A Thousand Welcomes
We meet the beating heart of Aloft Dublin City’s front desk team
The front desk of a hotel sets the tone for a guest’s stay. It is usually the first port of call, and the first point of contact. Aloft Dublin City’s Colm McDonnell, Front of House Manager, and Nadia Rodriguez, Reception Manager know this all too well, and endeavour to create a welcoming vibe from check-in to check-out.
Aloft Dublin City, located in the heart of the Liberties, is an exciting new addition to the hospitality landscape in the capital. Hotel & Restaurant Times met with Nadia and Colm to learn more about the path that led them to Aloft, and how they approach their important front-facing roles.
Colm is originally from Kerry, and Nadia is Argentinian. That they hail from opposite ends of the world is a potent reminder of the human aspect of the hospitality industry. Caring for others and providing a quality guest experience is universal, and this desire to provide the best possible service grabbed Nadia and Colm early on. Colm had his heart set on the sciences, but upon failing his Leaving Certificate, was at a loss of what to do.
“My uncle was in in the hotel industry, so he sat me down and asked if I would consider hotels. It had never entered my mind before then, so to try it, I was taken on as a kitchen porter in the Cahernane Hotel for three weeks, and when I finished, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I dropped Physics and Chemistry for my repeat Leaving Certificate and took up Home Economics instead and flew through it. It was just more me.”
Colm went on to study hospitality in Manchester, and during that time, continued to clock up a wide range of practical experience, including placements in The InterContinental in Hamburg, and Aghadoe Heights in Co. Kerry. Upon finishing his diploma, he moved to London and started on reception in the Crowne Plaza Heathrow. “For some reason I was always interested in reception,” Colm tells us. “I could have done say, Food and Beverage, but something about front of house was calling to me.”
Nadia’s path in the industry also started from an early age. She is the only person in her family working in hospitality, but she knew it was the job, and indeed life, for her. “I didn’t really like secondary school, but when I realised I wanted to do hotel management, my motivation kicked in,” she says. Nadia studied for a degree in Buenos Aires, and one of her earliest jobs was as an intern in the Sheraton Hotel in Buenos Aires, a property with an eye-watering 735 rooms. “It’s an entire universe,” she tells us. “A city inside a city.” During a two-week trip to Ireland, Nadia fell in love with Dublin and its people and decided to make the move from Argentina. Her first job in Ireland was in The Clarence, and from there she made her way to Aloft Dublin City.
Colm and Nadia started work in the hotel on the same day, and Colm tells us this was instrumental to the development of their working relationship, and the culture in their department.
“We bonded really well,” says Colm, who oversees the reception team, the nights team led by the night manager, and the concierge, valet and guest relations team. “We started in the same place and learned from each other. It was good that we came from different hotels and backgrounds, and then together we trained the Mariott way. I said to Jonas [Treffers, Aloft’s General Manager], that Nadia just fits the hotel, the role, and what we’re trying to do here, and I trust her implicitly.”
Nadia’s role as reception manager involves taking charge of the desk, giving a warm welcome to guests, and driving up the hotel’s ranking in guest experience and efficiency, all while promoting the Mariott culture. “The work comes naturally to me, and I enjoy it,” she says. “Being a people person is important in this job.”
Getting the right staff for the job is of course crucial for a hotel, and particularly for the front desk. During Nadia and Colm’s training, they both got involved with recruitment, and the processes they wanted to bring in. “You need a very strong reception team,” says Colm. “Reception is key. It is where the guests are welcomed and seen off when checking out. It’s the main interaction point with guests, and the place they come with queries and issues. If you have a strong core unit at the desk that’s good for the hotel too, as communication comes into the desk and comes out from the desk to all departments. Great communication and relationships with all departments is so important.”
Nadia adds: “Open communication with all departments not only solves problems, but it also prevents them from happening in the first place.”
Colm and Nadia both agree you must give the best to staff to get the best out of them. “It’s important to ensure the team is happy,” Colm explains. “They need to feel valued and part of one team and one family, because that’s what we are. We’re more than just workmates in a job. We look out for each other. We have banter and chats, but we know when to get the job done. If we don’t have a positive relationship, guests can pick up on negative vibes.”
According to Colm and Nadia, this family “feel” is apparent throughout the hotel, and Colm tells us he felt it from the very first interview with Jonas and HR Manager Tom Reilly. It was the most relaxed interview he ever had, and for the final interview, Jonas even told him it was informal, and he could take off his tie! Nadia’s first impression was also positive. “When Jonas got in touch I was like, ‘OK, let’s see what he has to say,’ and right from the start I knew I wanted to work here.”
So, an exciting new hotel, positive relationships with colleagues, and a love for service – is it even like work? We are, of course, joking, but there is certainly some truth in the saying that if you find a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life. Nadia confirms it: “I love hotels, and I don’t see myself anywhere else to be honest. I find joy in coming to work. In the morning I think, OK I’m going have fun, see my co-workers and have a great day.”
Colm laughs: “Well, saying that, something waking up at 5am isn’t the best! But yes, even though I’ve been in this industry for 20 years I still want to learn, grow, and develop. That’s the kind of industry this is, and that’s why I’m in it.”