Paris Open House Day.
One thing that struck me right away was how huge the network was: 7 000 students all over the world, 25 Campus, 25 000 alumni… I could already see myself traveling and working abroad, meeting up with other Vateliens in every city. And since 2012, I’m also a Vatelien!
What did you learn in while you were at Vatel?
My theoretical courses gave me the basics in functional management, and my practical application courses were essential in helping me understand and master “the French art of hospitality,” that Vatel teaches in all its Schools throughout the world.
I did my first internship at the famous Lutetia. I did my utmost to do my very best in all Front Desk responsibilities I had. However I quickly noticed that the accommodations part in hotel management wasn’t really my cup of tea, and that I was more attracted by what took place in the restaurant. So for my second year internship abroad, I went to London to the Westbury Mayfair in their restaurant. I kept on working in restaurant departments for my last year at Vatel Los Angeles when I supervised a trendy Brasserie in the city, Kendall’s Brasserie and Bar that was a part of the Patina Group.
This experience was, and I believe that it will always be, one of those that most impacted me the most, as I learned how to see things in the long term, and not just on a daily basis. I also gained new aptitudes and skills in team management. I can say that this last experience was the one that changed me from a Vatel student into an alumnus.
Was it hard for you to come back to Paris?
It sure was. When you have an experience that makes you so much more mature, you want to continue it for as long as possible. This is why my girlfriend, Caroline Fournigault, also a Vatel student, and I decided to go back to the USA. When we were having a family dinner, we talked about going to Miami and my cousin contacted someone he knew who had worked at the Miami Sofitel. Two weeks later, the General Manager, Mr. Balendra Nagesvaran , gave us a call to congratulate us: both of us had been hired at the hotel. It was now up to us. Now up to us to correctly carry out our respective functions in order to obtain a work visa.
Completely determined to succeed and meet our goals, each and every day we were 100% focused on all the tasks that we had to do. I supervised the restaurant, room service, the bar and the gift shop. After six months, we convinced our managers. In the meanwhile, our General Manager was promoted to a managerial position in the New York Sofitel, as the General Manager and also the “Vice-President Operations Sofitel North America.” He asked both of us if we’d like to come with him. Caroline as an Executive Assistant, and myself as the Restaurant Assistant Manager. Two weeks later we were in Manhattan.
Let’s take a trip to New York with you: can you tell us about the New York Sofitel and what you do?
The four-star New York Sofitel is located right in the heart of Manhattan, between Time Square, Central Park and 5th Avenue, just to quote a few. It’s a warm and welcoming hotel, in the Art Deco style, where French elegance is omnipresent: in the way our personnel pay attention to guests and in their high quality of service. This hotel will soon be undergoing a vast renovation program in its lobby, restaurant, as well as in the rooms to upgrade and modernize them.
My main task is to constitute and manage a team made up of waiters and busboys; I also take care of customer satisfaction, responding to requests, handling complaints, etc.). I also have a host of administrative tasks, concerning not only payroll management but also various internal projects.
You spoke several times about the ‘French art of hospitality’, which is something Vatel teaches. How do you adapt this to New York?
The French art of hospitality is something that is appreciated in New York for its discretion and finesse. People see it as a way of life presented to guests so that they will feel not only at home at the hotel, but even better than at home. Guests often tell us that we’re their family in New York.
What do you think about the hotel industry in New York?
This is a very competitive business here in New York. The proof is that nearly 7,000 rooms opened in the hotel market between 2006 and 2014. However, if the average room occupancy rate is progressing each year, it’s because prices have remained stable, or have even dropped for overnight stays. On the other hand, business hotel stays are booming, responding to demand that keeps on rising.
What are your next goals?
To be the F&B Team Leader in two years and F&B Manager in five years, especially for the opening of the Miami South Beach Sofitel if this takes place. And in ten years, either Operational Manager or a hotel owner with Caroline, with our hotel in Los Angeles. See you in ten years then!