Robert McHugh catches up with Lucius Farrell, Hotel Manager at The Shelbourne, 'a delightful mix of quintessential Irish charm and timeless luxury.'
For nearly 200 years, The Shelbourne on St Stephen's Green has been a cultural landmark with a rich and glamorous history. The five-star hotel has welcomed presidents, royalty, famous artists, writers, and Hollywood film stars.
Lucius Farrell, The Shelbourne's hotel manager, has spoken exclusively to Hospitality Ireland about his journey in the hotel trade. Farrell discusses his background in internationally recognised brands such as the Marriott and the Four Seasons.
He also discusses the role that his uncle played in inspiring him to work in the hotel trade, the challenges of recruitment in the sector, and how the hotel industry can fight global warming.
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 my first-year placement in Shannon College of Hotel management, I took up a culinary position as a trainee chef in a five-star hotel in Switzerland where I attained a Commis level qualification after one year.
It was my first real experience of working as part of a busy team where the demands of a busy kitchen and the responsibility for my section was intense – it gave me life lessons and an experience that has stood to me throughout my career.
Who was your first mentor in hospitality, and how did their guidance influence your growth and development as a hospitality professional?
The first mentor I had in hospitality was my uncle Oliver Quinn of Ballymascanlon Hotel in County Louth, spending my summers up in Dundalk I watched how hard he worked.
He would never ask someone to do something he was not prepared to do himself and this has remained with me throughout my life.
My uncle also took a personal interest and was available for his staff, always asking about them about the wellbeing of their families and showing a genuine interest in their lives which perpetuated a positive and loyal culture and dedication by the team to the hotel.
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?
On finishing secondary school, I was unsure of what I wanted to do.
Ultimately, I liked aspects of traditional business disciplines, accounting, marketing, sales, human resources but I also liked people, creating experiences, problem solving, and I had a particular love of food, and I also wanted an active job which kept me physically fit.
I knew I wanted a job where no two days were going to be the same, hence the world of hotels.
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?
I have served numerous junior manager and department head roles both in the operations and in a sales capacity. I spent a significant part of my career working for Four Seasons Hotels where I learned to be strategic and to manage large operational business, whilst delivering consistently to the highest standards.
I later moved to some independent properties which allowed me to bring my expertise and put structures in place to build a culture based on service excellence, and putting the customer at the heart of all you do.
I joined Marriott hotels in 2018 which has been wonderful. Marriott as company is so progressive with a university of learning available online with so many development opportunities.
I have learned to contribute at property level and also at regional levels, supporting them with the student Voyager program, which benefits students starting out in the industry from hospitality college.
Marriott have a variety of hotel brands which provides endless opportunity and a ticket to travel the globe.
Which industry networks have you been a part of that have provided vital support and contributed to your career progression?
There are so many networks, I have found beneficial to both business and my career. the Restaurants Association of Ireland, the Alumni network at Shannon College of Hotel Management, the Irish Hotels Federation.
All of which have proved significant throughout my career. Other business networks include IBEC, American Chamber of Commerce, Dublin Chamber of Commerce to name but a few.
Networks have always played a part in sending customers to my business.
In your experience, what are the most significant challenges you have faced while working in the hospitality industry, and how did you navigate through them?
The most recent and significant challenge today is the recruitment and retention of employees.
Our industry has suffered greatly since the pandemic, and it has lost its appeal to many younger people as a viable career path. A strong company culture committed to its people is essential now to attract talent and to and maintain an engaged work force – our people is what makes our hotel operate successfully.
As business leaders, we have had to flexible when attracting these candidates to the working week. A larger pool of casual labor means people are often happier to do less hours, they are fresher in their approach and more engaging when dealing with customers.
The opportunity to grow and transfer within a hotel also needs to be a focus to maintain a work force and reduce staff turnover.
Looking ahead, what are your career goals and aspirations, and how do you envision making a lasting impact in the hospitality sector?
I feel I have achieved a lot given my years operating at the highest levels of service. I have made Ireland my home and chosen not to travel for now. I will continue to support hospitality in Ireland as I believe it will only grow stronger.
Global warming is one of the largest global challenges in the world, this is having an impact on travel and leisure.
I feel if I can make a lasting impact in hospitality, it will be around sustainability, educating a team to support more sustainable work practices and giving customers the ability to choose a sustainable offering while delivering service.