Hospitality in the Caribbean
The adventure awaits!
I’ve always been interested in the kitchen department so when I had the opportunity to work in the Kitchen of Beaches Ocho Rios Jamaica, I jumped at the opportunity. It was an Unforgettable experience that allowed me to meet incredible workers, hospitality in Jamaica and their cuisine. Here’s a glimpse into my Jamaican culinary adventure:
The beaches Ocho Rios Kitchen was busy yet an energetic place, with chefs and cooks showing to work in perfect harmony to prepare the breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet for the guests. As a member of the kitchen team, I was welcomed with open arms and got the opportunity to learn so much from the experienced chefs. They taught me from basic cooking skills, to secrets of Jamaican cooking, and even some cultural Jamaican dancing during our breaks. Working in the Beaches Ocho Rios Kitchen allowed me to meet some amazing people that allowed me to get a better insight into the work-field of kitchen. I met very talented people who were passionate about their work. I also had the opportunity to work different departments in the kitchen from, preparation station, cooking meals, and the pastry department.
Apart from working in the kitchen, One of the highlights of my time in Jamaica was getting to taste all the delicious Jamaican food. From jerk chicken to curry goat and Festivals, I was in spicy food heaven. I loved seeing the similarities from my own cultural foods in the Jamaican cuisine and the bold flavors and spices. I was impressed how the chefs created the dishes, and getting the chance to learn how to prepare some of the dishes myself, which was a real treat.
Overall, my experience while working in the Beaches Ocho Rios Kitchen was truly unforgettable. I learned a lot more than I could imagine, including meeting some amazing people along the way. The food, atmosphere, and hospitality was warm and welcoming. I would recommend this experience to anyone interested in the Kitchen department or anyone who loves food and learning new cultures.
HOW I EMBRACED ISLAND TIME ON MY DAY AND NIGHT TRIPS
During My Trip To Jamaica, We Got To Experience Several Of The Island’s Unique Attractions. Here Are The Highlights Of My Adventure That I’ll Never Forget. The First Thing On Our List Was To Visit One Of Jamaica’s Most Famous Attraction: The Dunn’s River Falls, And I Can See Why. The Waterfall Journey Was Definitely Challenging But The Crystal Clear Water And Natural Pools Made The Experience Worth It. Once You Made It To The Top, The Feeling Of Accomplishment And Views Were Breathtaking. After The Dunn’s River, We Got To Cool Off On The Party Catamaran With Delicious Food And Company. The Catamaran Crew Made The Long Trip Seem Short With Their Fun Cultural Dancing And Involvement Of The Crew.
Once We Were Back From Our Catamaran Trip, We Got To Rest For A Bit To Then Later Head To Our Bioluminescent Water Tour. I Can Confidently Say That It Was One Of The Most Magical Experiences I’ve Ever Had. After The Shortest Boat Ride, I Was Amazed To See The Water Glowing Brightly As The Boat Was Riding The Waters. We Also Got To Learn That The Bioluminescence Is Caused By Tiny Living Organisms. The Entire Experience Was Surreal And Absolutely Unforgettable.
On My Personal Day, I Decided To Make The Most Of My Time Off And Couldn’t Resist Going On The Horseback Riding Excursion. As A Beginner I Was Definitely Nervous At First But I Was Paired With A Beautiful Horse And The Guide Was Experienced And Allowed All Of Us To Feel At Ease With His Jokes And Professionalism. We Rode Through A Beautiful Path That Led Us To The Ocean Where We Were Able To Ride The Horses In The Waters Which Was Exciting Yet Scary. The Whole Experience Was Amazing.
I Couldn’t Have Had A Better Trip Without My Classmates Making The Whole Journey Enjoyable. I Was Able To Meet Other Students From Different Islands Where We Could Relate To Many Things Yet Teach Each Other About Our Different Cultures. From Arguments To Many Laughters, I’ve Met So Many Amazing People Who I Grew Fond Memories With.
On our final day at work at the Beaches resort, I chose cost control as my final department. Fortunately, on a Saturday morning, the head of the department was there working. Employees generally worked five days a week at the resort, but certainly not on a M-F 9-5 schedule. Days off were pretty random, and seldom back to back days.
To many students, this department might be wildly boring, but I was fairly fascinated by their procedures. Right out of the gates, we did liquor control. A guy with a cart rounds up all the empty bottles from each of the resort’s 10 bars, and he brings them back to a dumpster, where someone from the cost control office meets him, and cross checks a list from each bar of what needs to be replaced. We then observe as all of the bottles are tossed into the dumpster, thereby preventing one of those empties from recirculating and being counted twice. Any discrepancies are noted, and then the lists are taken back to the cost control office where the list is checked against an IOU book (if something is out of stock), and then stickers for each bar are issued, and the lists and stickers are then given to the stock room.
In the stockroom, alcohol is kept in a separate locked area, complete with video cameras. The stock guys, then issue new bottles, check them off the list, and put a sticker on each bottle for the bar where it is to be delivered. The bar guy then picks up the new bottles and delivers them around the property to the various bars. The inventory is updated by the stock guys, and any new orders are placed as needed. Pretty interesting process, and it allows tight controls to be placed on liquor. I was somewhat shocked to learn that the average beverage cost per guest per day was less than US$6.00! But I suppose that counts all kids and non-drinkers as well. The control control manager said she implemented a similar process for wine at another resort and the wine costs were reduced dramatically. Things not accounted for tend to have a tendency to disappear!
A chicken delivery truck came in towards the end of my visit, and 30-40 massive bags of chicken were delivered, and cross checked against the original order, and the bill of sale from the truck driver. Each bag was weighed and adjusted, and a “meat tag” was stapled to each by cost control. Security was also on head to double check everything and make sure it was in agreement. The chicken was then rolled off to the storeroom where a separate freezer is there just for poultry. I was told this was a small delivery, about one third of normal, due to it being a weekend. The resort goes through a LOT of chicken….wow! I was also surprised to learn daily food costs per guest were around US$16.
So again, if one estimates a daily rate paid by guests, the average occupancy, and then major cost centers like food & bev, housekeeping, etc, It wouldn’t be too hard to get a handle on finances.
Spent the second half of day three “on the job” with the Sales department. I walked in as they were preparing to deliver a birthday experience for a guest, so I jumped in and assisted as we took a cake and sparkling juice “champagne” for a little girl’s birthday. We proceeded to decorate the room, and they really went above an beyond to deliver a great experience for this guest, even though the revenue for such was only $65. There is definitely a very engrained customer service focus in the Sandals corporate culture, and it makes sense given that they get a LOT of repeat business.
Still, after spending over an hour on delivering this, I was a bit perplexed as to how this had anything to do with “Sales”. The two of us students who were there tried to ask a number of questions on the sales front, but really got sort of stonewalled and didn’t get much information.
They do have a strong relationship with travel agents, and their whiteboard had a list of a dozen or so travel agents who were also on property during the time of our visit. Agents can earn points towards trips by selling their clients into Sandals properties, and the company also runs occasional “familiarization” or “fam” trips to properties. Butch Stewart was always a big advocate of developing close relationships with major travel agencies, something that continues to this day.
Still, we couldn’t get much info on their in house sales activities, pricing, or sales mix, which was rather disappointing. I was also not allowed to meet with their finance people due to the sensitive nature of the private company’s information. I suppose this makes sense, but for someone wanted to learn about the operational side of the business, this was a major bummer not to get to look behind the curtain. I’m hoping maybe in the future, that perhaps under NDA, grad students might be allowed to look at some of this information. It would be extremely interesting. That said, if one paid enough attention to the information learned from many other departments and through general observation, it wouldn’t be too difficult to make some educated estimates of the resort’s financial performance.
This was a quick half day visit in this department, which was good, because our host manager moved quickly through all the functions of her department. While not mentioned in the department title, licensing was a function for this office, and boy oh boy, do they have to deal with a lot of them – at least twenty different licenses required to run this sort of resort in Jamaica. From a hotel license, food service, liquor, the waterpark, the beaches, watersports, and on and on went the list. Some federal, some parish, some local. While the U.S. has a fair number of licenses to contend with it seems like Jamaica has even more, some of which seem more for the purpose of generating revenue for government than for actually protecting guests or the public.
The environmental piece is somewhat limited, but growing. Sandals/Beaches adheres to Earthcheck certification, and many of Sandals resorts have been master certified (15 years+), including the Beaches resort we stayed at. There is a nominal effort towards recycling, namely plastic and paper, and specifically in the back office operation, as opposed to a guest-facing efforts to recycle. Some housekeepers make an effort to fish recyclables from guest trash, and more effort will be made soon on that front. The Beaches resort doesn’t use renewable energy, in large part due to the fact that the property is leased from an insurance company as opposed to all other Sandals property that is owned by the company. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense to make the investment in something you don’t own.
As far as the safety aspect of the department, any “incidents” that take place get reported to the department for follow up and mitigation. I guess my flipping the little sailboat and having to get rescued didn’t qualify (in my defense, I flipped it once and was able to right it and get sailing again, but the second time, it just got too waterlogged and wouldn’t drain).
And lastly, health, is always a big concern whenever you have a bunch of people clustered together, like at a resort. Add to that, buffet style food, and it’s definitely a big deal to stay on top of any health issues. During Covid, the department has a HUGE amount to deal with, including monitoring all quarantined guests, making sure they were fed and entertained, and being vigilant on testing. Sandals Covid policy was quite generous. Anyone who got Covid during their stay, was allowed to remain in their rooms free of charge during quarantine AND they received an entire matching free vacation for the same length of their original booking! The Company has a similar policy for any guests disrupted by a hurricane.
Just a few other tidbits from this department (pun intended), food waste is donated free to local pig farmers, who use to to feed their animals, and it has been proven that those animals are far healthier than others feed with typical feeds. Paper scrap is donated to a local company for recycling.
Midweek, between shadowing sessions, we got to take a day off to go on a few excursions. The first was a catamaran ride out of Sandals Ocho, where we had a chance to go snorkeling, before the group climbed 980 ft Dunns River Falls, a cascading waterfall that enables you to actually climb right through falls and pools to the top, through a rainforeat. We then returnes with food, drink, and music to Sandals. After a short break at Beaches, we the loaded up a bus and headed back to Montego Bay to the Bioluminescent Bay, where we swan is a shallow bay teaming with microscopic life that lights up in the dark when you move around in the water. Very cool!￼￼
For the first day and a half in Jamaica, I shadowed Chief Anglin, the department head of engineering and maintenance. The number of systems and services they have to maintain within the Beaches Resort is pretty amazing. The staff of 38 has to maintain supply inventory, pay vendors, and service water, sewer, generators, water heaters, the cooling/ AC system, kitchen equipment, a water park, roofing, and any number of other systems throughout the resorts. Meanwhile, they have experts who are room techs, electricians, plumbers, stove experts, refrigeration/AC techs, tile/flooring, carpentry and more while also paying outside vendors who do things like painting, scaffolding, roof repairs, etc. They also have to hop to it for every guest request that comes in. While we have been here, a guest grabbed a bathtub faucet trying to get out the the tub, snapping the pipe inside the wall and flooding several rooms below. Then, an electrical transformer by the water park caught fire in the middle of the night and they had to hustle to check out their panel after the utility made repairs in time to open the park by 10am. It’s a constant state of chaos, and they have to respond to any and all issues while also keeping up a regular schedule of maintenance and repairs which trying to stay within a budget. It’s a function not for the faint of heart!
Arrived down in the island yesterday late afternoon from Ft. Lauderdale. Largely uneventful trip save for thinking I left my cell phone behind. After a wasted trip to look for it, it turned out it slipped into a hidden compartment in my backpack. Oops!
Last night was my fifth night in a row sleeping in a different place, after a three day cycling trip with friends down the NE Coast of Florida, en route to FLL. A little road weary after all that yesterday, but finally caught up a bit on sleep.
Today will be tours and our first shifts working with Beaches/Sandals. Should be interesting to look behind the curtain to see how they operate.
Hospitality in the Caribbean is made possible through a partnership with Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts by Sandals, Sandals Foundation, and Sandals Corporate University. We appreciate the generous donation of time & resources from the Sandals Teams, including our alumnus & CEO of Sandals Resorts, Adam Stewart ’03.