Jonas Treffers, General Manager of Aloft Dublin City, Chats to us About his Illustrious Career in the Industry
This is, of course, a hitherto unseen challenging time in the hospitality industry, but Jonas Treffers, General Manager of Aloft Dublin City, thinks it will come back fighting. Jonas could certainly claim to know. He has been in the industry for many years, and has seen it face challenges, change, adapt and grow.
Hotel & Restaurant Times sat down with Jonas to talk about his experiences in hospitality, his management approach and his love for the industry, and how he applies these to his role in Aloft Dublin City.
Jonas, a native of the Netherlands, studied for a degree in Hotel Management. Upon completing it, he got the opportunity to work in the five-star Savoy Hotel in London “dishing out drinks to the rich and famous.” It was here he fell in love with the industry.
“I don’t really like the books,” Jonas tells us. “I believe the hotel industry is something you learn with your hands. The Savoy was my first job. I worked seven days and 80 hours a week and loved it with every bone of my body. I’m a firm believer that in any industry where you want to grow, unfortunately you must put the hours in. I think the only thing we do need to do in this industry is pay people fairly for those hours.”
From The Savoy, Jonas went to work in Spain for a year, and upon his return to the U.K, took up a role in banqueting in the Royal Horseguard Hotel in London. It was here he took notice of what made a good GM.
“I stuck with the hotel’s number one and two, Andrew Coy and Neil Kirby,” he recalls. “They became my mentors. They were raised within the industry and started from pot washers to General Managers. I believe a GM can’t sit in an ivory tower. You need to be there with the team.”
After a stint with Exclusive Hotels in the U.K., where Jonas met his wife, the company’s wedding coordinator, he made his way to Irish shores, lured in part by the Celtic Tiger. He initially worked for Jury’s Doyle as Front Office Manager, which, he says, was key to his goal to become a General Manager.
“I always saw becoming a GM as the be all, end all,” he says. “It was always my passion, and I wanted to fight for it.”
Jonas continued to clock up experience, working in The Clarence “when The Clarence was rock and roll,” and The Village at Lyons, where he played a part in the property’s refurb into the popular wedding venue it is today. A stint working in the Caribbean followed for five years, and then it was back to Ireland to work for the Callaghan Collection as General Manager.
This illustrious and varied career within the industry led Jonas to his role today, as the General Manager of Aloft Dublin City, a Marriot hotel situated in the heart of the Liberties. He set about creating a culture in the hotel based around teamwork, mutual respect, and a genuine passion for caring for guests.
“My HR manager Tom Reilly and I decided to do the staff interviews differently, from a human perspective,” he explains. “If you look at the CVs you know the skillsets are there, but we wanted to know ‘can we work in this person?’ Positivity is so important, particularly now with the short-staffing issue. We have an eclectic mix of staff, and the human behind each person is key. Skills we can teach people, attitude we can’t, and attitude is vital, especially in this industry.”
Jonas says that staff well-being is also key to fostering this work culture. It’s vital, he says, to make sure people see their worth and are offered opportunities to grow and develop.
“Of course, we have a business to run, but well-being is at the forefront, asking someone, ‘How are you today?’ and being mindful of their response. Respect for each person and the job they do is crucial. For example, a kitchen porter might think, ‘I’m just cleaning the bins,’ but it’s not just cleaning the bins. The chef has a cleaner kitchen, which provides a better environment for the chef to work, which has a knock-on effect on the product we offer guests. “
This respect for staff is key to Jonas’ management approach. He tells us he sees his role as an enabler and facilitator, but never a micro-manager. He uses a football team as a powerful analogy:
“Compare a GM to a football coach,” he says. “If the coach starts running on the pitch, I don’t think that would be the best thing to do! My role is to be there for staff, to help them and listen to them and make sure they have the best tools, kit, and training ground. In Aloft we have created an environment where we listen to each other, for example, I will always listen to staff members if they have a suggestion on how to do something better, and that means we’re able to collectively be here for our guests. And looking at the guest scores we’re currently getting, I think we’re doing something right.”
Aloft Dublin City has 202 bedrooms, a pub, Tenters, serving ‘unapologetically calorific comfort food,’ and a seventh-floor multi-purpose space with 360-degree views of Dublin City. The hotel is part of Marriott Bonvoy. The Aloft is a vision of the W hotel brand, which has a young and trendy ethos focusing on technology, music and design.
“Aloft has vibrant colours and a vibrant mindset,” says Jonas. “It’s a trendy place,” says Jonas, “but it respects the history of the area. The Liberties is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Dublin, and we need to respect that. Don’t change it, but enhance it, and move with the times. There are so many new upcoming companies here. It’s inspiring and great to see the metamorphosis it’s going through.”
The hospitality industry is also going through a metamorphosis at present, and Jonas is positive about the future.
“I think the industry will come back fighting, definitely,” he says. “Next year is looking up. People want to travel and are ready to travel, from America especially. More flights are being added frequently at the airport, and the planes are full. That’s positive and very good to see.
“I also believe the staffing levels will come back. It’s a wonderful industry to be in, and there are endless opportunities. I travelled the world with this job. If you have a skillset in hospitality, the world is your oyster. You can from a kitchen porter become a GM or a CEO. “We need to be positive about the future, although we don’t know what the future brings. The past is the past, and all we have is now.”