The hospitality industry, and life in general, can be a tricky space to negotiate, but Stephen Hickmore, who has worked in the industry for far too many years, is here to help. Got a question for Stephen? Send them to and we’ll seek the sage, unbiased advice of our Agony Uncle. Questions and answers to appear on Hospitality Marketplace, but we’ll keep it all anonymous. We promise.

Each day I get asked many questions. Maybe it’s the white hair and longevity that makes people believe that I can be trusted with their concerns and dilemmas. Over the years I think I have heard it all, but no, I am surprised with new questions often. Part of the reason why I love this job. So, ask away, we will keep it confidential. Here are a few examples of questions I’ve been asked:

Dear Stephen,

I am feeling very scared. I witnessed my Food and Beverage manager loading two cases of wine into his car on Saturday after a function. He saw me and told me that if I said something he will make sure I am fired. I am an honest person and it is really working on my mind.

Is honesty the best policy?

This is a difficult dilemma. I understand that this is a little more complicated than simply reporting the incident to the GM as you are afraid of the repercussions. Start by writing a full statement with all the details of the event, including exact times. This will help you put into perspective exactly what you saw. Check to see if your company has an anonymous “whistle blowers” line. If they do I suggest you phone this line and give them as much detail as you can, they will give you a case number. I would suggest you take your written statement to a commissioner of oaths to date stamp it. If you do not have access to an anonymous reporting procedure you will need to report the incident to Human Resources or to your General Manager. Express your concern regarding repercussions and include the threat of dismissal as part of the evidence. The procedure is not easy, but it is up to all of us to stamp out theft and corruption within business.


Dear Stephen,

I work as a Butler with a large bank in their executive dining room. I was serving lunch and overheard a conversation about a profit warning. They said that the company is starting to feel the effects of the economic downturn and they may need to make some savings. I am worried – who should I talk to?

Should I be sharing this information?

Do not talk to anyone at all! This information is confidential and was not meant for you to hear. If you work in Executive dining you may have signed a confidentiality agreement but even if you have not, it is unethical to repeat what you have heard. Also, bear in mind that you only heard part of the conversation so may have misunderstood. Keep it to yourself.


Dear Stephen,

I work for a large hotel group in a small 4 star operation as a Front office manager. The company have offered me a transfer to a large 5 star hotel. The position is as Assistant Front Office Manager. I see this as a demotion and am not keen to have a drop in title.

Is this a demotion?

I find that hospitality industry people are overly concerned with titles. Sometimes a position with a lesser title can be a better career move. Moving to a larger more prestigious hotel could be exactly what your career needs. Lots more experience to be gained. I would say that a drop in title is a small price to pay for the eventual prospects you have with making the change. Think long-term and do not look at it as a demotion at all.

  • Stephen Hickmore
    Stephen Hickmore

    Stephen is a headhunter for the hospitality industry, and Co-founder of The Hospitality Solutions Company H.S.C. as well as Hickmore Recruitment. Stephen has a world of experience in hotels. He trained with Trusthouse Forte Hotels in the UK before moving to South Africa in the 80’s. After a 3 year period with Southern Sun Hotels, Stephen became a recruiter for the hospitality industry. Stephen presents and MC’s at many events and competitions. He has an insider view of the crazy world of hotels, and writes about anything from mad chefs to giving up the booze. His observations are at times educational, and at other times oblique.

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