A new group of management trainees has joined Soho House. What advice could the group who have just finished training give them?
You may not know much about the Soho House management training scheme but its graduates are everywhere. Ben Hanson, who oversees hotel operations around the world, completed it in 2014. Kevin Vanlerberghe from the class of 2012 worked on the openings of Soho House Istanbul and Soho House Barcelona, where he is now a club manager. Gabby Bull is now in charge of the rooms and housekeeping at Dean Street Towhouse, while Laura Mellander has become a club manager at Soho House Chicago.
Another former trainee is Oli Richardson, who oversees the programme for both food and beverage and rooms divison. It’s his job to find people with the right attitude and experience, and support them through an average of eight placements. To get a true overview of the business, they’ll work everywhere from reception to the kitchens. Those who make it through will be made a manager at the end of the year.
To help three of our most promising trainees make the cut, we gave them the chance to interview some stars of the class of 2017 upstairs at the new Kettner’s Townhouse. With a brief to be as honest as they liked, this is what they talked about.
What made you choose Soho House?
Initially I really wanted to come to London, and after an interview with Soho House, I fell in love with the company. I had an interview with a more formal hotel chain, but just loved the range of the Houses and the positive attitude from everyone.
Why did you choose to focus on the rooms division?
Food and drink has always been a passion for me, so that was something that came up in my interview with [rooms division director] Thierry Lepinoy. But from my previous work in ski resorts I’ve always had a big interest in the hotel manager’s position. It’s nice to have a full overview of a place and be a part of everything that is going on.
How did you get to be working at Soho House Berlin?
During the programme I was asked to create a two-year plan. I knew I wanted to work in front of house but I didn’t have a specific location in mind. It was lucky to be given Berlin as it’s a great place to work.
How do you keep up a Yes Yes Yes attitude?
For me, I am just usually a happy guy. I have a positive personality and I am generally happy to go to work. I think that’s why I work so well in the company.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
Two really good mystery reports. That meant a lot to me.
What advice do you have for those of us who are starting the programme?
Take on responsibility from the start. And if I were to do it again I would try even harder to learn, getting involved with all the classes and fun activities that are on offer.
Finally, where are you hoping to be working next?
I would love to come back to London for the opening of White City House, perhaps as front office manager. Fingers crossed!
Did you enjoy the year?
Yes. Everything was structured really well; we got the chance to see everything. Soho House give you so much responsibility from the beginning, which made me feel valued.
How did you approach your training?
I’m quite a nosy person and made sure to ask everyone questions about the different Houses and the company. I loved that each placement is like a new piece of the puzzle, teaching you different parts of the job. It does feel very rewarding when you get to the end and see it all fit together.
Which was your favourite placement?
The Houses all have their own styles but I loved Babington House because it felt calmer than London and the team were so welcoming. Even on my arrival, the GM was at the door ready to greet me. It was the warmest welcome I’ve ever received.
What was it like at The Ned?
Awesome! I got to do the pre-opening, which is the fun part for me. Training up all the new reception staff made me feel like a real manager. And I got to see how it all works with the opening of a hotel, which was a huge help for my current position opening Kettner’s Townhouse.
How much can I call on my mentor?
The mentoring sessions are great. Oli Richardson was always on the end of the phone if I needed him, and that made it so easy for me to ask him questions. I would advise you to keep your mentor informed about what’s going on. It’s OK to ask them anything and tell them about any issues you’re having; that’s what they are there for.
Is there any advice you wish you’d have been given?
The only thing is that it’s going to get super tough at times, there will be times where you want to leave because it’s too much. But you just have to suck it up and not be that person who complains all the time. People will respect you more for that and it’s all worth it in the end.
Ronan Padmore (pictured top, F&B, 2018) interviews Marta Belo (F&B, 2017)
Why did Soho House appeal to you when you were applying for jobs?
The teams are quite young and excited about everything. I felt that everyone I met was approachable, and the Houses are places that I would enjoy visiting.
What did you like about the programme?
That it shows you every side of the job. It gives you a little bit of everything, to prepare you for what is to come. We were also assigned mentors, who were all really supportive from the start too; if they saw potential in you then they would get you were you wanted to be.
What was your most rewarding placement?
I loved the opening of The Ned. It was a massive operation and I had no idea what to expect. It was also quite nerve-wracking because everything had to be done so quickly.
Has the way you see your future changed?
Definitely. Initially I thought I might work towards becoming a general manager, but having finished the full year I would like to get more involved in hotel development. I love that Soho House is always expanding and working on new openings. It brings the possibility of travel, and keeps the work new and interesting.
Can you tell me anything that will help me?
I think it’s really helpful to know where you want to be and what you want to get out of the course. Make sure that everyone you are working knows what you want as well, so that they can give you the support you need. After that, be patient. Things will always work out in the end.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I’m not exactly sure, but I heard rumours of a Soho House opening in Lisbon. If that happens I would love to be part of it; it would be really cool to open a place in my hometown.
Interviews by Emma Bartley. Photography by Andrew Whitton