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Fergal Harte Of The Kingsley On His Career To Date

By Emily Hourican

How has the last year been for you?

Challenging in many ways, but enjoyable too. We’ve done things we never thought possible before. I’ve been one of the lucky ones in the sense that the hotel has remained open throughout. I’m conscious of how difficult it's been for my colleagues who we weren’t able to provide hours for at various times throughout the year. It’s been a terribly worrying and uncertain time for them.

Tell us about your career so far?

I graduated in hotel management in 1995 and moved to London that year. I moved back to Ireland in 2002 to work in Knockranny House Hotel in Westport. I went from there to Fota Island Resort here in Cork in 2008 in the role of Director of Sales. After the Kang family bought Fota in 2013, they purchased The Kingsley Hotel & Spa and appointed me General Manager, which is where I’ve been since.

Your best professional decision?

Moving from the sales role in Fota to general manager of The Kingsley.

Your most challenging moment?

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The Kingsley had been closed for five years due to flooding before we reopened it in 2014. It had operated as a five-star previously and we were opening it as a four-star. Expectations locally were high, and we were busy right from the start. Although we were delighted at the level of interest and for the most part, people were very gracious and patient, we were under pressure to cope with it.

Your most embarrassing moment?

While I was training in the Sligo Park Hotel in the early 90s, I knocked the singer Linda Martin over while she was waiting to go on stage. I was serving at a function and she was standing behind a swing door in the kitchen as I entered carrying a tray.

Your worst job?

My first part time job at the age of 15 was kitchen porter for a small local hotel restaurant.

What was so bad about it?

The chef’s approach to employee relations was interesting to say the least! Things were very different back then and it certainly toughened me up. I became a waiter in the restaurant of the same establishment soon afterwards and enjoyed it so much that I resolved to take up hotel management as a career.

Any pet hates?

Negativity in all its forms! The assumption that all Irish hotels are outrageously expensive.

Your business motto?

Make life an endless discovery.

The best advice you ever received?

I remember struggling to word something for school and my father telling me to just say what I thought and not to worry about how it read or sounded. I’ve never forgotten it. Name one thing you always have in your refrigerator. Lots of cheese.

Your recipe for a successful hotel restaurant?

Understand your offering, make sure it’s consistent and know your customer. Establish an identity and purpose so that you’re not trying to be all things to everyone.

What do Irish hotels do best?

Service, facilities and personality.

What could they do better?

I’ve stayed in hotels all over the world and honestly believe we do it better than most. It’s obviously important to have processes and standards, but don’t coach the personality out of your team.

Your Death Row meal?

Fillet steak, medium-rare.

The most enjoyable part of your career?

I enjoy it all. I was elected chair of the Cork branch of the Irish Hotels Federation last year and I’m really enjoying the role. I wish I’d gotten more involved in that side of things earlier in my career.

Your biggest disappointment to date?

I can’t think of any. Although the pandemic has presented us all with new challenges, I wouldn’t say it’s been disappointing. It’s forced everyone to reassess their approach, come up with new ideas and up their game.

Enjoy a FREE Digital Subscription
Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
Enjoy a FREE Digital Subscription
Enjoy a FREE Digital Subscription
Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
Enjoy a FREE Digital Subscription