Hospitality draws a unique cast of characters. No one knows this more than Skyline Hotel Front Office Manager Michelle Santos, who tells her staff to think of themselves as actors when they walk through those hotel doors. You are onstage, and the lobby is your theater, she says.
Going into hospitality wasn’t something Michelle planned for or went to school for: “The hospitality industry is something that just grabs you,” she explains.
Born in the US to Portuguese parents, Michelle started her career close to home, at the Holiday Inn at the Newark Airport, a place and a time she describes as “craziness.” This was before September 11th and the hotel was constantly busy. Guests were mainly crew members, airline professionals and distressed passengers. The latter she says might yell at you simply because their airplane was delayed.
Years later, Michelle came to the Skyline Hotel in New York City wanting to be back in the action. In the interim, she had taken a position at The Sheraton Hotel in Edison, Central Jersey, and always liked the city buzz.
As Front Office Manager (FOM) of the Skyline Hotel, Michelle enjoys interacting with her guests, who come from all corners of the globe. Every day brings a new challenge and she enjoys going out of her way to help solve problems.
Something you would not guess about Michelle’s role is that in addition to her FOM duties, she also manages the hotel’s event spaces, something not often part of a front office job description. The latitude of the role gives Michelle wide influence over the hotel’s front of house operations. “I’ve seen a lot,” she says.
Learning to read people is the most important skill Michelle has mastered over her years of industry experience. “There are some people who want to be heard and others who want something. You need to read the person to understand which is the best way to approach the situation,” she says.
Michelle also has advice for saying ‘no,’ without saying ‘no,’ a word she says should never be part of anyone’s vocabulary in hospitality: “I always apologize and say ‘I can’t say that it’s going to happen, but I will try my best to help you rectify the situation.’”
Michelle offers advice for rising talent…
Patience is covetable skill.
In order to succeed, you really need to love the business and what you’re doing. There is no ‘like.’ You need to build a relationship with the guests and you have to make sure to go out of your way. Sympathy and empathy are invaluable.
She also acknowledges that in our social media age, word of mouth is more important than ever. Everyone writes reviews and everyone reads them. The internet is pervasive and the ultimate tool for sharing your thoughts. If you don’t love what you’re doing, people will see it, she says.
Lastly, she tells us she instructs her staff to think of the hotel as their stage, the lobby as their theater. Like acting, hospitality professionalism requires a true embrace of the role.