This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

The General Manager Of Raes On Wategos Scored Her Dream Job, In Everyone's Dream Location

Dream Job

Francesca Webster wasted no time entering the working world. At exactly 14 years and 9 months old she landed a dishwasher job at her local cafe, kick-starting her career in hospitality.

Half her life later, and Francesca is now the bubbly and exuberant General Manager of Raes on Wategos in Byron Bay – one of Australia’s most iconic boutique hotels. With year-round sunshine and a surf break as her morning wake up call, this blissful professional setting seems almost too good to be true! We caught up with Francesca to quiz her on her day-to-day and whether this really is the dream job. (Spoiler: It is!)

20th March, 2020

The iconic, beautiful, Raes on Wategos. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

I would like to live her please! Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

Francesca Webster. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

Checking in with heads of departments is the only part of Francesca’s job that’s the same every day. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

Every room is filled with light and Moorish architecture. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

The restaurant. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

An art-filled corner. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

Treasures on display. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

The team! Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

Tasting menus with the head chef. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

A definite perk of the job…. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

An eye for detail is crucial at all times. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

Poolside refreshments. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

We dare you to find a better looking workplace! Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.

Sasha Gattermayr
Friday 20th March 2020

‘People often assume the luxury hotel landscape is all glitz and glamour. But the reality of it is that it’s hard work 365 days a year 24/7.’ – Francesca Webster

If there was anywhere in the world that Dirty Dancing could occur in 2020, it would definitely be Raes on Wategos. There’s something about its bleached white towers and serene subtropical setting that conjures up the same perfume of magical summer romance as Kellermann’s Resort. But instead of Patrick Swayze, Francesca Webster brings the harmony and sophistication to this Byron Bay institution.

As the General Manager of Raes, Francesca is responsible for ensuring every aspect of a guest’s experience runs smoothly, from arrival to check-out. The cool, composed and smooth pace of the hotel’s reputation is entirely her responsibility to maintain! This involves co-ordinating a large number of staff, checking in on guests throughout the day and constantly being one step ahead.

A natural skill for anticipating every need makes Francesca so good at what she does. Her job requires her to be switched on and extraordinarily professional every minute of the day. And though being simultaneously charming and efficient ALL the time sounds easy (not), it’s a special and underrated combination. Like a duck swimming on a lake, Francesca must look composed at all times, regardless of whatever frantic paddling is going on underneath.

A reverence for old-fashioned service in an Airbnb economy is what makes Francesca so impressive. After polishing off a commerce degree with majors in marketing and international business (and a spell working abroad in Bologna!) Francesca honed her experience in the luxury services industry at the Park Hyatt in Sydney, where she started in the communications team, and quickly learnt the ins-and-outs of operating a large luxury hotel. But, it was a personal trip to Halcyon House in Cabarita Beach which really piqued her interest in boutique, designer, service-savvy hotels.

Turns out, coveting a workplace gets results! Francesca spent two years working at Halcyon House as their Relationships and Lifestyle Manager, where she met two of Australia’s contemporary aesthetic wunderkinds – Tamsin Johnson and Lucy Folk. It was recommendations from each of these designers that landed her the job at Raes in 2017 and the rest – as they say – is history.

The most important verb in the get-your-dream-job lexicon is…

Tenacity. Anything worth having doesn’t come easy.

A typical day for me involves…

There is no typical day in a hotel! However, the morning is when I have more routine and structured ‘me’ time. I like to start my day by either getting to the top of the lighthouse, going to pilates at Hustl or joining our guests at any of our in-house wellness activities (like yoga on the terrace!). Naturally, followed by an ocean swim at Wategos or the pass, then coffee.

Breakfast in the dining room is a great time to check in on guests, how they slept, if there is anything we can change (or add) in the room to make them more comfortable or assist with plans for the day. It’s also a nice opportunity for me to introduce myself to those I haven’t met yet. Then I write welcome cards for those guests due to arrive that day.

The rest of the day will always involve a catch up (collectively or one-on-one) with each head of department from our guest experience manager, head chef, dining room manager, spa manager and housekeeping manager. We are a tight-knit bunch and our communication is key. They drive our front-line staff and it’s empowering to work beside individuals who all share the same vigour and passion for the property! Our short- and long-term goals are reviewed daily and we make a point of sitting down and discussing any positive or negative feedback every day.

Aside from catch ups with our management, we brief all departments and every staff member on shift at specific times of the day, so I attend all briefings when I can as they’re pivotal to shaping the Raes experience! In all briefings, we discuss guest preferences, previous visits, upcoming occasions, even down to how they like their coffee in the morning or the glass of pinot they enjoyed last time they stayed with us. The briefings across all departments enable us to speak the same language, and our guests feel catered to in an unobtrusive, comfortable and luxurious way.

It’s hard to place me at any one time, I am sometimes in the kitchen with Jason testing his menus, in the cellar bar chatting to guests, inspecting suites with Laure (our guest experience manager), by the pool with David (our housekeeping manager) and sometimes even on the roof!

The most rewarding part of my job is…

Raes as a project has been an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding journey. Without a doubt, watching my staff interact with guests in such a genuine but professional way is what is most rewarding for me. And what I am most proud of!

On the other hand, the most challenging aspect is…

People often assume the luxury hotel landscape is all glitz and glamour. But the reality of it is that it’s hard work 365 days a year 24/7. Interestingly though, the pursuit of ultimate guest satisfaction can be challenging when there is no cookie-cutter experience. Humans are innately unique with differing opinions, expectations and experiences, so being able to forecast and satisfy all of these expectations across all of the hotel touchpoints can be challenging. But this is at the core of what I do! Striving to hit all those limitless satisfaction thresholds is what makes my job so dynamic and diverse every day.

The culture of my workplace is…

Passionate. We all believe very strongly in what we do and at the centre of it all, is a talented team! From our interior designer to our Sommelier, Housekeepers, each have their own unique talent that they are passionate about. This culture in the staff is often what guests say they love most – witnessing people doing what they love, working hard and experiencing the rewards by making the guests happy.

When I was growing up I wanted to be…

Bizarrely, a figure skater!

The best piece of advice I’ve received is…

Surround yourself with people who want the best for you. Motivation breeds motivation. Positivity breeds positivity.

In the next five years, I’d like to…

Oversee the growth of the Raes brand beyond Wategos Beach. Asserting ourselves as an industry leader of high-end, genuine and unique experiences across many properties and continents. I also see Raes being able to pave the way for a ‘hotel chain’ to diversify into many different offerings like a global concierge programme (having the Raes service at your fingertips no matter where in the world you may be, to find that perfect Italian Tuscan villa, hire a helicopter for you when you arrive in Monaco, or create and host a 2-day itinerary aboard Sea Raes on Sydney Harbour), event management and catering. The opportunities are limitless! The end goal would to be able to share, host and offer the Raes experience wherever in the world you may be. Watch this space!

My favourite part of the job is…

When you reach the perfect balance of guest and staff satisfaction. This happens when you give your staff the platform and tools to perform, grow or learn within their roles, and it inspires the same level of satisfaction guests get from the actual hotel experience. That’s the sweet spot and my favourite part of what I do.

This Week

Studio Visit

Charlotte Alldis Is Making Art To Strengthen A Sense Of Belonging

Unexpected colour combos and kooky characters crowd the canvas of this Melbourne-based painter!
Sasha Gattermayr
2:34

Home Goals

Sophie & Dale Vine Share Their Home Renovation In Geelong

Sophie and Dale Vine talk us through their slow and steady DIY home renovation, in partnership with Bendigo Bank.

Food

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Blackberry And Apple Cake

This divine, rustic cake is the remedy we need right now - a comforting treat to warm our hearts, and remind us to slow down.
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Architecture

A Melbourne CBD Apartment That Embraces Its Industrial History

Melanie Beynon and Megan Hounslow strip back an 1870s Melbourne apartment back to its roots.

Stays

This Charming 1850s Property Is Daylesford’s Newest Boutique Accommodation

Stay in one of three enchanting properties at Poets Lodge Daylesford.

Architecture

A Revitalised ‘50s Home in Sydney’s Lane Cove

What does a young family do when they’ve outgrown their beloved home? While some say move, Those Architects say improve!

Homes

An Early ‘80s Home With Good Vibes

Jessica Tremp and Michael Madden share their family's late modernist home in Victoria's Macedon Ranges.

Similar Stories

Dream Job

How Lucy Folk's Marketing Manager Landed Her Dream Job

Gemma Leslie spills the beans on what its like working at one of Australia's coolest companies.

Dream Job

The Perks Of Being a Food Writer, According To One Of Australia’s Top Restaurant Critics!

Senior restaurant critic at The Age, Gemima Cody, shares what it's really like to be a food writer.

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Annie Portelli, TDF's Art Director

From shooting homes to managing major projects, our very own Annie Portelli shares her typical day!

This Week

Shopping

Shop The Chunky, Colourful Furniture You’ve Seen All Over The Internet

Meet the tradie brothers behind FEARON, who have been making quirky, must-have furniture that blends fun with functionality!
Christina Karras

Homes

An Owner-Designed Renovation Of A 1970s South Yarra Apartment

How designers Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen completely transformed their South Yarra apartment in just six months.

On The Market

A Rare Robin Boyd House Is Available To Rent

You could be the next tenant of this house, designed by Australia's most famous architect.

Creative People

A Noosa Design Studio's Chic New Office, Inside A Former 80s Club

CLO Studios' have transformed an old music club into their dreamy new office space, and it's filled with eclectic design inspiration!
Christina Karras

Interiors

An Off-Grid, Modern Country Farmhouse In Regional Victoria

Step inside a newly built farmhouse that's fully off the grid, with all the classic features of an old country home.
Christina Karras
  3 hours ago

Interiors

Before + After: A Dated Brick Home Turned Coastal Holiday Pad

Dark timber and dated tiles have been replaced with light and bright interiors in this Mornington Peninsula beach house.
Christina Karras

Sustainable Homes

How An Architect Turned This 1930s Bungalow Into A Sustainable Family Haven

Architect Emily Sandstrom's warm family home runs off solar power, with a vegetable garden and impressive entertaining area hidden inside!
Christina Karras

Design Eye

How to Create Fun + Playful Interiors, With Studio Joy’s Kristel Marshall

The Melbourne designer shares how to balance minimalism and maximalism with playful colours and bold furniture – in a way that won't date!...
Christina Karras

Homes

A Cosy Retro Rental In Melbourne’s North West

Dog lovers Michelle Campbell and Katy Louise share their warm and welcoming rented home in Maidstone.

Creative People

How Powerhouse Designer, Yuwaalaraay Woman Lucy Simpson Is Making Waves

How the Sydney based designer weaves stories of Country and culture into her collaborations with leading brands, such as JAG and Breville.
Jirra Lulla Harvey

Art

9 Unmissable Exhibitions To See In 2023!

From NGV's Alexander McQueen exhibition, to a showcase of Frida Kahlo's works, here are the must-see exhibitions of the coming year.
Christina Karras
  11 hours ago

Studio Visit

Dani McKenzie’s Detailed Paintings Look Like Familiar Photographs

The Melbourne artist recreates local streetscapes and everyday scenes, filled with intimate reminders of our own inner-worlds.
Christina Karras

Family

Journalist Nas Campanella On Parenting With Blindness + Building Disability Awareness

How ABC journalist Nas Campanella navigates motherhood as a person living with blindness and Charcot-Marie-Tooth.

Art

10 Emerging, Affordable Artists You Need To Have On Your Watchlist!

From ethereal still lifes to striking ceramic work, and meticulous soft pastel drawings, these are the artists to start collecting now!

Architecture

A Brazilian-Inspired Update Of A 1920s Brisbane Cottage

Bowen by Shaun Lockyer Architects elevates a 1920s cottage with a stunning renovation and addition.

Similar Stories

Dream Job

How Lucy Folk's Marketing Manager Landed Her Dream Job

Gemma Leslie spills the beans on what its like working at one of Australia's coolest companies.

Dream Job

The Perks Of Being a Food Writer, According To One Of Australia’s Top Restaurant Critics!

Senior restaurant critic at The Age, Gemima Cody, reveals what it's really like to be a food writer.

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Annie Portelli, TDF's Art Director

From shooting homes to managing major projects, our very own Annie Portelli shares her typical day!

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net