Business of Happiness

Business of Happiness

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CHUA LIWEN

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF CATERING

THE RITZ-CARLTON, MILLENIA SINGAPORE

How long have you been in the hotel industry? I’ve been in the hotel industry since December 2009. I started out at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) as a temporary staff in Human Resource before I moved on to another position as a Banquet Coordinator, and subsequently Catering Coordinator in 2010. I eventually joined The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore catering team, and I’ve been here since 2011.

What inspired you to join the industry and how has the journey been since? I studied Business Administration and I was planning to join a bank, but when I graduated, it wasn’t the perfect year for the banking industry. At that time, the Integrated Resorts were just about to open, so I thought it would be really interesting to join a massive corporation like MBS in the hospitality industry. When I started out, I didn’t have much experience or knowledge about the industry, but I began to learn more, and the more I learnt, the more interested I became. When I was in the HR department as a temporary staff, I got to meet people from different departments and it made me think about what I wanted to do. I was offered positions such as Front Office Agent and Concierge, but I eventually chose to be a banquet coordinator. I was part of the pre-opening team so there was quite a lot of things to learn.

Can you tell us more about your role and what you do on a daily basis? I’m currently in my first year as an Assistant Director here at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore. I guide my team of 12 people to execute events. Most days, I’ll be out doing sales calls. After securing an event, I’ll help to execute it. I’m basically the point of contact for the client and my operations team, specifically, the chefs, the banquet department, stewarding, and other departments. I would say, for my job, it’s 50% on the ground and 50% in the office. If I’m on the ground, I would be planning the event which I closed. It could be within the hotel or it might be an outside catering event. I got to experience the various type of events companies planned or even be part of global events such as the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix.

So how do you inspire them? When I joined the The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, we were introduced to these ‘Gold Standards’ that we talk about every day within our internal staff. These values that we talk about are not necessarily only applicable to our job, but are also values that we follow in everyday life. As we always say here, “we are ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen”. This motto exemplifies the anticipatory service provided by all staff members. I hold this so dear to myself because it’s about the mutual respect between us and our guests. We take up these roles because we want to make the guests happy and give them a memorable experience. Being in a leadership role now, I try to help my team out when it’s needed and at the same time, I try to inspire them to want to do more.

What are the perks of being in the Business of Happiness? Being in the hospitality industry, you’ll get to enjoy perks given by your hotel group, such as discounted F&B dining or room stay privileges. But nothing compares to the empowerment that the hotel gives you to create ‘wow’ moments for our guests. This empowerment is something that’s intangible, because without it, your staff wouldn’t go the extra mile to do their job well. It’s something unique to this industry, where motivation to do well comes from a personal satisfaction of being able to do more for our guests.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? I love meeting new people and this job really promises you that. It’s also the satisfaction of bringing in new customers and executing some of the key events in Singapore that makes it really exhilarating.

What is the most memorable event you’ve organised so far? The most memorable event would be catering for the FORMULA1 race. The planning phase was almost eight months long, and throughout this time, I had to oversee the catering for 1,100 people at the VIP suites, the logistics and planning. During the three race days, we had to check if the venue was set up properly and if it met the client’s expectations. I would say that everyone was very dedicated throughout the event, working towards the same goal.

How is working in the hotel industry different from working in catering anywhere else? It’s always important to find a job that has opportunities for career growth and progression, and the hotel industry really promises you that. There are good prospects for promotion, especially now that there are so many hotels in Singapore. Having said that, the key factors are still good performance and availability of positions. In my case, I was promoted to Assistant Director when I was 31. I was blessed with many opportunities throughout my career, and the timing was just perfect for me to rise to my next role. With career growth, you are always exposed to new situations and learning curves, and it’s never boring. In addition , the hotel industry is well-resourced, so there are always people supporting your event, which may not be the case for non-hotel catering.

Do you have any goals that you hope to achieve during your time in the hotel industry? I hope that under my leadership, my staff can excel in their roles and also have fun in what they do.

Any advice for someone who is interested in joining the hotel industry? If you wish to develop yourself in a well-rounded manner, joining the hotel industry would be ideal because you will face many different scenarios that you can learn from and grow in your skill sets, in areas such as problem solving, service delivery and recovery, and stakeholder management . These are all valuable experiences that you take with you wherever you go, be it at home or work. And, of course, if you simply love meeting new people, this job will be fantastic for you.