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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.

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