Fredrikus Holtus, team leader for service at the casino restaurant, celebrated his 20th year at the company on 1 January. At Haniel he supervises service trainees, plans and organises events and looks after the wine stocks. In this interview, he tells us about his time at Haniel.
What was your life like before Haniel?
I grew up in the Netherlands and was lucky enough not to be called up for military service after finishing hotel management school. I wanted to use the time gained to gather international experience. So I went to Switzerland and starting work as a service trainee at a hotel in Davos. Over time, I was promoted to deputy head of service. I subsequently worked at several different hotels and restaurants in Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Recklinghausen and Ratingen. My dream was actually to become self-employed. But then when I worked as branch manager of a restaurant, I saw the risks and costs associated with self-employment. I was lucky again: I was able to end the dream of self-employment without having made any losses myself (laughs).
Why did you apply to Haniel?
Working in the hotel industry requires a great deal of flexibility. I didn’t want to spend my whole life just as a waiter. But to be successful in the hospitality industry, you need to gather a lot of experience. That means that you often change jobs and move to different places. As a bachelor that didn’t bother me, but when I started a family free time became more important and I longed to settle down somewhere and not to have to work late shifts six days a week.
And was this expectation fulfilled at Haniel?
Yes. The processes here are more regulated. I know far in advance when something is going to happen. That obviously makes it easier to plan. What’s more, I can practise my profession at a high level here – the way I learned it. With this job I have gained a degree of stability that I had not experienced before in the catering industry.
Is there more that sets Haniel apart from “normal” catering work?
The atmosphere here is characterised by respect, appreciation and friendliness. In the hotel industry I often felt that this respect for one another was lacking. It was generally dominated by an atmosphere that really beggars description. At Haniel, by contrast, a respectful attitude is considered a matter of course. I am surrounded by a very good team of long-standing employees that I can rely on. The relationship with the guests is also very cordial. I have even been invited to dinner (laughs). I also like that fact that I don’t work in a hundred-square-metre restaurant where I know my tables inside out and can always see if a chair is two centimetres out of place. Here I have a more varied environment and range of tasks: the restaurant, the Academy, the warehouse, the ship in the harbour. I really enjoy having several points of contact with the holding company. We are not just in our own little world, but rather we are part of a whole.
What has changed over the past 20 years?
The dynamism in my job really comes from the fact that no two days are ever alike. Something changes every day (laughs). In the meeting rooms and at the Academy, there are days when things get very turbulent. On other days, there may be a lot of special requests, for example. We have to constantly re-adapt in order to respond to what is currently required. This constant change is something I find exciting.
Have there been changes for you personally as well?
The professional and the personal developments are very closely related for me. My range of tasks is becoming increasingly different from that of a waiter. I now organise a great deal and set the course in advance. My motto is “staying still means moving backwards” – that’s why I’m always glad to take on new tasks and challenges. I have developed my computer skills here; without them I would be done for when it comes to planning and organising events. I have already participated in a number of seminars and smarties at the Academy. Two years ago, the management also gave me the opportunity to take a sommelier course. I spent seven weeks in Koblenz and learned a great deal about coffee, spirits and above all wine. There were also seminars on marketing, business administration and communication. Afterwards I completed internships at two vineyards. I have always found wine very interesting, but it was at Haniel that I really got into the topic in earnest.
Is there a situation that you remember particularly clearly?
I remember the fire at the Academy in 2002 well. A colleague called me on a Friday evening when I was already at home. I looked out of my window and saw the smoke. The next morning it was still smouldering. It was quite a dramatic situation that also affected my colleagues and me a great deal. None of us knew how bad the damage was or when the Academy would be rebuilt. Afterwards, there was initially chaos for a long time. Another situation I won’t forget so quickly was the wine auction last year. I was standing on a rostrum in front of 80 people – including Mr Haniel – and presented wines that were then put up for auction. I wanted to prepare intensively but there was so much to do that I hardly had any time for it. I pretty much came straight from my work, quickly wiped the sweat off my forehead and then I was up there on the microphone. That was a completely new experience for me and I was very nervous. Afterwards, of course, I was happy that I had successfully completed this personal challenge, too (laughs). Another highlight is all the Haniel family events, such as the Shareholders’ Meeting and the Youth Meeting.
What do you do in your spare time?
That’s another thing that makes my profession so enjoyable: my private interests overlap with my job at Haniel. I enjoy cooking in my spare time and I exercise a lot outdoors, walking and cycling. I also go to wine tastings and sometimes combine this with my holidays. At the moment I am extending my wine knowledge so that I can successfully complete the Master's level course “Sud de France Languedoc & Roussillon” in February. Wine simply fascinates me.
Can you recommend us a wine?
A couple of days ago I opened a Nero d’Avola from Sicily. It’s a full-bodied red wine with a wonderful complexity of different dark fruit aromas. It is stored in wooden barrels and has a slight hint of coffee and a subtle smoky aroma. I find it delicious and it’s also reasonably priced.