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Trials and treats

About five years ago, after working in the tourist industry for 30 years and after selling my second management rights, I felt qualified to offer my services as a relief manager.

One of the first calls I received was from a busy highway motel in North Queensland. Being a little green I didn’t ask many questions, I simply quoted my daily rate and arranged the dates. I arrived late afternoon after driving all day from Surfers Paradise and was quick to learn that this was just a little more than I had anticipated. It was an upmarket, very busy, 20-room motel with licensed restaurant catering mainly to business travelers on expense accounts.

I had a couple of hours’ briefing that evening and got a rather rude awakening when I became aware that I would be cooking and serving breakfast from 6.00 am and finishing after the restaurant closed around 11.00 pm. Wow! Could I handle that for two weeks?

I prepared all the trays late in the evening and sorted them into delivery times and lined them up on the stainless steel tables around the kitchen.

The first morning, the alarm sounded in the dark and I was now flying solo. I had 10 to 15 breakfasts to deliver between 6.00 am and 7.30 am. These were not just fried eggs on toast – no, the menu offered eggs cooked any way you chose, sausages, steak and kidney, bacon, tomatoes, choice of cereals (hot or cold) and a wide range of hot and cold drinks.

As well as delivering breakfast to the rooms, I was also cooking and serving for the restaurant customers and checking out guests. At 9.00 am the cleaners arrived. They started on the rooms and helped me with the massive kitchen clean up.

The rest of the day was punctuated by deliveries for the bar and restaurant, phone calls, early arrivals, pool maintenance, common area cleaning and washing of towels. The bar opened at 5.00 pm for happy hour, which I looked after together with the chef who was doing her prep from about four. I was usually very busy on the reception counter from late afternoon to mid-evening while at the same time taking orders and serving guests in the restaurant. After clean-up and breakfast prep, I collapsed into bed about 11 pm and reluctantly set the alarm to ring in six hours.

Such was one of my first relief manager experiences and almost cured me of my desire to continue offering my services.

But I am a slow learner and I let my ad run. After a few more jobs I was contacted by a resort on the Capricorn Coast – this engagement made up for my difficult beginning. I was flown to Rockhampton airport and picked up by the owners. This was an eight-story complex with an 80-seat licensed restaurant, live entertainment at night, reception staff, restaurant staff, handyman and tours departing every day in their own bus. A busy and exciting place to look after. The owners took off to Europe for a month and except for one incident, there was little for me to do except liaise with guests, balance the money and answer the phones at night.

At 5.00 am one morning all the fire alarms went berserk. I raced down the eight flights to the fire panel to locate the offending sensor. Half of the guests were made up of a tour group of 40 elderly ladies, who almost without exception were coming down in the lifts ignoring the large compulsory signs that advised not to use lifts in case of fire. There they were, all in their nighties, clutching their precious handbags and making their way past the fire-fighters across the road to the assembly area while excitedly chatting. The culprit who burnt his toast was spoken to and gradually the morning got back to normal.

In this relief manager business, there certainly are extremes!

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