Issue link: http://digital.copcomm.com/i/793596
march 2017 / the tasting panel / 71 J amie Hamilton has a passion for hospitality and the service industry. It began when she was 16 as a hostess in Hood River, Oregon. During her career in hospitality, she has worked as a hostess, receptionist, restaurant server, cocktail/bottle service server, bartender, events coordinator and manager. These positions taught her industry-specific expectations and how to effectively communicate with staff members and customers alike. At the age of 33, Jamie is currently Assistant General Manager at The Warwick, a high-volume, multi-million- dollar nightclub/lounge in the heart of Hollywood. We recently met at The Warwick in Los Angeles to talk about how Jamie balances the high energy of the night- club scene with a focus on hospitality and customer service. Tricia Carr: Jamie, you are a very centered person, someone who prioritizes personal development and spiritual balance, and you are a manager of a nightclub! Can you tell me your perspective on how someone like yourself stays grounded and bal- anced while working in an industry that is relatively extreme? Jamie Hamilton: Yes, it's true; a nightclub can present an intense vibe, but even so, I try to bring a lighter note to it. I try to bring a fuller presence to that atmosphere. We have busy lives as profes- sionals, hospitality and spirits industry most definitely included! What advice would you give to busy industry professionals about finding the time for self-care and personal development? Actually, I think that you don't have time to do anything else. Everything else should be on pause until you take time to get to that centered place. Otherwise, you will be reacting to all the things that are outside of yourself. You don't want to be in reaction to day-to-day circumstances. You want to be coming from a full heart. Take time to connect with yourself and then move forward into your day from that place. You really care about your custom- ers at The Warwick, functionally speaking. You consider it a personal responsibility to manage their experi- ence. Tell me about how you execute this responsibility. Being in a nightclub setting, there is a hazard of people becoming too intoxicated. I feel like I need to be there to protect people; not in a manner of saying, "No, you can't do that," but in a way that if they are getting too deep, I am there to protect them. I can help them find their friends or keep them physically safe from injury. But I also keep track of the energy of the room and make sure it doesn't get chaotic. We adjust the music to influ- ence the emotional tone of the room, for example. Music really affects how people feel, so we will make sure we fluctuate it to keep the mood in a sweet spot. We want to keep it in the safe zone of fun. Also, I'm constantly considering my staff, because they are in the line of fire and can get emotionally overwhelmed. Basically, I try to help everyone stay as grounded as possible in the environment. Speaking of staff in the hospitality and spirits industry, wouldn't you say that pretty much everyone is a sensitive and creative type of person? Yes, absolutely. It is not an easy position to be in service to anyone or anything. When offering your service and trying to help people, especially at times when a customer is not respect- ing you, it is really important to hold on to your integrity. You can't take on the situation; you have to go at it from a good place. I believe that hospitality is a place where a lot of spirituality can be experienced, and we don't even realize it. You're going out with your friends and you're connecting; your hearts are connecting, you look into each other's eyes and you're creating this ambiance and presence just to be with each other. So having a staff that can support that and realize that they are doing some- thing for the greater good for all of us is important, because it nurtures our souls to be together in this way. A lot of times in Los Angeles, hospitality professionals have other career interests, so this work takes a second seat. Society may tell them that this work isn't important or impressive, but it means so much. I try to help my staff bring that intention into a shift by putting an encouraging message in the pre-shift meeting. We develop a trust between the venue and the customer. This is more fulfilling for the staff and for the customer. Speaking of balance, how fine a line is it between celebration and acting out or escapism? It is different for every person, so I come from a neutral place of non- judgment. I can't possibly know where they're coming from, so I just do my best to meet them where they are and facilitate their happiness, if I can. That is generally the goal of going to a nightclub, to feel happy, right? Yes. It is like a fantasy world. You want to be taken away to this place with opulent, beautiful and wealthy people . . . where everyone is having fun. That's the dream. It's not always like that, but we try to create that as much as possible. We're in a tense social/political climate, and the industry we work in can be very intense. Do you have any more tips or advice to hospitality professionals for staying balanced? For me, meditation is the key. I think meditation is great for people in this industry, because you don't need anything to meditate. Being able to sit with your breath helps you to connect to the essence that we all are, but we forget that when we are engaged in the hectic aspects of daily living and working. Developing that connection to our essence gives us the power to see that in other people; we develop more compassion for others, and it is as easy as just sitting there quietly. It is important for hospitality professionals to always remember that we are providing a heart-centered experience. We provide the food, drink and/or atmosphere for people by which they will commune with their family and friends. Never let that part go, because it is meaningless if you do let go of that piece.