Ciarán Fahy reveals how he came to work at The Ritz in London..
What do you do?
I am the chief executive of the hotel division of Ellerman Investments [which is controlled by the Daily Telegraph’s owners, the Barclay Brothers]. My job is to make sure each head within the 136-bedroom Ritz on Piccadilly is doing their job to ensure we maintain our impeccable, world-famous reputation.
I spend most of my week at the hotel where we employ more than 400 people. I then relay how we are performing to the Ellerman board.
What do you enjoy about it?
If you are a hotelier it really is a privilege to work at the Ritz. I love knowing how many famous people have eaten or stayed in the building — even Charlie Chaplin stayed here.
I love being able to tell people where I work and I enjoy working with such a wide range of people, be it in-house electricians, chefs, waiters or doormen. You never get bored.
What don’t you like?
One of my gripes is statutory compliance. While it is necessary, it can be arduous and time-consuming to ensure we are always on top of all the building and food hygiene regulations, for example.
There is also the odd unreasonable customer, and you just have grit your teeth and smile politely.
How will Brexit impact you?
At The Ritz a number of employees are EU nationals. With Brexit nearing, we need to do more to promote the hospitality sector to school leavers and graduates. If not we face a shortage of professional staff in coming years.
Sometimes I believe people don’t think of the hotel world for a career choice, but I think it is one of the most fun sectors to work in, where you can develop so many skills.
What was your biggest break?
I grew up in Dublin where my father helped me get a summer job at the Royal Hibernian Hotel in 1981. I did all the odd jobs: helping out in the cloakroom, washing dishes and holding doors open.
The general manager then advised me to look at studying hotel management, something I had not thought about before. That chat led me to enrol at the Shannon College of Hotel Management, which resulted in a number of jobs, including at Marriott Hotels in Reading and Kensington.
I was appointed the chief of Ellerman’s hotel division in 2012.
And biggest setback?
I was running a small, 18-bedroom hotel in Cheshire when I was 23. We agreed to host a reception for a whisky distribution firm. What started off as a small request quickly escalated into bigger demands and I agreed to host a fireworks display for the customer. It was meant to start at 9pm but started at 10.45pm owing to technical difficulties and woke up half the neighbourhood.
The police turned up the next day after numerous complaints and my boss was angry with me. I nearly lost my job. But it blew over and I learned a major lesson: always think before promising the world to customers.
How do you balance your work and home life?
During the weekdays I stay at a smaller flat we own in Windsor and commute into London. It can be long hours, with lots of networking in the evenings. So the family rule is, I always spend weekends with my wife and two sons, aged eight and 11, at our family home in Cardiff.
It’s not ideal, but we pack a lot into Saturdays and Sundays, including swimming, watching rugby games and gardening.
Whatever part of the hospitality sector you want to work in, be it a hotel, bar, or restaurant, try and get into a high-quality establishment, even if it means starting at the bottom or at a small venue. It should make for the best possible training if you work under perfectionists.