A HUGE Hotel, restaurant responsibilities all in Nashville-
Meet John Campbell, Food & Beverage Manager at the Gaylord Opryland Resort
(let's all go for a visit!)
Unfortunately, my Teacher Treks did not take me to Nashville, but John took time out to detail his road to his current career in Tourism and Hospitality Management
CCHS Class of 2008
Temple University/Class of 2012/Tourism and Hospitality Management
What was your first career job after graduation?
My first position in hospitality was as a Food & Beverage Supervisor at the Renaissance Philadelphia Airport hotel. Prior to this I had zero food and beverage experience but thought this would be a great way to get my foot in the door. Little did I know that 5 years later I’d still be rocking it in the Food and Beverage department!
Did you work in another field before that?
Prior to the Renaissance I had held internships with the front office of the W Hotel Retreat and Spa in Vieques, Puerto Rico as well as in Sales and Marketing with the Philadelphia 76ers. Throughout college I held a position with Temple University Campus Recreation. Although none of these are directly related to food and beverage I gained valuable experience that has helped me along the way.
At the time of this writing I am not sure of your major, so I will ask if there were any specific classes applied to what you are doing now?
Temple’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management is a very hands on program. As a student you are required to participate in industry related events. A junior internship, senior internship and industry hours are all required for you to graduate. Because a lot of my daily responsibilities are in the operation and can’t be taught in a classroom it was very important to get that industry experience throughout college.
On top of the internships I took classes in Business Law, Marketing, Sales, Accounting, etc. Working in hospitality it’s important to have well rounded business knowledge since many of the responsibilities cover all of these areas.
What is your current position? Where are you located?
I am currently a Food and Beverage Manager at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. It is a part of the Marriott family and is the largest non-casino hotel in the United States with 2,882 rooms. The hotel as a whole is a beast and is unlike anywhere I have ever worked before. We serve thousands of people every single day in our 19 food and beverage outlets.
What are your responsibilities?
I am responsible for managing 5 restaurants in the hotel. I specialize in our Quick Service outlets which include two coffee shops, a pizzeria, a burger restaurant and a dessert outlet. My responsibilities include leading and initiating all of the food and beverage operations, menu development and food preparation, analyzing financial reports for restaurant revenue and budgeting, and developing strategies to increase revenue and guest service satisfaction.
Every single day is different based on what types of conventions or groups we have in house.
Was it mandatory to move for this job or was moving something you were seeking?
Moving wasn’t necessarily something I was seeking but this wasn’t an offer that I could pass on. Prior to the Opryland I was working as a Food and Beverage Supervisor at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown which was a 1,408 room hotel. My previous Director had transferred to the Opryland and let me know about an opportunity to join their team. I couldn’t pass on the chance to work in one of the largest hotels in the world. A luxury of working for Marriott International is that I have the opportunity to work anywhere in the world.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is the opportunity to work with so many people. In my department we have employees from all over the world; Thailand, China, Nepal, Egypt, Uzbekistan, etc. Working with so many different people allows me to learn about other countries and cultures. It adds a dynamic to your management style and how you coach and train people.
Each year we bring in students from other countries to work with us for 4-12 months at a time. We’ve had students from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Thailand, South Africa, India and Malaysia. During their time with us we will host cultural events to show them the fun and exciting aspects of the United States and also give them a chance to showcase different parts of their culture. This year we celebrated the Chinese New Year, threw a 4th of July barbeque and celebrated India’s Independence Day. These students take a big risk coming to a foreign country to learn so it is very rewarding to make them feel at home while they’re here.
What are some challenges?
The biggest challenges come from the sheer amount of volume our hotel sees. We will have times where there are over 15,000 people in the hotel at one time and we’ll have to feed all of them. When we know we’ll be having a large convention of that size we’ll be proactive and plan ahead by adjusting operating hours of the restaurants or host pop up restaurants to give additional options to the guests. Lots of planning goes into this to ensure that we’re giving our customers the best experience possible.
And some perks?
Flexibility is a huge perk. Working with Marriott gives you the opportunity to work anywhere in the world. With this job you can work in all different sized hotels, different departments and different cities without leaving the company.
The Opryland does tons of really cool events too. During the holidays we have A Country Christmas. There are so many Christmas lights that they begin decorating in August. We have an event center that is turned into an ice exhibit. Chinese artisans are flown in to carve two million pounds of ice into different themes. Last year it was Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and this year it will be a Charlie Brown Christmas. Hotel room discounts are a nice perk too!!
Have you met any celebrities in your hotels?
I have! While working in Philly we were the host hotel for Comic Con so I was able to meet the cast of The Walking Dead, Lou Ferrigno and Ralph Macchio. I actually had to tell Daryl, Merle, Hershel and Shane from The Walking Dead that they couldn’t smoke cigars on the patio portion of our restaurant. Being a fan of the show, that was definitely one of the toughest things I’ve had to do in my career!
Here at Opryland we hosted the MLB Winter Meetings and College Football Coaches conference. During those conventions there are big time general managers and coaches floating around. We served Nick Saban, James Franklin, Matt Rhule and Brian Kelly in my restaurants. Pretty cool being a big college football fan!
Is the job you are performing now your ultimate goal or is there something else to which you aspire?
I’m always looking to improve myself and gain more experience. When I first arrived in Nashville I was in charge of 3 of the restaurants. Since then I’ve added two more and we’re currently in the process of opening a 6th outlet. I am always looking for new challenge or opportunities. I’d also like to become more knowledgeable in other departments in the hotel too. I want to be well-rounded in all aspects of the business.
Do you have any advice for high school students who have an interest in your field?
Get the experience! When I am interviewing candidates for jobs I always look at relevant work experience on their resumes. As a high school or college student I strongly recommend working in the customer service field. Whether it be a server, bartender, front desk agent or a bell hop all of that is important in understanding how the industry works and how to deal with people. By doing this you will be giving yourself a head start into your career.
THANK-YOU, JOHN!!! HOPEFULLY I GET TO NASHVILLE..AND YOU REMEMBER YOUR HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH TEACHER!