There is very little chance that any of the big 5 stars hotels will be going bust anytime soon, restaurants on the other hand open and disappear overnight. Without a doubt there is more job security when working for a big 5 star hotel provided your good at what you do.
There should only one reason for anyone to visit a restaurant, right? The restaurant should be selected simply by the food, by what they have heard or read or because you love a style of cuisine or restaurant concept.
You don’t visit restaurants for strenuous business meetings, presentations, weddings or to get a room for the night. You go to a restaurant with clear intentions to eat, drink and enjoy yourself. This generally means guests who frequent quality restaurants vs good hotels made a conscious decision that they want to be in your restaurant, for the food.
Unfortunately I have worked with chefs that can barley cook, with no interest or passion for food but are employed because “they are great with the guests”. Introverted, wild personalities are generally frowned upon as hotels have that pubic image issue again. In restaurants many chefs won’t even talk with guests or walk the tables every evening. It’s all about the food, not the guests and the guests have come for the food, not for recognition or a chat. All that being said I believe both can learn form each other, hotels should let their chefs be chefs and restaurant chefs should take a little time to meet and empathize with more of their guests.
In hotels you have managers for managers and then another manager for the manager of the managers. Basically original ideas are only permitted once everyone has looked at it, commented on it, adjusted it and passed it on. Usually once the idea has fought though the complicated approval process it emerges disfigured and sterilized, a flatter version of its former-self, no longer original.
The top heavy management structure is important for hotels as there is so many moving parts. Not only one restaurant serving a la carte but multiple restaurants, multiple cuisine styles, event spaces, bars, in room dining and outside catering. In Hotels the top heavy management is also a blessing in disguise, as it gives chefs an insight into management that cant be experience in singular restaurants. It’s also a perfect opportunity to see hospitality politics in full swing. Once you have worked for a few years in five star hotel and return to freestanding restaurants your management skills should be a level 1000. All the rest becomes easy and now you can really just focus on making great food.
I have worked in Hotels where after years with the company I didn’t know many of my associates names, others I saw everyday but had no idea what they were actually doing here. You are a team but only in the sense of the word, direct contact is fairly limited and you definitely don’t operate as a family unit. In restaurants its the opposite, you learn more about each other than you would actually like.
Creativity is craved and feared by hotels. They want something new and amazing but are also extremely self conscious about their public image. It needs to be just the right amount of “crazy” that is easily rolled out to the masses and can be simply explained to the managers of the managers. Also remember, hotels need comfort and creativity, guests have certain expectations when staying at five star hotels and comfort is luxury, not creativity.
Also let’s face it the Hotel structure itself is not a very creative environment for chefs, too much structure, too many other departments, too many egos, too sterile and very restrictive. But if you can find the balance, stroke all the egos and have a little time for creativity your money, reach and recourses will be far greater in the hotel industry. Otherwise you sit back and see what the restaurants guys will come up with next.