Top 8 Skills for a Successful Career in Hospitality

September 19, 2018
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If you’re skilled at what you do, working in hospitality can be an incredibly rewarding career choice. However, it can also be one of the most demanding. If you’re aiming for a career in hospitality, it’s important for you to recognise which skills you must hone in order to succeed.

Equipping yourself with the right skills not only helps you prevent emotional and physical exhaustion, but also enables your business to achieve a higher standard than anywhere else, meaning people come to you over the competition. Guests may come for the food, but they’ll stay for the good customer service.


Skills for the Hospitality Industry

Developing your hospitality skills is an ongoing process that requires regular practice – don’t expect change to happen overnight. However, knowing exactly what you need to improve will lay the groundwork and motivate you to apply it daily. Whether you work in the dining room, in the kitchen, or in both as a manager, you’ll grow and find success through experience and constant learning.

With that in mind, here’s our list of the top 8 hospitality skills you should aim to acquire and develop in your career.


1. Communication

Communicating clearly and professionally through your speech, writing, and body language is essential to good customer service in hospitality. In a customer-facing and team-oriented role, everything you say and do must communicate a positive, constructive message that enhances the customer’s experience and enables your team to work together efficiently.

Waiter working in hospitality

The most important part of communicating is listening. Therefore, when talking to guests, you should adopt a genuine warmth and interest in them. Ask questions, listen to what they have to say, and respond accordingly. Doing so will create natural, spontaneous conversations that gives guests the impression you really care about them. This in turn lets them know that you’re open to discussing and fulfilling their needs.

When communicating with your team, active listening makes or breaks whether work flows smoothly and you’re all coordinated. You should regularly talk to your colleagues about what you need to do and what you need from them. Remember that you all need each other to get things done, so being open, honest, respectful, and appreciative is really in everyone’s best interest.


2. Resilience

If you’re new to hospitality, you should know that it’s not a career for the thin-skinned. To make it through a shift, you’ll often have to endure high levels of stress caused by constant multitasking, a lot of running back and forth, and sometimes demanding customers or colleagues.

The good news is that anyone can learn how to remain optimistic and productive despite difficulties. Thickening your skin is usually a case of experience, but it’s also about training your mind.

You need to be at peace with any challenges you face, and in fact use them to improve yourself. You should recognise that a lot of what happens is probably out of your control and you are not responsible for the way others behave – you can only control your own actions. This mindset is very freeing and in fact improves productivity. You’ll spend less time worrying about things you can’t control and focus on what you can.

Resilience is not only important for making things easier on yourself, but also for maintaining a professional image. Customers and colleagues respect those who can remain calm and constructive during adversity.


You may also be interested in: How to Respond to Negative Customer Feedback


3. Initiative

In hospitality, initiative means actively responding to customers’ needs and pulling your own weight, and it’s a skill that both impresses customers and makes work easier for everyone. You’ll need to rely on your own instincts and knowledge to handle unfamiliar situations or tasks, rather than depend on others or decide that you can’t help.

For example, let’s say you’re working in a restaurant. A customer asks if you provide a vegetarian alternative to your burgers. You could either tell them that you only know what’s on the menu and point them to other vegetarian options, or you could take initiative: you could say you’ll go ask the chefs for them, and ask if anyone else at the table would like to know anything.

Responding in this way shows willingness to go above and beyond and that you’re competent in your role, which instils trust.


4. Multitasking

Whether or not you feel multitasking is your strong suit, you’re going to have to become proficient at it regardless.

The best way to hone your multitasking abilities is through practice. It’ll help you gauge your limits and understand how to divide your time wisely. However, the way you put it into practice is up to you. You may benefit from a notepad to write things down or by mentally visualising the order in which you’re going to do things. You should also communicate with others, as teamwork can alleviate some of the pressure of multitasking.

Multitasking skills in hospitality

To prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed, you should focus on the steps you need to take for each task, rather than look at them as a whole. They’ll feel much more doable this way. In fact, you’ll feel a greater sense of accomplishment.


5. Adaptability

A career in hospitality often involves dealing with unpredictability. Your shifts may regularly change, customers may have requests or attitudes that you don’t know how to handle, and odd jobs around the place may constantly need doing. Your ability to adapt is closely connected to your multitasking capabilities, resilience, and initiative, so if you work to train those up, you’ll find yourself adapting with ease.

Most importantly, you should constantly maintain a can-do attitude at work. Doing so will help you see unpredictable situations as welcome challenges that are satisfying to overcome. Accept that nothing is ever set in stone and that things do go wrong: focus less on resisting change and wishing everything was easy, and instead on being skilled at carrying on no matter what.


6. Attention to detail

Whatever role you occupy, attention to detail involves maximising your time to make everything the best it can be. It means, whenever you’re not doing something, you use that bit of time for small maintenance tasks around the workplace.

This could involve glancing around the room to see if anything is out of place or missing. It may involve checking whether dishes or equipment need moving elsewhere to clean and whether anything needs putting away. Be critical of everything, because customers are likely doing the same. They’ll notice crumbs under their table, foggy glasses, missing cutlery, and so much more. They also have high expectations for their meal, so whether you’re preparing or carrying it, pay attention to how it looks.

Good attention to detail will keep service flowing smoothly and customers pleased with the environment. Before long, it’ll become habit for you to keep yourself busy and never leave or enter a room without your hands full.


7. Cultural awareness

In hospitality, you’re going to have customers and colleagues from all walks of life – people who have different beliefs, values, personalities, expectations, and more. If you’re accommodating and accepting of these differences, word will quickly spread and your workplace’s reputation will become exceptional. People will feel comfortable visiting or working at your business, which in turn will make your job much easier.

Like most of these skills, cultural sensitivity won’t develop overnight. However, as long as you’re willing to learn and have true respect for others, you’ll quickly pick up on things. You should also spend your own time learning about the different cultures that you commonly encounter at work. Follow the news, read books, and search online to learn about current events and general cultural knowledge.

Waiter training for career in hospitality

By doing this, you’ll be able to identify the different needs and approaches of others. For example, if a customer or colleague makes requests in a way that you’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with, it could just be a common aspect of their culture. This will help you relax, not take things personally, and respond appropriately, meaning both sides are happier.


8. Compliance training

No matter how skilful you are in other areas, if you want to work in hospitality you need to receive certain types of training to comply with the law. This includes licensing law awareness, food hygiene, basic health and safety, cellar management and more.

The good news is that the law requires workplaces to provide you with this training, but it’s your responsibility to learn from it and properly apply it to your role. Doing so will not only ensure your business meets its legal requirements, but also keeps everyone’s best interests in mind at all times. Furthermore, you’ll feel confident and qualified in your role, which customers and colleagues will pick up on and respect.


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