Hands On Hotel Management

I enjoyed this from thonline

People like to complain: the weather, the economy and that old standby, the boss. But at downtown Portland’s Hotel Monaco things are different. Craig Thompson (above), the general manager of the 221-room property, is rarely in his office enjoying the perks that come with being a big shot. At 60, Thompson hustles like an intern striving to impress. If need be, Thompson checks in guests, parks cars, inspects rooms, hauls bags, delivers room service, works in the laundry and helps make wake-up calls. When guests offer a tip, he politely declines. But if the guest presses a few bucks into his palm, Thompson gives it to his employees, many who have worked with him for years.

He arrived in Portland nearly 20 years ago to be general manager at the Vintage Plaza. Five years into the job, leaders at the Kimpton Hotels chain, which runs Vintage Plaza, asked Thompson to walk a few blocks to 506 SW Washington St. to take control of what is now called the Hotel Monaco, another company property. He has a cluttered and unpretentious office — exposed telephone lines snake out of one wall — in a room behind the front desk. But unless Thompson is making calls, checking something on the computer or finishing paperwork, he’s out helping the bellhop, the clerks, the waiters and anyone else who makes the hotel run smoothly.

“He’s amazing,” said Hannah Sloan, who works the front desk. “I used to be in housekeeping, and he’d step in and clean rooms. The first time I saw him, I was shocked. We’re talking about the general manager.” Thompson has a simple philosophy: “Being a good boss isn’t about writing great reports,” he said. “It’s not about how fast I respond to corporate. It’s not about having a rule book or trying to control everyone. It’s about people. If you understand people, you’ll be a good boss. If you don’t, you may have power, but you’ll never be a great boss.”

He would make a poor candidate for “Undercover Boss,” the TV show that puts bosses to work among their lowest-ranking employees. Thompson is already there. “A good boss works side by side with the employees,” Thompson said. “It keeps me young.” In addition to managing the hotel, Thompson checks in guests, parks cars and helps make wake-up calls, among other tasks. Raydell Denton, the room service manager, says Thompson helps her crew when it’s busy. “You see the head boss here, and it means something,” she says.

Thompson was raised in Spokane and got his start in the hotel business at 16, when he was hired at a local hotel as a busboy, bellhop and room service waiter. He eventually earned a hotel management degree from Washington State University. “My first job was when I was hired for a hotel bar,” he said. “I thought I was going to be the bar manager. I was the bar back. I ended up hauling bags of ice, setting up glasses and mopping the floors at 2 in the morning. I learned the hotel business from the ground up.”


Restaurant Critic – Bye! In LA

Wow! This from Inc made me sit up and take notice!

“On December 21, Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila was recognized by a staff member as she was waiting for her table at L.A. restaurant Red Medicine (above). Not only were Virbila and her party asked to leave, she was photographed and her image was posted on the restaurant’s Tumblr site along with an explanation from Red Medicine’s managing partner Noah Ellis.

“Our purpose for posting this is so that all restaurants can have a picture of her and make a decision as to whether or not they would like to serve her.” Ellis wrote. “We find that some of her reviews can be unnecessarily cruel and irrational, and that they have caused hard-working people in this industry to lose their jobs—we don’t feel that they should be blind-sided by someone with no understanding of what it takes to run or work in a restaurant.”

For sure, restaurant managers have the right to refuse service to anyone. But to photograph and expose a newspaper critic—who often goes to great lengths to preserve his or her anonymity—seems a bit extreme. And while it’s certainly true that a bad review can be devastating to a restaurant—or a movie or a play or an iPad app—it’s ultimately the consumers’ opinions that determine whether an establishment stays in business or not.

Do restaurant critics have too much power? Did Ellis have the right to refuse service and “out” Virbila by releasing her photograph?”

I don’t know, but if they were after publicity they got it!


Great Staff!

So many Guests leaving Chanters Lodge tell me we have ‘great staff’ and who am I to disagree? Some, like Di Rapson from Perth, Australia, who left recently after a two week stay with friends Judy and Kerry, insisted on a photo of those of us on duty at the time, and there it is above! From left to right:

Isaac, Annastasia, Melinda, Richard, Susan, Lynnette and Sandra.

In two words ‘Lucky Me’!


Wonderful Review!

We get very excited with good reviews on TripAdvisor and here’s one of the latest!

We loved staying at Chanters! Richard personally picked us up from the airport (and waited around for us while we withdrew the wrong amounts of local currency and tried to change it into US dollars!) which was very kind. On our first evening of staying at the lodge, he asked us if we would like to appear on his local radio show, Zambezi FM! We were surprised but of course flattered!

Our room was spacious and cool, which was exactly what we needed. We didn’t worry about leaving our belongings lying around, nor did we fret about breaking any rules as Richard told us there were no rules, just to make ourselves at home! Every member of staff was so welcoming and hospitable, they just couldn’t do enough for you! We began our holiday at Chanters and didn’t want to move on. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone I know and I hope that at some time in the not-too-distant future, I’ll have the pleasure of returning.

There’s a nice photo of the girls in the 107.7 fm Zambezi Radio studio as well!



Thanks to Louisa for this one!

The boss wondered why one of his most valued employees was absent but had not phoned in sick one day. Needing to have an urgent problem with one of the main computers resolved, he dialed the employee’s home phone number and was greeted with a child’s whisper.

‘Hello ?’

‘Is your daddy home?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ whispered the small voice.

May I talk with him?’

The child whispered, ‘No .’

Surprised and wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, ‘Is your Mommy there?’


‘May I talk with her?’

Again the small voice whispered, ‘No’

Hoping there was somebody with whom he could leave a message, the boss asked, ‘Is anybody else there?’

‘Yes,’ whispered the child, ‘a policeman.’

Wondering what a cop would be doing at his employee’s home, the boss asked, ‘May I speak with the policeman?’

‘No, he’s busy,’ whispered the child.

‘Busy doing what?’

‘Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the Fireman,’ came the whispered answer.

Growing more worried as he heard a loud noise in the background through the earpiece on the phone, the boss asked, ‘What is that noise?’

‘A helicopter’ answered the whispering voice.

‘What is going on there?’ demanded the boss, now truly apprehensive.

Again, whispering, the child answered, ‘The search team just landed a helicopter’

Alarmed, concerned and a little frustrated the boss asked, ‘What are they searching for?’

Still whispering, the young voice replied with a muffled giggle… ‘ME.’


Elisabeth Gaarder & Xenia Ploger

“We’ve never done it before and we’re very nervous” said Elisabeth (left) and Xenia pictured above, as we headed towards our Sunday night assignation in my car. “Don’t worry, it’s fun and very nice” I replied “just sit back and enjoy it”. Thinking something different? Tut tut! Actually, we were heading towards the studios of Zambezi Radio 107.7 fm in Livingstone, Zambia, for the latest edition of The Chanters Lodge Experience with the Milli Jam Ingredient featuring George Da Soulchild, as the girls were guesting for us on the show! Elisabeth and Xenia are part of a team of 5 Norwegian 3rd year Tromso University students staying at Chanters Lodge, while they teach pre-school children for a month at Rainbow School in Livingstone, as part of their university course. Our radio show goes out live every Sunday evening between 20.30 and 21.30 hrs, and features music and chat.

“Do you have boyfriends back in Norway”? Milli Jam asked the girls. “What boyfriends”? This made George on technical pay attention and he played ‘Chipyango’ by Dalisoul. The girls were rocking. “They seem to like that number”. I remarked. “I know they do!” Replied George, laughing. “Have you been clubbing every weekend while you’ve been in Livingstone”? Milli Jam enquired. “Oh yes”! Elisabeth and Xenia replied, also laughing, and I knew instantly how George Da Soulchild knew the girls liked Dalisoul!! “What’s the track about”? I wanted to know. “He’s telling girls not to allow themselves to be treated like a local broom – used once, then ditched”. Was the succinct reply. I speculated that the Chanters Girls would have been dancing to that track back at the lodge too, and I think I was right! The other Zambian number we played on the show was a coup – UZ47 with ‘Killa Love’ – first ever airing of the track on radio anywhere in Zambia! Well done George! Our expert on the local music scene.

We played ‘Gone’ by Nelly and Kelly, as well as ‘Shine A Light’ – McFly ft Taio Cruz. Milli Jam selected an old favourite Chaka Khan – ‘Ain’t Nobody’ and Dr Dre’s latest – ‘Kush’ – that was a nice one! ‘Like A G6’ – Far East Movement and ‘The Flood’ by Take That proved we’re right up to date on the Chanters Lodge Experience!

“What activities have you done since you’ve been in Livingstone”? Milli Jam asked our Guests, “apart from clubbing”? The girls told listeners they’d been to Chobe National Park in Botswana for a 2 day 1 night safari the first weekend they’d been in Zambia, and had really enjoyed the trip despite the scary insects! That afternoon they’d had high tea on Livingstone Island and swum in Devil’s Pool. They’d loved it! One of the girls had also flown in a microlight over Victoria Falls on the ‘Flight Of Angels’ and one intended to go Bungee Jumping. “It’s all scary” they commented, laughing at the same time.

The girls explained to listeners that they’d known each other since they were in high school, aged 15 or so, and that they shared a house in Tromso while they were studying, although they were both originally from Oslo. Neither of them had been to Africa before but they’d both travelled widely through Europe. The future immediately after leaving University? They weren’t sure. Longer term? Marriage and children seemed to be on both their agendas. “Better start looking for boyfriends soon then” I remarked, to in-studio laughter.

We gave away our usual dinner for two to the first person to text us the name of the country the girls hailed from and there was a huge response. ‘Nowe’ was one of them! Great that so many people were listening to the show! George, a Liverpool supporter, wanted to talk about football in general and Arsenal in particular, but Milli Jam and I did not!

A good time was had by all, and of course there had been no need for the girls to be nervous!


Lousy Listeners!

This is nice from PsychCentral. Are you a ‘lousy listener’? I do know that you can’t talk and listen at the same time. My former assistant manager – late Jonathan Lungu – and I used to prove it to the Chanters Girls when we realised they weren’t listening because they were talking too much. We’d both start talking at the same time – about anything – in front of them, and then question each other afterwards as to what the other had been saying. Neither of us had a clue!

Anyway, according to PsychCentral, Lousy Listeners:

1. Attend to other things when you are speaking.
Proud of their ability to multitask, they continue to scan the newspaper, text, or clean their desk while being addressed. An occasional ‘uh-huh’ is supposed to cue you that, really, they are with you. They’re not — or at least not totally. Their mind is distracted. Chances are they miss important pieces of your message — even if they protest that they don’t.

2. Are planning how they will respond even while you are speaking.
They are so busy rehearsing their reply that they miss part of your message and don’t catch the nuances of your communication. They’re ready with a paragraph before you’ve even completed a sentence.

3. Steal the ball.
You say something like, “I can hardly wait to tell you about my trip to the Grand Canyon.” Before you get the last word out, they start: “The Grand Canyon? I was there once. Let me tell you. It was so interesting. We went on this and did that and this and that happened. And we met these wonderful people at the dude ranch we stayed at.” They are off and running with their description of their own experience. You are left to hold your story for another day – if you get the chance then either.

4. Change the subject before you are ready to do so.
Maybe you’re talking about something sensitive between you or maybe the topic is just more meaningful to you. Either because they aren’t interested or because you are making them nervous, they steer the conversation to something that interests them more or that makes them feel safer. You say, “I’d love to go see such and such a concert.” They say, “Sunday night is football night.”

5. Hurry you along.
As you talk, they get restless. They might say, “Uh-huh, Uh-huh, uh-huh” or look at their watch or scan the surroundings or fidget. You run out of interest in communicating with them because they’ve let you know that they’ve run out of patience with listening to you.

6. Have lousy nonverbal skills.
They don’t look like they are paying attention. They don’t give much in the way of positive feedback like a nod or a smile. They slouch. They turn away. Their eyes glaze over. Talking to a lousy listener is like talking to a post for all the affirmation you get.

7. Tend to see criticism or blame in the most innocent of discussions.
Their defense is to be critical and judgmental. While you are talking, they are busy developing critiques of what you said or how you said it. They use sarcasm, “jokes,” and anger to derail any hint that you may be suggesting the need for them to change something about themselves or about how they are doing something. Communicating with them is so unpleasant you avoid it as much as you can.

8. Are quick to offer advice, even when it hasn’t been asked for.
They don’t take the time to listen to the whole story or to offer quiet support. Often they mean well. They really do want to help. But they don’t understand that their help isn’t always helpful; that sometimes what you want is simply to be heard and understood or given a vote of confidence that you can solve your own problems.

There you are then, food for thought!


Shupiwe Mulenga

Meet Shupiwe Mulenga, one of the famous ‘Chanters Girls’. Shupiwe joined Chanters Lodge, Livingstone on 13th April 2009 as a trainee. She’s 23 and has one brother and one sister, both younger than her.

Shupiwe’s dad passed away in 2006 which must have been traumatic for a then 19 year old. Her mum is still alive and runs a pre-school/primary school in Kabwe, north of Lusaka. She has about 100 children in school Shupiwe tells me.

Shupiwe completed her Grade 12 at Hillcrest Technical Secondary School in Livingstone, just up the road from Chanters Lodge and stays with her Aunt Cecilia – secretary to the general manager of Zambezi Sun Hotel. “Won’t they poach you away to Sun” I asked Shupiwe. She shook her head.

Shupiwe is single, loves music (like all the Chanters girls) and clothes! (The latter I’ve observed for myself.) “What’s your favourite kind of music” I asked her. “Slows”.

In November Shupiwe will become acting head cook at Chanters Lodge. She’s a talented, careful cook and a good organizer – just the skills we’re looking for. She also happens to be very pretty and highly intelligent.

We wish her the best of luck in her new appointment.

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