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The Clare face of the Irish hotel business

As a 13 year old boy, his career in the hotel industry began washing dishes for Angela Lyne at the Queen’s Hotel, and now Nicky Logue is in charge of one of the country’s top hotels.
General Manager of the InterContinental Hotel, he has been also held top jobs in Killiney Castle and the Gibson as well as several high level posts in the UK.
Reflecting on those early days back at the Queen’s, Nicky says, “I think I lied about my age to get a summer job, told them I was a little bit older than I was. After starting in the wash up, I progressed to the lobby and more front of house, which I really enjoyed.”
The industry was in his blood, and it was the only career path he wanted to follow.
“I was working on and off in the Queen’s while I was going to secondary school and my late Dad was in the business in the Shannon Shamrock, from a very young age I had a grá for the business, mainly because of my Dad,” he said.
“I wanted to go to Shannon College, I actually didn’t get in the first year, because I went down on the points, but I repeated and got in the second year. That started my career and I did four years there.
“The first year was a mix of academic and practical, the second year was Switzerland where you were learning the languages as well as working, third year was back to Shannon and was all academic.
“In fourth year I was placed in a hotel in the UK and I actually became the general manager of that hotel before I graduated from Shannon.”
With two acres of gardens in the most affluent part of the country, the InterContinental sets the highest standards for hotels in Ireland.
When the Chinese Premier visited Ireland earlier in the year, he stayed there, while most of the top acts that sell out stadiums in Dublin also choose it as their base in the city.
It is also a very large hotel, and running it requires a lot of commitment.
“It’s busy, it can be very demanding. It’s a hotel that’s difficult to switch off from when you’re running it, it’s such a busy operation seven days a week,” she said.
“It’d be one of the top three hotels with highest turnover in Dublin.
“It’s a five star hotel with 215 rooms, 50 of those are suites, we’d have the largest conference and banqueting facilities of any five star in Dublin. One ballroom can do dinner for 500, the other can do dinner for 200.
“Quite often we’d have both rooms going for lunches and we’d turn them for dinner. Banqueting is huge in the hotel.
“We have a restaurant, we’ve a very busy lobby, we’ve two bars, a spa with pool and treatment rooms and gym.
“We market ourselves as an urban resort. It’s obviously very easy to get into the city, but we have our own grounds and gardens and so on.”
When people arrive at a hotel like the InterContinental they have certain expectations and he is passionate about making sure those are met.
“At a five star level people have the highest expectations and they’re paying a bit of money to come and stay here,” said Mr Logue.
“They expect it to be right, they expect the product to be right, they expect the service to be good, they expect the staff to be friendly and welcoming.
“It is really all about the attention to detail. Part of my job is ensuring that as a team we are delivering that at every level.
“We have just over 300 staff, and I always say to every team member how important every one of them is. If there’s a weak link in the cog it can let you down.”
From reservation stage to check-in to using the spa or dining, using the lobby or attending a function, having breakfast before they leave or valet parking their car, every bit of the journey is so important.
“I also say to the team to use their personalities-they’re all unique individuals- to engage with the guests,” he said.
“And one great thing is that people always refer to the staff; they’ll say that it’s a lovely hotel, the room was lovely, the bed was comfortable, but they always say the staff are fantastic.
“I just try and encourage them to use their personalities. If they’re lacking in skills we can train them- and all the staff get a lot of training before they start in their roles and on the job training- but it’s all about their personalities shining through.”
He feels that having people in a positive frame of mind is vital to delivering the type of experience the guests have a right to expect at the hotel.
“For me, number one it’s about the guests and getting that feedback,” he said.
“But equally important is that I have a happy team. We’re always trying to perfect that, to have a team that’s happy and enjoying work. Occasionally you get people that might be trying out the industry and may not be suited to it, but that’s fine, at least they’ve tried it.
“If there are any blockages or anyone letting us down we try and jump on it pretty quickly. That gives me the satisfaction, that the team are delivering.”
He says he has a very strong team running the different aspects of the hotel, from finance to maintenance, and they talk frankly to one another on a regular basis.
“It is a complex business but when you have people around you that know what they’re doing it makes it easier,” he said.
“I’m lucky. In every hotel I’ve been in I try to make sure I have a team who are happy and performing.
“We do things like off site days and we have weekly senior management meetings religiously every Wednesday for an hour to discuss openly where we’re at figures-wise, if there are any blockages or any concerns, we always have that open and frank discussion.”
His hours of work are quite long, but when he does have a chance he make a special effort to cross the country to get back to the more gentle pace of life in Clare.
“I’m in the gym a couple of mornings a week here in the hote,” he said.
“ I would be working from 8am and I’d rarely leave before eight in the evening.
“That’s definitely five days a week and depending what’s on I come in quite often on a Saturday because there could be big events going on and I’d like to make sure they’re going okay, I might be in for three or four hours on a Saturday, or might work all Saturday if it’s really busy and take Sunday and Monday off.
When I take Sunday and Monday off I head for the hills of Clare, I have a place down there and I love getting out of Dublin and heading for Clare for a couple of days.”
His brothers Alan and Derek run hotels in County Clare, but when they are together it isn’t all shop talk.
“When I’m off, I just try and switch off,” he said.
“There’s only a couple of days and after a really hectic week I’m glad to head to Clare, meet up with the family, not have to deal with crowds of people, recharge and then come back to Dublin again.”
And when he does go back it’s to something that he takes huge satisfaction from.
“I have to say I really love the job and I’m very lucky that I’ve been doing it for so long and I still enjoy it.”
With so many different aspects to the business that he is running and regularly working over 60 hours a week, it’s a position that could make you quite stressed, but he feels he copes with the demands well.
“Because I’m doing it so long I tend to take a lot of it in my stride,”he said.
“I’m quite level in my mannerisms and my way. Each day you have to come in saying it’s a new day, forget about what happened yesterday, if there were one or two shortfalls or whatever.
“I think you have to come in with that frame of mind. But there can be days when you are juggling a lot and it can be pretty hectic.
“It can be very, very busy, but because we have a big team I know who’s looking after what. ”
Having spent his working life in hotels, and having been at a high level since he was in his early twenties, he feels the industry has a lot to offer young people today as a potential career.
He also believed that working n a hotel can lead to rapid career advancement, with people who show an interest able to reap the rewards of their labour.
“I always say, if you’re not sure, give it a try for a summer and see how you get on,” he said.
“Working in a hotel gives you a good work ethic, and if you decide after a few weeks or a few months at least you’ve tried it.
“I think it’s a great career if you enjoy it and you can progress really quickly. A lot of my senior team here would be really well looked after and if you put the effort in it’s an industry where you can move up really quickly.”

Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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