When it comes to high end hospitality, etiquette and manners are timeless fundamentals. But fashions change, and owners are also getting younger, perhaps with different expectations. Does this pose a challenge for interior trainers or do old school values sit comfortably with a modern twist?
Terry Gilmore, Senior Trainer and CEO of interior training school, Abacus & March, is surely the man to ask.
Terry has over 40 years experience in hospitaliy ashore and on board as Chief Steward, having been taught in St Moritz in the 1970s by Madame Pedrini, responsible for the Shah of Persia and his family residence in Switzerland at that time. We met up with Terry to get his views.
OnboardOnline: What’s the greatest change you’ve seen in the yachting industry over the past 10 years?
Terry Gilmore: The number of new builds and a massive increase in the size of yachts. Also the increase in certification for exterior and interior crew - for the interior department, the GUEST Program developed by the PYA is fast becoming a basic required standard.
OO: In yachting we tend to assume that service standards on board are higher than high end hospitality ashore – would you agree?
TG: Absolutely not. New interior crew don’t know what is expected of them in this industry. There is a complete contrast between staff working in the hotel industry and crew members working on a yacht. That's precisely why the PYA GUEST Program was developed as it's tailored to the needs of the yachting industry and it prepares interior crew for working in this environment.
OO: In your experience, does having a PYA GUEST certificate give interior crew a real advantage?
TG: It certainly does! It’s important to understand life on board and what is expected from interior crew. All aspects are presented so that no stone is left unturned, so it covers everythng from holding a tea towel to approariate behaviour when going out with guests.
OO: Following the MYBA chef competition in Genoa earlier this year, several observers noticed wide disparity between service standards at the top and bottom levels – how do we change this?
TG: By captains and brokers understanding the importance of the PYA GUEST programs so we start to create more of a level playing field. On board training is also a real necessity in raising standards. It can also promote harmony on board and reduce high turnover, which is a definite plus for owners.
OO: Since different nationalities have different needs and expectations in terms of service etiquette, how is this addressed in interior training courses?
TG: At Abacus & March we spend time explaining the need to be aware of different expectations around service and housekeeping, and teaching crew what is expected in terms of manners and etiquette towards their guests. We spend a lot of time with crew focusing on the detail as ‘manners maketh the man/woman’.
OO: Beyond standard training, the spectrum of possibilities is always changing - what are the trends in terms of pushing the boundaries?
TG: Nowadays we need to teach old school methods with a modern twist. In today’s world guests tend to be much more friendly with their crews, so it’s a case of teaching crew not to cross the line between being friendly and being over-familiar. Even with the best of intentions, younger crew might interpret that friendliness as an invitation to cross that line.
OO: Owners and charterers are also getting younger which may influence the type of service they expect - can you share some examples?
TG: Wow! In over 40 years there have been many, from flying across the Med in a private jet to buy vegetables, arranging private parties at the last minute, or taking a Yorkshire Terrier to port for a stroll in a pram. We're also expected to be able to get the best table in a particular restaurant, often at short notice, or ensure VIP treatment when guests arrive at an exclusive event or nightclub.
OO: What’s the most unusual or creative thing you’ve ever laid on for an owner or guests?
TG: Once for a spontaneous VIP party on the whim of a guest we had to fly in new carpets by helicopter within a four hour timeframe. More typically, we've changed the the destination of a private jet to four different locations within the space of a morning! However, discretion is our motto and ‘what happens on board a yacht stays on board’.
OO: How much input do you have from the client and how much is left to you and your team to imagine and create?
TG: When teaching we are guided by the owner or chief stew on their specific requirements. We teach in a pleasant, humorous but correct style and our students have all enjoyed the experience. In some ways it’s like a finishing school. A lot of what we teach is no longer an automatic part of education, or part of everyday life in today’s world. Certain basic life skills have also been lost. For instance, if you were to ask a young crew member to darn, they often won't recognise the term, let alone know how to do it!
OO: Given the breadth of the role nowadays, what makes a good steward/ess exceptional?
TG: In my view it's about having the passion, with a smile, to provide a service. You also need to be smart and confident in your demeanour and be willing to learn from others with more experience. Watch, listen and learn and you'll go far!