Robert McHugh catches up with Melanie Nocher, Hotel Manager at The Dean Galway, 'a slice of boutique bliss in the heart of Galway.'
The Dean opened in Galway last year and soon gained a reputation as one of the city's most stylish hotels. The 100 bed boutique of over 5,000 square metres incorporates unique historic structures, including a portion of the Galway to Clifdon Railway tunnel built in the 1890's, and a two storey building originally built in the 1930's.
The Dean Galway also offers plenty of options for food and drink including Sophie's Restaurant & Rooftop Terrace which has impressive views of Galway City, as well as the West of Ireland's very first Elephant & Castle. The hotel's other amenties include a new hydrotherapy pool and boutique thermal suite.
Melanie Nocher, Hotel Manager at The Dean Galway, spoke to Hospitality Ireland about her role at the hotel, why she loves working for Press Up Group, her experience of opening the the world’s first Radisson Red Hotel, mentors that have inspired her and powerlifting!
What was your first job in the hospitality industry, and how did that experience shape your passion and commitment to the field?
My first full time job in Hospitality was with the Radisson Hotel Group as part of the pre-opening team at the Radisson Blu in Glasgow.
I started there on a Graduate Training Program where I moved to a new department every six months. I worked in this hotel for six years in various management positions and this gave me a well-rounded knowledge of hotel operations.
Working in this hotel really did shape my future in hospitality and my close friendship group in Glasgow are all people that I worked with in this hotel. It led to me working for RHG in 8 properties in the UK, Ireland and Belgium over 19 years.
Who was your first mentor in hospitality, and how did their guidance influence your growth and development as a hospitality professional?
My first true mentor was the first female GM that I ever worked with, Deborah Haines. She was a real powerhouse and a huge inspiration to me as a young female.
Deborah has an amazing story, working her way up from housekeeping manager to GM and then going on to take on regional roles in Bulgaria, Russia, Thailand and Singapore.
Working with Deborah inspired me and made me believe that I too could progress further in my career. She has been a constant support over the years.
Can you elaborate on the factors that led you to decide on your career direction? Were there any influential individuals or experiences that encouraged you to take the route you have taken?
When I was at school I really loved home economics and cooking, and for a time I wanted to be a chef. I wanted to go to University and decided that Hospitality Management was the course for me it was a business degree that also had a practical element to it.
I was very young when I went to University, I was just 17 years old and I went straight into my graduate program with RHG as soon as I had graduated.
Throughout your journey, could you walk us through the various roles you have held in your career and the significant lessons you have learned from each experience?
There have been many lessons learned through my experience of working in different properties.
When we opened Durham it was during the 2008 recession and it was my first real exposure to dealing with redundancies and substantial cost cutting measures. I was originally hired as restaurant manager and within a matter of months due to redundancies, I had the full responsibility for the F&B departments and eventually also front office, pace gym and maintenance.
I left this role to become operations manager at the Park Inn Hotel in York, a hotel that that was undergoing a full renovation of the public areas. Although I had done two openings prior to this, this was my first experience of operating a hotel during a refurbishment and managing the guest experience during building works.
I left York to move to Galway as I had been accepted on to the RHG Mentor Mentee program and had been paired with a GM there.
I loved Galway but unfortunately my mentor left the company and this led to me moving to Brussels to open the world’s first Radisson Red Hotel.
Brussels was a very challenging opening for many reasons – recent terrorist attacks, the style of hotel didn’t fit the business area that it was situated in and some elements of the concept were not working operationally and had to change and evolve.
After Brussels I returned to the UK to Edinburgh and after a short period of time in the Radisson Blu, I was transferred to G&V to lead the team there through the rebranding to Radisson Collection. I really thrived in this role after returning from Brussels feeling really deflated and unsure of my future in the Industry.
During Covid, the Radisson Collection in Edinburgh was closed for structural repairs and remains closed now. For this reason, I decided that it was time to move back to Ireland to join my partner Ciaran.
I left RHG and joined Press Up in November 2021 to become pre-opening Hotel Manager at The Dean in Galway. I love working for Press Up because it’s fun, individuality and creativity are encouraged, it’s not scripted and there are no barriers between the team and the guests, everyone is here to have a good time.
Press Up hotels are also visually stunning, the architecture, design and décor, the original art by local Irish artists, it’s an absolute pleasure to be a part of the management team of such a beautiful property.
My favourite part of The Dean Hotel has to be the POWER gym with its outdoor hydrotherapy pool and thermal suite. Having dabbled in powerlifting, Eleiko bars and competition bumper plates in a gym within a hotel is unheard of and such a luxury!