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By David Lund

This title belongs to a classic 1970 Canadian movie about two guys from Nova Scotia, Joey and Peter. They moved to Toronto to seek their fame and fortune. As luck and the writers pen would have it, they found little of either. My story is about my trip from New Brunswick to Alberta, my version of trying to make a go of it in the big bad world.

It was 1983 and I had finished two years of hotel school and two years of working at the resort in my home town. My position both summers and winters was working in the bar and then I became the hotel receiver for my final summer. Upon finishing my final year of hotel school it made sense to move out of the bars into a “real job." The advice from my culinary teacher when discussing this idea was sobering. He said, “You're no different to any potential hotel when it comes to getting hired. Your hotel paper means nothing." He continued, "What will set you apart is how you show up to the job interview and what difference you can make." I thought at the time he was mean spirited, but I now know how true his words were.

I applied for two positions: one at the front desk and the other in stores and receiving. I knew the Controller and his assistant because they helped me during the winter months with my supplies, time sheets and deposits. During the two winters I worked there, the only position available in the hotel was in the bar, aptly named “Sir Williams."  In early April, I learned I would become the receiving and storeroom clerk during what was most likely my last summer in my home town. Because my home town is a resort town, only busy for the warm months, I knew I had to make a move if I wanted to kick start my hotel career into second gear. Staying in my home province was not likely as there were just no year-round jobs as everything was seasonal.

The new job was great. I learned a lot about food and beverage products. I was exposed to food preparations that I had never seen on my plate at home. My typical day started with filling the requisitions from the main kitchen, loading up the carts and then delivering them to the main kitchen. There was always some politics around the “delivery."  My boss, the Food and Beverage Controller and the Purchaser, told me it was the kitchen's responsibility to pick up the carts from the storeroom, but the Chef told me it was my job to deliver the food to the kitchen. Well, two things won the contest. One, the Chef said, “When you’re done with the morning orders, go see the ladies in the pantry and they will feed you!” The second part was just how nice the pantry girl was. Free food, good food and a pretty smile was a small exchange for the trip up the elevator.

I learned about the cardex system and the month-end closing process. Albert, the F&B Controller, taught me how to calculate the food and beverage costs.

Step 1: Opening inventory plus purchases.
Step 2: Subtract the closing inventory.
Step 3: Subtract any credits (like cafeteria and bar food).

I worked from 6.30 am until 3:00 pm with a half hour break for lunch. The mornings were spent on the food side and the afternoons on the beverage side. Mornings consisted mostly of delivering food to the kitchen and receiving food from several suppliers at the back door of the hotel. It was the same door the staff used to enter the hotel. Incidentally, I was also directly across the street from the General Manager’s house.

One aspect of the job that I found very interesting was the weekly visit from the General Manager’s wife. You see, she got most of her groceries and all of her “beverages” from the hotel. She would show up and "go shopping" in my storerooms, which consisted of a huge walk-in refrigerator/freezer and a dry goods storage room. She would supplement her shopping with me. She would give me a grocery list, which she also delivered to “chefy” for all the items she needed that were too bulky to remove from my storerooms. The requisition she gave me for the liquor, beer, wine and minerals was impressive. When the "shopping" was done it was also my job to deliver the goods to their house. I didn’t mind this one bit as the GM had two daughters who were always happy to help unload the cart.

Having this inside look at how the hotel subsidized the General Manager’s household was fascinating stuff for someone as green as me, especially at month end when the head controller would come by to review the month-end cost calculations. He was most interested in the "credit to cost" for the General Manager’s house. I remember the first month the head Controller asked to see the copies of the beverage requisitions. I also remember how the discussion between him and the cost controller was quite interesting given the rather large sum of dollars being “delivered” across the street. The controller was questioning the accuracy of our figures, but not for long as he looked at the requisition book and it revealed the quantities and description of the items being ordered.

You see, it was part of the deal, in those days, to provide the GM’s household with food and beverages. The problem was this cost needed to be reported to the owners and to corporate. Politics being what they were, having such big dollars to run the GM’s house must have been a problem. I am not sure at all what happened on the books, but I am sure that my part was not the end of the story.

The summer I spent as the storeman and receiver was a great education. I think I learned more that summer than I did in two years of hotel school. Midway through the summer the Personnel Department (that’s what we called “people resources” back then) would post available jobs from other hotels on the information board. There was no email, the fax machine was just a toy for the elite and the video cassette recorders, beta and VHS, were still battling it out. Heck, CDs were not even on the scene yet. As the summer went on, the job postings were the topic of a lot of "after work and evening" beverage debates. All of my hotel friends were in the same boat as I was, just trying to figure out the next part of their migration. We had all spent the summer out east and our next move was to head west to the mountains and the ski resorts. That was the path most of us were looking toward.

Applying for several jobs, I was disappointed to not receive an offer until mid-September. It was for a job at the biggest resort as a dining room busboy. My schooling, the two years of experience in the bars and the Receiving Department, didn’t amount to anything when it came to my next job. I was upset and those "mean spirited" words of my culinary instructor came back hard. He was right, my college training and even my work expertise didn’t mean crap. I was back at the bottom of the ladder.

About David Lund

David Lund is The Hotel Financial Coach, an international hospitality financial leadership pioneer. He has held positions as a Regional Financial Controller, Corporate Director and Hotel Manager with Fairmont Hotels for over 30 years.

He authored an award-winning workshop on Hospitality Financial Leadership and has delivered it to hundreds of hotel managers and leaders. David coach’s hospitality executives and delivers his Financial Leadership Workshops throughout the world, helping hotels, owners and brands increase profits and build financially engaged leadership teams.

David speaks at hospitality company meetings, associations and he has had several financial leadership articles published in hotel trade magazines and he is the author of two books on Hospitality Financial Leadership. David is a Certified Hotel Accounting Executive through HFTP and a Certified Professional Coach with CTI.

For a complimentary copy of my guidebook on creating a finically engaged team in your hotel head over to my website, and don’t forget to email me for any of my free hospitality financial spreadsheets.

Contact: David Lund / (415) 696-9593

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