By Caitlin Raux

On a crisp February morning, I met with Rommel Gopez (Hospitality Management ’14) in the lobby of Hotel Edison, where he’s Director of Guest Relations. The first thing I notice about Rommel is his dapper appearance — he’s sporting a navy, three-piece suit and a purple pocket square placed with just a touch of nonchalance. Nestled in the bustling Times Square District, the hotel is buzzing with eager out-of-towners. As he shows me around the art deco lobby, the second thing I notice about Rommel is his way with people: he treats both guests and colleagues with warmth and genuine attention, putting an arm around the doorman when we take a few portraits outside. He’s no doubt a people person — and given his love for international travel, it makes perfect sense that Rommel ended up in the hospitality business. The Hospitality Management alum was generous enough to take time from one of his usual, hectic mornings to chat with me for an ICE blog interview.

Rommel Gopez

You’re originally from Hawaii — did you stay there after high school?

After high school, I joined the military, the US Army, for five years. Then I decided to work on a cruise ship so I could travel for free with work. I did that for a while until I started working in hotels, using my experience from the cruise ships.

It sounds like you have the travel bug.

Yes, I love it. And that’s part of the reason why I love the business itself. I love talking to people from all over the world. I’ll talk to someone from one country and then think, “Oh, I should travel there next.” And when I do travel there, I already have a friend.

What made you decide to come to ICE?

Before I went to ICE, I was already working in the hospitality industry. But I wanted to learn more and have something under my belt to show that I was serious about my profession. I wanted the diploma to go with my work experience. And I learned so much [during my time at ICE]. I learned about hotel industry unions, management skills and the culinary side of hospitality. We also had the chance to get in the kitchen and prepare food. I love cooking, so that was a great experience.

Rommel Gopez

What skills that you learned at ICE do you use in your current role as Director of Guest Relations at Hotel Edison?

I already knew Opera (a premier property management software) when I started at ICE, but ICE gave me the knowledge to teach the system. I’ve often had to train other employees, so this skill has been incredibly useful — not all, but I’d say 90% of hotels use Opera as their PMS. Additionally, the courses on union rules were a great help, professionally, because we have a large number of union employees.

Can you tell me about a-day-in-the-life in your current role?

It’s always busy. I get in at 6:30am in the morning and get out at 5:00 or 6:00pm. The first thing I do when I come in is check on my arrivals and my availability for the day. I check the rate and the occupancy. Then I look at how many VIPs I have and see whether I have enough rooms for my VIPs to be upgraded. I check emails and do my reports. From there, we have meetings and the day continues — I’m in the lobby talking to guests, showing rooms to guests, talking to my team about what’s coming up and any other issues.

What types of things do you report on?

I report on my VIP list, whether I have an executive VIP, honeymooners or birthday VIPs. I flag them all and make sure they have the proper amenities. We make sure that their rooms are ready. We prep everyone, not just my team, but all the other teams at the hotel as well. It’s important that everyone is aware of what’s going on.

Rommel Gopez

What’s the difference between Director of Guest Relations and a concierge service?

The concierge is someone who offers guests recommendations about the city: the theatre, where to shop, restaurants, maps, and so on. My job is quite a bit different: I’m making sure that our VIPs are satisfied so that they’ll come back. By their second stay, most guests already know me and my team. And we already know what they want and which room they want. We want to make sure that when they get to the hotel, everything is ready for them. Many of the guests email me directly to let me know when they’re coming.

What is the most challenging part of the job?

Trying to get a team together that has the same passion and the same mentality as me. The hospitality industry is hard because it’s all about people and service. You have to have the patience, the passion and the willingness to do the job no matter what. We can’t satisfy everyone, but if you have those qualities and a good attitude too, you’ll be successful.

Are there any surprising parts of your job?

Yes, people think we can give everything for free (laughs), which isn’t the case. But we always do our best to accommodate.

How do you see the industry changing?

It’s changing constantly. We have hotels popping up left and right in New York City. A lot of great hotels are popping up in Brooklyn these days. That’s a lot of positions that need to be filled. The hospitality management program must be booming right now.

Do you see yourself working in hospitality in any other cities?

That’s for when I retire (laughs). No, I think New York is the city for me. If you want to work in a hotel, there’s no place like New York City. The experience you get here is like no other.

Learn how you can launch an exciting, international career in hospitality — click here for more info.

 

By Ryan Kim—Student, School of Hospitality Management

From an outside perspective, a hotel may simply appear to be a place to spend the night, but for those of us in the hospitality industry, a hotel is a well-oiled machine, dependent on the efficient operation of every gear and screw. At ICE, as hospitality management students, we’re fortunate enough to experience the inner workings of hotels through guest speakers who are actively working in the hotel industry. Most recently, my class had the pleasure of meeting Eveline Chen, the executive housekeeper at the Hotel Wolcott in Koreatown, close to the Empire State Building.

Wolcott Hotel NYC Hospitality

Photo compliments of the Wolcott Hotel

While my classmates and I may never have the firsthand experience of preparing hundreds of rooms for guests, an understanding of hotel housekeeping is essential to our success in the industry. What’s more, Eveline had incredible insight into the hotel infrastructure as a whole, from how to maintain positive relationships with your colleagues to how to advance through the ranks of hotel management.

Eveline has more than 15 years of housekeeping management experience: 10 years at the Wolcott and five at the Sofitel. She stressed that two important skills she has learned were patience and attention to detail. No matter what role you’re playing, big or small, it impacts the guest experience.

Another point that Eveline highlighted was the importance of establishing good relationships in the workplace. In the hotel industry, you end up spending a lot of time at work, with your supervisors and your employees. Bringing a sense of humor to the less pleasant or stressful parts of a job has been essential for her to remain happy at work. Moreover, Eveline emphasized the importance of teamwork. As the Wolcott is a smaller hotel, many of Eveline’s employees are cross­trained to pitch in on various roles.

Field Trip Hotel Class

ICE students, Dean of Hospitality Management Tom Voss and Eveline Chen at the Hotel Wolcott

While housekeeping may not initially seem like the most interesting part of the hotel industry, Eveline has been my favorite guest speaker to date. In addition to sharing her personal advice, she also showed us around the Wolcott, a historic hotel that is more than 100 years old and an official NYC landmark. The building combines French neoclassicism and beaux-arts styles, and its sculptural aesthetic stands out against the surrounding buildings, exuding a subtle charm. Going behind-the-scenes at the Wolcott was thus a particularly special experience, as we shadowed some of the housekeepers on their daily routines. Thanks to Eveline and her staff, I now have a new perspective on the small details and constant maintenance that can help make or break the success of a hotel.

Click here to request free information about ICE’s Hospitality Management program.

 

By Madison Malchiodi—Student, School of Hospitality Management

Hi! My name is Madison and I’m a current student at ICE. Read my story below and follow my posts on the ICE blog to learn why I’m passionate about a future in hospitality and what it’s like to study at ICE.

Life as a Hospitality Student - Madison Malchiodi - Library - Headshot

I vividly remember June 21, 2013—my first day as an employee at Subway. I began working there just days before I graduated from the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan, with a college acceptance letter in hand. Yet when classes started in August, I found that I preferred to work whenever possible, putting school second; so while I gained a ton of work experience, unsurprisingly, my grades suffered. Once the semester was over, I made a decision not to return to school, working as much as possible until I found a new alternative.

It wasn’t easy at first. Months went by where I worked five to seven days a week. Time was passing, all my friends were away at school, and there I was, stuck at work. But over time, my job taught me something about myself: I took pride in serving as the shift manager, in taking on the responsibility of opening and closing the store. Eager to explore these newfound professional interests, I began to search online for a school that would boost my knowledge of management and service. Nothing caught my eye…until I came across ICE.

Life as a Hospitality Management Student - Opera Lecture

 

Even before my time at Subway, I was no stranger to the hospitality industry. My father is a chef and my mother worked in restaurants for 15 years. At first, I wondered if enrolling in ICE’s Culinary Management program would be a better fit instead of the Hospitality Management track. However, my final decision became clear when I sat in on a hospitality class called “Managing Back of the House Operations.” Not only did this topic match my interests, but the instructor and students also made me feel welcome. Just a few months later, in September, I attended my first day of class as a proud Hospitality Management student.

Life as a Hospitality Management Student - Opera Lecture - Classroom

By enrolling in ICE’s program, I hope to gain a wealth of knowledge that will complement and develop my personal interest in the hospitality business. Since it is one of the world’s most competitive job markets, my goal is to learn what sets me apart from my peers and use that to my advantage. In other words, I want to learn to “brand myself” (a term I learned in a recent Human Resources class). The course has really peaked my interest—going into detail about best practices for hiring, firing and training of staff, as well as union laws and all of the legalities of the hospitality industry. After just a few months in the program, I can already say with confidence that it has been a great experience overall and I’m excited to see what’s in store for the months to come.

Click here to learn more about careers in culinary and hospitality management.


By Stephen Zagor—Dean, School of Business & Management Studies

I write about this almost unwillingly; I’m scratching just thinking about these minuscule monsters. What am I talking about? Bed bugs! Three years ago my son and I brought home these tiny, unwanted terrorists from one of several hotels we stayed in during a five-day college visit road trip. Before we knew what had happened, they advanced in a multi-frontal attack, occupying two bedrooms and plotting to overtake as much territory as possible. To win this war, we had to enlist a coalition of ghostly fighters in grey hazmat suits, the latest chemical warfare and a trusty, bug-sniffing beagle named Roscoe. Eventually we won the battle, but it was a grueling two-week experience that we have never forgotten.

As many New Yorkers already know, bed bugs are everywhere—subway cars, offices, department stores, movie theatres, everywhere. But of all the places they hide, hotels—with their never-ending flow of new overnight guests—are one of the most likely places for the little creatures to hop a ride to your home on your clothes or bags.

Credit: Jason Kuffer

Credit: Jason Kuffer

Yet, as a hospitality professional, my initial disgust quickly turned to curiosity—and the data I found was shocking. According to the Bed Bug Registry, not only is New York City the bed bug capital of America, but the list of affected hotels encompasses everything from Economy Inns to $700+ per night luxury suites. Not only are these little critters a customer service issue, but they are also a public relations nightmare for any hotel unlucky enough to be under attack.

So what’s a hotel to do? It’s basically impossible to prevent bed bugs from entering, given that travelers are an easy transport mode for the creatures. That leaves proactive initiatives as the best course of action, specifically in two areas: Inspect to Protect and Damage Control.

Since complete prevention is impossible, the next best thing is to minimize the potential problems with early detection, otherwise known as Inspect to Protect. Many hotels have “Bed Bug Action Plans” that combine monthly pest control inspections by an outside exterminator with an ongoing training of all employees—not just housekeeping staff—on how to spot signs of an infestation. In one case, a hotel was cited as offering monetary rewards to any employee who spots signs of bugs. (That said, employees could also be the source of the problem. Regular inspection of staff locker rooms, break areas and hallways should be part of any hotel’s action plan.)

Credit: Andrew Rennie

Credit: Andrew Rennie

If you do spot an infestation, the next step is Damage Control: a response plan for those times when a guest spots the infestation first. This may include moving the guest to another room, refunding the room charge, and a scripted apology (both verbally and in writing to the affected guest). Tantamount to these customer service efforts, the room should be inspected immediately and taken out of service until the problem is under control. Moreover, the complaint should be recorded and documented.

Whenever bed bugs are spotted, the pest management company should be called immediately. Bed boards, mattresses, box springs and furniture must be either properly treated or correctly disposed of. The rooms that adjoin the affected room on both sides, as well as above and below the room, should also be inspected. In 48 to 72 hours, the room should then be re-inspected. If all is clear, the room can promptly be returned to service. But in 14 days time, and then again in 28 days time, the room should be re-treated to proactively eliminate any lingering bugs that might have hatched since the first visit.

Credit: Johnny Vulkan

Credit: Johnny Vulkan

If a guest writes about the hotel bed bug incident on a social media profile, a review site such as TripAdvisor or elsewhere, the hotel management or public relations team should respond as quickly as possible, in an effort to minimize the concern. Communicating the proactive measures taken by the hotel is an excellent way to mitigate any issues that may arise. Be advised, these sorts of online comments may be difficult to detect before growing out of control. That is why the use of a real-time net browsing system to spot comments about your business is a highly effective way to maximize damage control.

There is no easy solution to the bed bug problem. As a guest, I have no interest in potentially inviting these critters back into my home, but as professional, I know that these infestations are an ongoing problem regardless of the cleanliness or prestige of a given hotel. Luckily, for both hotel management and their customers, enacting proactive, vigilant screening and response processes can help minimize experiences like mine in the future.

For more articles on new and trends in the hospitality industry, click here.

Last night, five ICE students competed head-to-head in the 17th Annual Calvados Nouvelle Vogue International Trophies. Hailing from the Culinary and Hospitality Management programs, the students were given the unique opportunity to train with Anthony Caporale, renown beverage expert and ICE Mixologist and Beverage Instructor.

Craig Joseph, Carol Arciniegas, Anthony Caporale, Edward Dickman, Anthony Causi and Ellen Richards

Craig Joseph, Carol Arciniegas, Anthony Caporale, Edward Dickman, Anthony Causi and Ellen Richards

The competition was held at the Intercontinental New York Hotel’s Barclay Bar, the first Calvados bar in the country, boasting more than thirty types of this traditional French brandy. From cream to chocolate, thai basil to jalapenos, the range of cocktails presented by the students truly demonstrated the spirit’s fruit-driven versatility.

Professionals from the New York Chapter of the US Bartenders’ Guild competed alongside the students, vying for the chance to compete in the Calvados Cocktail finals this April in Normandy, France.

Craig Joseph strains his ginger-inspired Calvados cocktail.

Craig Joseph pours his winning Calvados cocktail.

Culinary Management student Craig Joseph took home the prize with “The Normandy”. We look forward to seeing Craig at the finals in France and congratulate all the competitors on their impressive bartending skills!

"The Normandy"

“The Normandy”

The Normandy

By Craig Joseph

  1. In a mixing glass, muddle:
    2 pieces of fresh peeled Ginger
    1 strip of fresh Orange Zest
    3.5 cl Sweetened Fresh Lemon Juice
    1.5 cl Cherry Bitters
    0.1 cl Cinnamon (powdered)
  2. Fill mixing glass with ice and add 6 cl Calvados.
  3. Shake until the tin is frosted.
  4. Double-strain into a chilled martini glass.
  5. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and peeled ginger slice.

Every issue of The Main Course, ICE’s school newsletter, includes a glimpse at the life of students in ICE’s career-training programs. We’re sharing the interviews from the most recent issue here on DICED. Rebecca Blair Roth is a student in ICE’s newest program, Hospitality Management. You may have seen some of her blog posts about the program’s curriculum, field trips and instructors.

Rebecca Blair Roth
Hospitality Management
Originally from Long Island, New York, Rebecca Roth has already lived nine lives. After receiving her B.A. from Emerson College in 2000, Rebecca, a self-proclaimed “people person”, worked in publishing and law, lived in Belgium and the Netherlands and taught English in Slovakia. Her education at ICE complements her previous work experience as a hotel concierge at New York’s famed Algonquin Hotel and as a concierge for private clients. Rebecca, who also has a theater background, is open to a wide range of opportunities — from public relations to banquet catering to event planning. She is currently interning with William Curran at the Liberty Theater, a 24,000 square foot event space in Times Square.

Every issue of our school newsletter, The Main Course, includes a slice of life at ICE with a variety of interviews, articles and profiles. In the Winter 2012 issue, we looked at the bios of three current students, including Manuel Pastrana, a current student in our Hospitality Management career training program who is exploring his enthusiasm for good service and the future of a career in the hospitality industry at ICE.

Manuel Pastrana
Hospitality Management

Manuel Pastrana comes naturally to the hospitality world after spending more than 12 years working in customer service, including 10 years as assistant manager, of a Sprint/Nextel retail location. He hopes to launch a career that will see him become the general manager of a hotel — anything but being stuck in a cubicle, he says. Pastrana obtained an associate’s degree in hospitality management from Kingsborough Community College in 2003, but took a break from further studies after the birth of his now six-year-old daughter and one-year-old son. Pastrana, whose parents are from Puerto Rico, was born and raised in Brooklyn.  He likes to play softball and football when not at ICE.

Get an inside look at ICE with more student profiles on our website.

 

Last week, ICE’s Hospitality Management class went on a unique field trip to one of New York’s busiest hotels, the Hilton Times Square. As these students prepare for exciting new careers in the tourism industry, they are learning all the ins and outs of running a hotel, including cleaning guest rooms and managing staff.

After speaking with Ed Staniszewski, the General Manager of Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel about the different departments in a hotel last month, this was an incredibly useful chance to peer inside a huge hotel operation in one of the busiest locations in America. The students visited the Hilton Times Square on Tuesday and Thursday to see the often overlooked aspect of managing housekeeping in such a massive hotel. After being welcomed in the main lobby, the students were briefed on the hotel occupancy status and various policies and practices that make the operation run seamlessly. More…

Students in ICE’s Hospitality Management program are gaining the skills they need to be on the fast track to successful careers in the hospitality and hotel industry. As part of their training, they benefit from industry guest lectures giving them first-hand exposure to the industry and offering them a variety of perspectives from the industry. For example, this week the class heard from Ed Staniszewski, the General Manager of Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel. Staniszewski manages 180 rooms and 15 banquet and meeting halls in the 15,000 square feet hotel in Flushing, Queens.

With over 20 years of industry experience, he has incredible insight into how to run a hotel successfully. He emphasized that the hotel industry is like a tree with lots of branches that students could follow on their career paths. According to Staniszewski, there are many opportunities for personal growth and satisfaction in the industry. He advised the students to let things develop and come to them, telling them to be open to taking diversions and taking new opportunities’ when presented with them. More…

Since 1975, ICE has been training students for successful careers in the culinary world. In those 36 years, ICE has seen incredible talent pass through our kitchens and classrooms who then go on to become leaders in their chosen art. We are continually amazed by the passion and dedication of our students as they set out on new careers in the food industry, and are impressed by where their newly learned skills and hard-work takes them. Now, ICE is proud to announce the launch of the ICE Student Awards Program to publicly recognize our amazing students in the Culinary Arts, Pastry & Baking Arts, Culinary Management and Hospitality Management programs.

In each graduating career training class at ICE, three students will be recognized for their accomplishment with an award given out at their class’ senior reception. The awards are meant to recognize students who have displayed exceptional dedication and commitment to their education. More…