From kitchen chef to hotel manager

Jesper Rais

Interview with hotel manager, Peter Gerløv Feddersen

How do you get around 40 employees with very different responsibilities and realities to work towards the same noble goal every day with great job satisfaction? A goal that ultimately depends on the satisfaction of hotel guests. Comwell Holte's hotel director has a pretty good idea about that. He carries a unique set of tools in his leadership backpack, which he acquired during his time in the kitchen at Comwell Borupgaard.

By Karin Feit Almberg and Signe Kamper Kankelborg

Peter Gerløv Feddersen took over as the hotel director at Comwell Holte in October 2021, coming directly from a position as a hotel director at another North Zealand hotel. But Feddersen started his career in a completely different place. A place that has shaped him and given him a special perspective on the task, both operationally and in terms of leadership, that he faces today.

"You always get there. Because there is no alternative"

Feddersen has previously been the head chef at Comwell Borupgaard in Snekkersten, and he draws heavily on his experience from his days as a chef. "It is clearly a plus for me that my career path started where it did," he says. "Not so much because I use my eminent ability to fry meatballs in my workday, but my leadership approach is influenced by my many years as a chef," says Feddersen with a smile, adding:

"I know about a fast pace, many balls in the air, sharp frames, fixed goals, and the necessity of being able to deliver above and beyond the usual. You always get there. Because there is no alternative. There is a constant hustle behind the scenes – both in a large kitchen and at a hotel – and it's great. All areas of expertise must work together at once, and it's so exciting to make it happen. Everything from conferences, receptions, restaurants, kitchens, buildings, AV, and so on must work together and deliver on the same goal; the good guest experience."

Different realities with a common goal

"The unquestionably beautiful thing about running a hotel is that we have these very different professional groups. When we are together in the management group, we talk about: 1) how we strengthen these professional skills, and 2) how we break down the barriers so that everyone works towards a common, overall focus. It sounds completely paradoxical, but it isn't. For example, if a guest asks for a sandwich at the reception, we just need to make it happen quickly, even if the kitchen is occupied with a large planned conference lunch at the moment. The guest is always at the center and must feel well-assisted."

And according to the hotel director, all employees, regardless of title or level, are a significant and important part of the culture. Everyone shapes the workplace, and everyone shapes the experience that guests have during a visit to Comwell.

"Every little conversation, suggestion for change, praise, and so on colors the culture. Everyone helps set a direction. That's why I also make a big effort to be a visible leader myself. I rush around and talk to everyone all the time. And the very different professional groups are, of course, also a challenge as a leader. Fortunately, an exciting one. The reality looks very different from the different areas of responsibility that the employees have, and you have to have respect for that."

"I'm just a department head"

Being a good leader is also about letting go, according to Comwell Holte's hotel director, who gives an example that the boss's way is not always the best way:

"As a former head chef, I am well-versed in the kitchen myself. So the easiest thing would be to go down to the kitchen and do everything my way. But I don't want to impose my methods on the department heads. It provides short-term solutions without ownership. The most important thing is that we agree on the end result. I'm just a department head for the leadership group, as I like to say. We meet every day at 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and go over the day and evening together. Here, I can sense how everyone is doing and what the biggest challenges are right now."

Guests don't care about internal responsibilities

"My goal is for everyone to support and respect each other's work. It's so essential for how the guest experiences being here. After all, guests don't care about our internal responsibilities. So regardless of one's primary responsibility, a positive experience for the guests is the end goal.

So yes, receptionists can also easily take the empty plates, cups, and glasses with them if they are already going to the kitchen. Just as the chef can greet a seeking guest and ask, "Is there anything I can do for you?"

Put on your rubber boots and go out into nature

Feddersen sits during this interview in one of the hotel's smaller meeting rooms with huge windows overlooking tall birch trees, a small lake, and fields as far as the eye can see.

"It's so beautiful here, and there's so much we can do with this place," he says with a dreamy expression.

The hotel director has big plans to make use of the beautiful nature surrounding the hotel, which is almost invisible when driving past on Kongevejen.

"This area is excellent for outdoor mindfulness, meeting rooms, and dining areas. It's great for our meeting and conference guests, but also for guests who come here for a little get away with their partner. And we've also gotten the rubber boots up from the basement to get started," he smiles. "You can borrow them along with a small map of the area. I hope that in the future - from inside the meeting rooms - you can see all the great outdoor facilities and feel inspired to use them."

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