COVID-19 and the hospitality industry

2 June 2021

In this interview, Rick van Gool, F&B supervisor at Hilton Garden Inn Leiden, explains how COVID-19 has impacted their industry and hopes for the future.

I am Rick van Gool, I am 28 years old and live in Hoorn, Noord-Holland. I have been working at the Hilton Garden Inn since August 2020 where I started as F&B Shiftleader and now as F&B Supervisor. I was not new in the Hilton family; previously to this, I used to work as F&B Management Trainee at the Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Hotel. Last year I graduated for my Bachelor’s degree, in which I successfully completed the course IHM (International Hospitality Management). Since I was young, I have always worked in the hospitality industry: my goal and passion lies in making our guests feel welcome and wave them goodbye knowing they had a nice experience at our restaurant. This is the main reason why I decided to make a career in hospitality.

Sadly covid-19 hit the world. Everyone has suffered from the multiple lockdowns and for sure the hospitality sector has been hit the hardest. At the beginning of March it all happened very quickly, all of the sudden everything had to close and of course that was a big shock. Then luckily during summer, most of the facilities reopened so we could welcome clients back. During the lockdown we learned to be very flexible and creative. I was amazed how things that you would normally never have thought possible suddenly became normal.

Lots of creative solutions have been put in place in order to guarantee an enjoyable stay to our guests. For instance in the past few months, when restaurants had to close again, our guests were able to pick up their breakfast/lunch/dinner in the restaurant downstairs and bring it up in their rooms. Our work in terms of F&B was pretty limited however guests were really happy that we provided them with this kind of service.

The biggest thing I missed personally was when people were no longer allowed to sit in the restaurant. I like to offer personal service at the tables, have a chat with people and make sure their morning/afternoon or evening went completely well. In the past we always had large parties, where meeting rooms were rented by groups. Normally we also had groups that used our BBQs on our terrace. We hope of course that everything will go back to "normal" soon. We are lucky that we have a large tent at the terrace, so even with typical Dutch weather, guest can have a nice lunch/dinner. At the moment, 50 people are welcome again at our terrace, so slowly but surely we are moving in the right direction!

Despite all the trouble, daily life just goes on; we still have hotel guests every day. This is the reason that keeps me passionate about my job. It took a while but slowly we are getting back to the usual work: full restaurant, terrace, the bar open and face to face contact with our guests again. I can’t wait for the "old normal” to be back.