We may make running catered chalets look simple but it involves months of preparation and hard work through the Summer and Autumn by the teams of The Chalet Company in the UK office in Bristol and in Méribel. We asked TCC’s Client Services Manager, Anneliese, for an insight into how it all unfolds…!
“When one season finishes, the Boss normally gives us a week or two to relax before planning for the next season starts – normally around the middle of May! The first job is recruiting what will be the dream team to run our catered chalets next season. This year I had to pick a total of 26 from a little over 300 CVs that passed over my desk. Fortunately we had ten returning members of staff which is an excellent retention rate for a job that is notoriously transient – I may have a Summer after all! And so after fifty-something interviews between myself, our resort manager Alex and company Director Steve, we settled on the final team by the end of August.
Autumn is then spent on chalet operations – counting hundreds of bedsheets and in excess of one thousand towels, sorting out driver rotas, negotiating maintenance contracts on vans, making sure our laundry service provider is booked in for the season, finding staff accommodation, processing work visa for staff, streamlining our training content and delivery…oh, and making sure all our customers’ demands are being met promptly and efficiently!
The resort management team arrive in mid- November and then, in early December, I pack my case, kiss goodbye to hubby & kids and head off to Méribel to finalise preparations of staff and the catered chalets for the beginning of the ski season. Only if you have worked in the industry will you know how insanely busy this period is – not that this seems to get through to my friends who always mock: “have a lovely holiday!”, “enjoy the skiing!” or “don’t drink too much!”
This is the first time that all 26 staff members – resort manager, assistant resort managers, chalet hosts and drivers – will have been in the same room and so it is pretty daunting. I am the only person who has spoken to everyone and so all eyes are on me for what’s happening! Easy one for the first night – a big dinner! A round-the-table game of “Tell Us About Yourself” and a few glasses of wine always helps with getting people chatting.
From then on, the focus is solidly on staff training. Hosts are shipped off to the chalet that they will be managing for the next five months and they start to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings. The next few days is a whirlwind of deep-cleaning the chalets, checking off inventories and shopping!
Now when I say “shopping”, I am not talking about flicking through the racks of Reiss or Joseph…I am talking about five hours in SuperU – the local supermarket down the mountain in Moutiers! It’s all hands to the pump to help the ‘newbies’ overcome the language barrier, identify new and more familiar products and get us out of there before it closes. And that is not even where it ends as we also have to shop for new kitchenware, glasses (there are a lot of breakages through the season) soft drinks for guests to accompany their wine and beer, plus boxes and boxes of frozen pastries. These then need to be delivered to each of our thirteen chalets…
With all the ingredients in place, we can indulge in the bit that everyone enjoys and where my friends do have a point – the practice meals! At The Chalet Company, we don’t use set menus dictated by Head Office as we believe our guests will have a much better experience if our hosts regard the chalet as an extension of their home and create menus that play to their own strengths. There is nothing better than tasting an exotic dish that Georgie learnt whilst travelling around Thailand or a favourite of James’ family that has been passed down the generations. The practice meals are like ‘Come Dine with Me’ meets Masterchef, they are a great chance for the chefs to get used to their kitchens by cooking a 4 course meal for up to 14 people and to get some valuable feedback from the rest of the staff. It is extremely important to us that everything is perfect by the time the first guests arrive and this is a step that really helps us get there.
For a week, I feast like a Queen and my only penance is that I have to take photographs of all the food for our Instagram page to showcase the great culinary efforts of our staff! This may not seem overly burdensome but I am not a great photographer and I can’t explain how difficult it is waiting for the nod from the boss about the angle, aspect and clarity of my photographs before being able to chow down on the mouth-watering gastronomy in front of me!
Anyway we got there in the end! I have now left resort and returned to my home in Bristol – I have a fair bit of dieting to do but I am happy as already the snow is amazing and, most importantly, I am in no doubt that guests staying in our catered chalets are going to be fed exceptional food when staying with The Chalet Company. I look forward to reading the feedback forms and reviews in weeks to come!”