INTERNSHIP STORIES BY ALPINE STUDENTS.

Riginos Panagiotou was at the Astir Vouliagmeni, Four Seasons Hotel, Greece

From March 2019 until October 2020, I had the opportunity to work as a head waiter in the newly opened 303 room Four Seasons Hotel in Athens, Greece.

Because I was part of the pre-opening team of the hotel I was able to experience first-hand what it feels like preparing a hotel to open its doors to the public for the first time. Four Seasons is a Canadian company which was founded in 1960 by Isadore Sharp who is the chairman of the company to this day. Four Seasons is considered one of the most luxurious hospitality brands in the world over 120 hotels and resorts in more than 100 countries.

In this article I am aiming to give you an insight of my experience in the Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel in Athens.

Why did I choose to work at the Four Seasons in the year of their opening?

My experience in the hospitality industry up until 2019 was only in Greek hospitality companies, for this reason during my first year of studies at Swiss Alpine Center @ City Unity, I wanted to work for a multinational company in order to expand my horizons and get an idea of how such large scale companies operate. I came in touch and had my first interview with Four Seasons during the school’s Career Day.

When I was offered the position I was both excited and skeptical at the same time because on the one hand I had the chance to work for one of the world’s leading companies but on the other I was going to be part of the opening team which scared me at first because I had heard that hotel openings can be a nightmare. However after a few days I figured that such a company will know how to properly handle an opening and that I would also have the chance to experience something unique that one cannot learn about at school. This was exactly what happened and right now I am incredibly happy that I made the decision to take that job.

What were my responsibilities?

The first month of my internship was the pre-opening stage of the hotel. During this period, my co-workers and I were trained according to the Four Seasons standards. We participated in Food & Beverage courses, liquor, wine and cigar seminars and we learned how to offer the guests a personalized experience. At the same time, we were getting the F&B outlets up and running, while for the first month of operation we were trying to adapt and figure out our exact roles.

I was a head waiter in the hotel’s lounge-bar which offered various brunch-like and light lunch dishes, a big selection of premium spirits and unique cocktails. My duties included receiving the guest’s order, serving the food/beverage, making sure that the waiting stations and the back of the house areas were kept clean while offering a personalized experience to the guests which was a must for the Four Seasons standards.

What was the best part of the internship?

The overall experience of working for a company like Four Seasons was amazing; the working environment was excellent while my co-workers were also wonderful people. The combination of the above drove me to look forward to go to work every day and enjoy every minute of it.

If I had to choose which part of the 8-month internship I favoured, I would probably pick the pre-opening phase of the hotel. The feeling of being part of the team that is preparing a property like this one is simply amazing.  During the pre-opening period we went through a lot of training ranging from Food & Beverage to electronic platform functions,  There was also a certified Four Seasons trainer from the property in Mauritius helping us gain a better understanding of what a personalized experience is, how important it is for the company to provide such a level of services and how we can do it properly for each individual guest. The whole process of the training was conducted in quite a unique way which made everyone feel that we were playing games instead of being at work while at the same time it was amazingly effective and efficient. I believe that this was the reason that this whole experience was so memorable and exciting.

The Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel opened its doors on the 29th of March and from that point on my co-workers and I had to put everything that we had learned into practise to please our guests. The first few weeks were quite rough because of the huge amount of both in-house and external guests coming to see this fancy new property. It took a lot of hard work and cooperation between everyone but by the end of April we were doing great by offering each and every guest whatever they needed to be satisfied and happy.

In general, the first 2 months of my internship were the most exciting; it was an experience that I’m sure is going to prove very useful for me and through which I gained a lot of useful knowledge. At the end of the day it took a lot of dedication and hard work from every employee of the hotel to manage to open this stunning property.

How has the internship helped me with the start of my career in hotel management?

Apart from all the knowledge and lessons I received from my internship I believe that now that I have added a company like Four Seasons in my resume, many hotels especially in Greece will want to add me to their team and because of that hopefully my career will take off and soar! However for me what I believe is more important is the fact that from this point on I have the chance to pursue a career with Four Seasons and stay with the company for many years which is what I want the most at the moment.

Putting it all together

This experience is one that I will remember for a long time as it was the first time I worked for a multinational company and got to know how such companies operate and what makes them successful. I experienced for the first time how it feels like to prepare a hotel to open its doors for the first time and how much dedication it needs to pull such a task through.

On the very first day I went to work at Four Seasons I was armed with all the skills and knowledge I had received from the Swiss Alpine Centre which gave me a high level of confidence,  but I also learned that every new experience adds to the cadre of knowledge that helps in building a successful career.

Swiss Alpine Center

the Swiss Business School for Hotel & Tourism Management is celebrating 32 years. Established in Athens in 1987, it is the pioneer of hospitality management education, a la Suisse! Alpine has attracted students from over 70 countries in the last three decades, making it a truly international institute of learning.

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