Meet Ryan Doyle MIH, who like many others joined IoH earlier this year during lockdown and has become an active member. Ryan is with Park Regis in Birmingham and recently joined the IoH Midlands Branch Committee.
Tell us more about your current role and workplace.
I am the Group Director of Sales for Park Regis Birmingham and our wider management company. We currently operate 3 hotels, a luxury service apartment company with over 150 apartments nationwide and have a new property currently in development in the financial district of Birmingham, opening in 2022, so it is a very exciting time for us.
I started Park Regis as a Sales Manager for one property and in nearly three years I am delighted to have grown with the company and developed both mine and my teams roles in line with our new vision and strategic objectives. We have very ambitious plans in the coming years and are all very excited to be part of it.
You studied hospitality management at University College Birmingham, can you tell us more about your experience as a hospitality student there?
I studied at University College Birmingham for a degree accredited by Birmingham University. UCB was a great experience, formally known as the Birmingham College of Food, it was a hands on educational experience and included running onsite kitchens and food & beverage outlets, systems training as well as the academic modules that came with the business side of the degree. University was such a fun time and I made so many friends which I am now proud to call some of my best friends.
I was fortunate enough to secure a work placement at the newly opened 1050 bedroom, JW Marriott Indianapolis for a year which gave me a great insight into the luxury hotel and events market and also gave me a fantastic opportunity to live overseas and explore a lot of America.
Was hospitality always your career choice?
Not as such, I was always adamant that I wanted to work in law, either criminal or property and at the age of 15 I struggle to obtain a schoolwork experience placement within that sector. I remember a teacher telling me I had a nice smile and that I would go far in hospitality and the rest was history. I managed to secure a work placement in a city centre hotel in Birmingham and very quickly realised it was more than smiling. I caught the buzz, secured a part time role in a hotel once I turned 16 and never looked back since.
What do you love most about working in hospitality?
I always like to say I got into it for the glamour. Growing up I always thought hotels were for the rich and famous, where scandals happen, and the team were glamourous. I quickly realised, when I had a hand down a toilet to fix a flush mechanism at 2am, that was not the case. A huge part of what drives me is seeing the hotel succeed and the feedback from my clients and our guests, knowing that we have made a difference, whether that be by becoming part of their travel program and ensuring guests feel secure through the pandemic or by selling the dream conference or event. A smile and a job well done can speak a thousand words.
A huge part of the industry I love is the diversity and natural progression that comes within the industry. I have worked in all roles from housekeeping, front of house, food and beverage, reservations, events and now sales. It has been easy to move between job roles as a lot of the skills required are the same and transferable. Companies within hospitality support progression and ensure talent is grown within. I had never thought I would be a Sales Director at the age of 27.
The last thing has to be the teams you work with. There is something different about your colleagues in hospitality, they become extended family. You go through highs and lows, working unsocial hours and give all that you have. It creates a team bond like no other.
How have you and your team tried to remain positive working in the events sector when it’s been so badly hit by the pandemic?
It has certainly been a tough time. We are very fortunate to have remained open for key workers during the pandemic. We have great relationships with the NHS and Local Authority who needed to house key workers. This allowed us to retain the majority of our management team and create a core hotel team which allowed us to still operate with an accommodation offering.
Unfortunately, the events sector has been badly hit and the devastating news of the live events review of 1st October being paused was very hard to hear. Meetings and Events are the core of our business at Park Regis and we have invested a lot of time becoming a COVID Secure events venue. We are anxiously waiting for the confirmation for larger events can resume.
We held a staff appreciation week last week to celebrate our staff that have worked through the pandemic. We have included lunch in our restaurant, senior managers question and answers, take aways for our nights team, welcome to work breakfast, afternoon tea and fizz and even a treasure hunt. The response from the team has been amazing and it is great so see sprits so high once again.
Have you held any small events since hospitality reopened? Any advice you could share with others?
We are quite fortunate to be fast to react to change and very quickly adapted our events business model to cater for small events up to 30 people. The key is not be afraid of hosting events again, it is as simple as ensuring you are prepared. As most of our managers stayed within the business, we had ample time to complete risk assessments, bespoke to our properties and create our Covid Secure plan.
We very quickly identified there would be two types of guest and delegates, one whom would still expect ‘the human interaction’ and hospitality we are known for and another who would prefer as minimal contact as possible. We have invested substantially in an app which allows for contact less check in and online food & beverage ordering.
Having a Covid Secure plan has been essential for our guests and delegates to ensure they have the confidence in our proposition. Our Covid Secure plan is an 8 point plan to ensure contact is minimised in all areas, ensuring our team and our guests are kept safe whilst ensuring we are adhering to government guidelines. This is read in conjunction with our PRB clean, which is a 10-point enhanced cleaning and check process, which includes the use of UV Light technology. This is all underpinned by our hotel specific 70 page Covid Standard Operating Procedures. Although predominantly a internal document, we want to be transparent with our guests and delegates and always happy to share this with them.
How are you preparing for the return of larger events once the Government gives the go ahead for “normality” to return?
We are constantly looking and referring to our Covid Secure plan to ensure this remains relevant and adheres to updated government guidelines. The most important thing for me as a sales professional is to ensure communication lines are always open, regardless of if a client is booking or not. Keep in touch calls are essential to update our clients on what we are doing but also check on the welfare of our guests and clients.
What positives, if any, do you think the challenges of COVID-19 will have on the hospitality industry?
I like to consider myself quite an optimist and always try and see the bright side of everything – a typical sales person! The pandemic has been a time to reflect and challenge the norm. We have questioned things that we have always done and adapted these to become more dynamic ways of working. We have also invested greatly in our Guest Relations Team and introduced prearrival calls to allow us to establish a rapport and understand how a guest feels prior to arrival which allows us to tailor our service bespoke to them. This has resulted in 29 consecutive 5* reviews on Trip Advisor and allowed up to move up 7 places in the Birmingham rankings in last 6 months. I hope many other hotels are taking this time to adapt and refocus their strategy for 2021 and beyond.
Earlier this year you were announced as an Acorn Awards winner, why are awards like this so important for both the industry and individual careers?
The Acorn awards have always been on my radar since pursuing a career in hospitality. I remember at my graduation, thinking I have ticked off my degree and landed a great job, what is next? It was the Acorn Award. I was very conscious this year that I wanted something to celebrate in 2020 and I was delighted when I found out that I was a winner.
These awards are so important to create something to strive for in people’s careers and give a sense of accomplishment. It was an overwhelming moment when I found out that I had won. My MD and HR Director announced it at the start of a meeting, with a photo of an acorn on the screen and I could not wipe the smile from my face. It was one of the proudest moments in my career. The recognition and reputation that comes from such awards is so important. I felt privileged to have messages from various industry peers, who I had previously never met, all congratulating me on my win. This has allowed me to grow my professional network and my own personal reputation.
For those currently studying hospitality, who may now feel nervous about their careers, what advice would you give them?
DO IT! IT WILL BE SUCH A REWARDING TIME! We are still in tough times and I know of many great people in the industry who have been casualties of redundancies however I am adamant the industry will bounce back. Face to face, can’t be replaced.
The biggest advice I can give would be work hard, get as much experience as possible and take every opportunity. I remember when I was studying, half of the course had part time jobs in the industry and the other half did not. Looking back, the people who already had part time jobs found it far easier to secure management jobs and graduate schemes upon leave university. Having gained some experience sets realistic expectations of what is to come. Writing my dissertation, I was shocked at the amount of people who had unrealistic expectations upon leaving university and changed career path within a year of graduating. Entry roles are a great foot in the door. Work hard, prove yourself, build your reputation and it will pay off.
What has been the most memorable day in your career for you? (This could be something funny, inspiring, overcoming a challenge, a promotion, award etc)
I have far too many funny stories from my time within the industry, many of which I wouldn’t dare to write on paper (including a Christmas Day of horrors) but I have to say my most memorable time was the launch of our Level 16 Sky Loft & Gallery at Park Regis. We hosted an extravagant launch party including a 1920 Charleston Theme, with champagne dresses, flapper dancers and a bespoke tasting menu. After months of planning, project management and a few hiccups along the way, it was certainly a night to remember and a chance to show our clients what we were made of and showcase our questionable dance moves.
You chose to join the Institute of Hospitality during lockdown. How has being a member helped you through this pandemic?
It has been of fantastic benefit to become part of the Institute during these turbulent times. Throughout the pandemic the Institute have been available for guidance and have offered professional development webinars and the change to build upon knowledge and professional development. I am delighted to have joined the Midlands Branch as a committee member and looking forward to continuing my development and expanding my professional network within the Institute.