Danny Connell, Knightsbrook Hotel

Danny Connell, Knightsbrook Hotel

One Minute You Could Be Serving Guests, the Next You Could Be Saving Someone’s Life

Danny Connell hit the headlines in 2017 when he saved the life of a guest while he was working in Rococo Restaurant in Knightsbrook Hotel, Trim. Now Duty Manager at the hotel, he was named the Irish Hotels Federation Employee of the Year 2018. He tells Get a Life in Tourism about
his career in hospitality.

I didn’t have a clue about what I wanted to do when I finished school. I played a lot of sport, particularly Gaelic and soccer – so I began a Diploma in Leisure and Sport Management at DIT. It wasn’t the right choice for me though, and after a lot of soul searching I dropped out just before my exams in second year. It was a hard decision to make but it was the right one.

At the time, I was working part-time as a waiter in Rococo restaurant in Knightsbrook Hotel and I asked for full-time hours while I decided what to do next. I began working in the hotel when I was 19 and I found waiting very daunting at first. I was quite shy so it was scary talking to customers. The turning point came when I started working full- time. I took the job more seriously and as I worked hard to get better at it, I began to enjoy it more.
It gave me a buzz to look after guests and I loved having a positive impact on their experience. It’s a great feeling knowing that you have helped people enjoy their night.

Travel Opportunities

After 18 months an opportunity came up to work in the US, so I packed my bags and headed to Florida where I spent the winter waiting tables 
in a country club in North Palm Beach. It was an incredible experience and the following summer I travelled to Nantucket to work in another country club. That’s the great thing about working in hospitality – there is plenty of scope to travel.

Although I had another job lined up in the States when the season finished in Nantucket, I decided to come home on the spur of the moment. I began working in The Morrison in Dublin but the commute from Trim was hard going so I got back in touch with Knightsbrook Hotel. I grew up locally and I’ve always loved this place. I’ve spent a lot 
of time here over the years, both as a customer celebrating family occasions and as a member of staff, so it felt good to return.

I jumped straight back into waiting in the restaurant and within two months I was promoted to team leader. I enjoyed the extra responsibility and so when I was offered the role of Duty Manager in the hotel a few months later I was thrilled. It’s such an interesting job – you’re there to support all the different departments in the hotel so you go where you are needed each day. You could be managing queues in reception during busy check-in periods, helping out in the bar, or responding to guest emails. Every day is different so you’re never bored. I love the way you get to experience all sides of the business.

15 Minutes of Fame

My 15 minutes of fame came while I was working as team leader in Rococo restaurant. One of our guests approached me and I quickly realised 
she was choking – she was blue in the face! Fortunately the hotel had sent me on a first aid course just two weeks previously so I knew what to do. I was able to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on her without even thinking about 
it and thankfully it worked. It was a terrifying moment and although I tried to remain outwardly calm so as not to distress her even further, I was shaking afterwards. I recommend that everyone does a first aid course; you never know when you might need it.

What really surprised me was all the media coverage we received afterwards. The guest tweeted about what happened and all the major newspapers got in touch, and researchers from one famous radio show even turned up 
at the hotel looking to do an interview. I was uncomfortable with the attention to be honest,
I prefer to stay out of the limelight, but I was delighted when the Irish Hotels Federation chose to present me with the Employee of the Year Award at their Annual Conference in the Slieve Russell Hotel. It was the first year of the award and I think it’s great that the Federation chose to present it to a young person at the start of their career. The award means a lot to me and I think it is a great thing to have on my CV.

Career Plan

I’m really enjoying learning about the different departments of the hotel while I work as Duty Manager. My ideal role is Food & Beverage Director, where you are in charge of the different foodservice departments of a hotel, including the restaurant, bar, banqueting and so on. I love dealing with customers and the food side of the business really interests me. I’m currently undertaking the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level Two exams and I plan to return to college at some stage to study Hospitality Management at night. Although college wasn’t right for me the first time
I do feel it is important to get formal qualifications. I think they will be beneficial as I work towards my dream of becoming a general manager of a hotel one day.

I was delighted when the Irish Hotels Federation chose to present me with the Employee of the Year Award at their Annual Conference... It means a lot to me and I think it is a great thing to have on my CV

I feel very lucky; a lot of my friends still don’t know what they want to do with their careers but I have definitely found my place in hospitality. This kind of job develops you. It does wonders
for your confidence and it has certainly helped me personally. It’s not right for everyone – you either adapt or you don’t – and it’s hard work,
but you’ll find that if you love it there are so many opportunities available to you. You can rise up the ranks and become a manager quickly, you can travel the world, and who knows? One day you could even find yourself saving someone’s life!

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career optionsCarol Bergin