FACE2FACE with…BRIAN BOWLER, general manager of the Montenotte Hotel.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in July of 2021.
Tell us about the new addition to the Montenotte?
The Glasshouse is our new rooftop bar and terrace and has been designed to deliver an eclectic vibe, full of fun, and will offer an experience like no other to our guests. Opening at the start of August, it offers an architecturally designed, art-deco inspired setting for guests to enjoy the very best of Cork hospitality.
How has the last year been for you?
It has been an incredibly tough year for anyone involved in the hospitality industry, we closed the hotel to the general public on Christmas Eve, remaining open to essential workers only right up until June 2nd, so just like last year while the country was in lockdown it was really a very difficult time for hospitality businesses and in particular hospitality workers who were on temporary layoff during this period of time.
Get a FREE Digital Subscription!Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
Since reopening on June 2nd there is a renewed vigour and sense of purpose and we have some exciting new developments.
Tell us about your career so far?
I have worked in hospitality almost my entire life starting my first job at the age of 12. I completed a CERT Trainee Manager Program, graduating in 2001, and from there I continued to work my way up the management ladder, working at various properties within a number of group hotels such as The Great Southern Hotel Group and then Choice Hotels before my first general manager role at The Brehon Hotel and then on to my current role as the general manager of The Montenotte in 2017.
Your best professional decision?
Becoming a member of the Irish Hospitality Institute as it has been really rewarding in terms of building a network of connections in the industry. I have been very fortunate with how my career has developed so no one decision stands out – more a collection of decisions made over a period of time. Consistency is important so it’s a case of steady as she goes.
Your most challenging moment?
There have been many, but I think when we had to close the hotel on March 18th 2020 for the first lockdown was certainly a very difficult couple of days. There is a massive responsibility there when you have to communicate what is happening to over 150 employees and try to give them as much clarity as you possibly can even when you’re not 100% sure yourself as it was an evolving situation in that first week with regards to how long we were closing for and updates on wage subsidy schemes and of course everyone was very concerned about contracting Covid and becoming ill with it so it was a scary time.
Your most embarrassing moment?
It has to have been when I told a General Manager of mine that I loved him, I thought I was texting my wife but sent it to the wrong person. He was very good about it and told me he loved me too so clearly, I was doing a good job for him at the time...
Three attributes you wish you had?
I would love to be able to sing but unfortunately, I don’t have a note in my head; speak a foreign language fluently – any language would do – and be able to draw or paint (I am really brutal as my kids keep pointing out to me when I try to help them with homework).
Your favourite pub?
Any pub in the village of Ballyferriter near Dingle in county Kerry where I am from. It’s a great little spot, and sure it’s home.
Your favourite drink?
A pint of Guinness.
Favourite holiday destination?
Portugal – I just find it to be the easiest of destinations to travel to especially with kids. Flight time is short, it’s generally fairly easy to get around with a rented car and the weather and beaches are great.
Your worst job?
I grew up on a farm so I can think of a few…
What was so bad about it?
Use your imagination...!
If you could do any other job apart from the job you are doing now, what would it be and why?
I have absolutely no idea, I love what I do so if I wasn’t managing a hotel then I think I would still be involved in the industry in some capacity. I enjoy DIY so maybe I would be the Maintenance Manager; I am constantly wrecking our Maintenance Manager’s head on his recommendations on how to fix things and what tools he recommends for specific jobs.
Any pet hates?
Tables not being cleared in a restaurant in a timely manner. I hate clutter especially on a dining table during a meal.
Your business motto?
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – it’s pretty much my moto for everything.
The best advice you ever received?
When I was much younger and less experienced someone explained to me how small our industry is in Ireland and advised, if at all possible, not to burn any bridges – that was good advice.
Which fictional character do you most identify with?
MacGyver – is there any Hotel Manager that doesn’t identify with MacGyver?
Name one thing you always have in your refrigerator.
Bottles of water.
Your recipe for a successful hotel restaurant?
A great team of chefs combined with a friendly, well trained and knowledgeable team of staff in the front of house.
What do Irish hotels do best?
Provide a genuine welcome to their guests.
Are Irish people good customers?
Yes, they are. They are generally interested in providing feedback that is measured and helpful to you, which is great.
Your Death Row meal?
Simple pan-fired scallops with a nice lemon infused garlic butter followed by a main course of venison if in season and finished with a chocolate fondant with a side of vanilla ice cream.
The most enjoyable part of your career?
Developing people and seeing them getting on well with their careers in the hospitality industry.
Your biggest disappointment to date?
Dublin winning six in a row – very hard for a Kerryman to take….
Complete this sentence: “Nothing is more important than….”
Read More: Hospitality Ireland Summer 2021: Read The Latest Issue Online!