Graduate insight with Serena Chevallay

After completing her Bachelor’s degree in International Hospitality Management and the MSc in International Hospitality Management in partnership with emlyon business school, Serena joined Le Bellune, a 4-star boutique hotel in Paris, as Deputy Director.

Serena Chevallay, Deputy Director at Le Bellune

Tell us about the hotel you work in and your current responsibilities.

I work in a 4-star hotel, Le Bellune, located in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, opposite the Expo Park. Opened in December 2022 and offering 105 rooms, the hotel has an eco-responsible focus and a warm atmosphere. Inspired by nature, the hotel has a wellness area for relaxing and a locavore bar featuring Italian flavours. The decor is minimalist and inspired by the Dolomites National Park. Le Bellune is part of the Suitcase Hospitality group, which currently counts around 15 establishments in France.

As Deputy Director, my responsibilities are varied and involve all operational aspects. From customer service to revenue optimisation, I play a multi-faceted role, acting as the central point of reference within the hotel. My role includes ensuring guest satisfaction and checking that the product meets hospitality standards on a daily basis. I supervise a team of 15 people working in different departments such as Technical, Housekeeping, Front Office, F&B (breakfast, bar, kitchen) and Events.

I’m involved in implementing the hotel’s post-opening strategy, its budget and rigorously managing costs. Working closely with the Suitcase group, I’m responsible for the hotel’s marketing and pricing. My job is dynamic and never routine, with every day bringing new tasks and unexpected situations.

What challenges have you had to face?

I started in March 2023, and my biggest challenge has been navigating the post-opening phase. Setting up processes, installing new software, recruiting and training teams all made the task complex, because it can sometimes be difficult to guide a team through things that you haven’t fully mastered. During the initial opening period, each day brings new knowledge about our customers and the processes that work and don’t work. It’s a constant challenge, but it’s one that enables us to grow.

Another ongoing challenge, which seems to apply throughout the hotel sector, is staff recruitment. We have high staff turnover, and this instability is sometimes complicated to manage on a day-to-day basis.

What skills do you think are essential for your job?

A skill that’s essential for my current responsibilities is adaptability. As a young manager, I’m constantly listening to my colleagues, and I’m prepared to revise my approach in order to make progress.
Each individual has a unique profile, so in-depth understanding and human intelligence are needed in order to move forward together.

Another crucial skill is resourcefulness. Faced with so many unforeseen events, creativity and responsiveness are essential in order to find appropriate solutions quickly.

Finally, versatility is particularly important. Thanks to my experience across various departments, I have acquired in-depth knowledge of the issues in each of them.

How has Institut Lyfe enabled you to get where you are today?

Institut Lyfe helped me to cultivated a creative and resourceful spirit, qualities that are proving indispensable in my current professional life. Through concrete projects such as the creation of a pop-up restaurant, we learnt to push our limits, to take our vision further and further, and to do so with limited financial resources. This experience also enabled us to keep an open mind, going beyond the conventions of the traditional hospitality industry. We broadened our vision to draw inspiration from other sectors.
Finally, the school’s commitment to group work has given me the skills I need to understand a variety of profiles and cultures. Today, I’m able to adapt perfectly to each individual, which is a valuable skill in my career path.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I have always wanted to realise the dream of opening my own hotel one day. My objective is therefore to take over the reins of a hospitality establishment or to become an entrepreneur. However, during my last placement in my MSc year, I discovered the job of Operations Manager. This role got me really interested, as it involves moving away from day-to-day operations to focus on a more strategic approach.

What would you say to students looking to get into this industry and these professions?

Our sector is not without its challenges, and sometimes we can feel drawn to focus on support services rather than being on the ground because of how demanding it is. Rest assured that improvements are being made in these areas, and you will be the driving force behind them. Thanks to your new vision of the hospitality industry, we can change things: a good manager is not necessarily someone with 30 years’ experience, an employee has the right not to have to work every Saturday/Sunday, etc. Working in operations has its advantages, and you never get bored in these types of roles. Every day is an opportunity to learn and take action.

If you’re passionate about the hospitality industry and this career path inspires you, our Bachelor’s degree in International Hospitality and Restaurant Management will give you all the operational and managerial skills and training you will need for the best careers in the world.

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