George Brickhouse on Hospitality at Austin’s Four Seasons Hotel
Exposed: George Brickhouse
People of Austin Profile Series
by Katie Friel
Photograph by Leah Overstreet
George Brickhouse is the kind of man with whom even the Dali Lama feels a connection. After the legendary Four Seasons doorman greeted His Holiness, the Secret Service agent assigned to accompany the Dalai Lama returned to say how happy the monk was to meet him. “It tripped me out,” Brickhouse says, laughing.
Anyone who has walked through the doors of Austin’s Four Seasons Hotel understands what the Dalai Lama was feeling. For nearly two decades, Brickhouse has served as Austin’s unofficial ambassador, welcoming out-of-towners and locals alike with a mixture of friendliness and professionalism. In May, friends, colleagues, and locals organized a celebratory luncheon for Brickhouse on the lawn of the Four Seasons for no other reason than they just like him that much. “I have a lot of friends I don’t consider guests, I consider friends.”
A Wichita Falls native, Brickhouse landed in Austin when his first wife came to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Texas. Having worked in various service industry jobs in his hometown, Brickhouse eventually landed at the Renaissance Hotel where he quickly rose to the role of guest services manager.
After Brickhouse was named Austin’s best hotel employee in 1996, the Four Seasons came knocking. “Craig Reed was the general manager here, and he came over and said, ‘George, you have to come work at the Four Seasons.’ All they had was an overnight bellman .” He applied and five interviews later, Brickhouse landed the gig. Today he is as synonymous with the Four Seasons as the crunchy bar mix they serve with cocktails.
In addition to devoting his career to the service industry, Brickhouse is a devoted Christian, husband, father, and grandfather. When he remarried his second wife (they met while working in a hotel, naturally), Brickhouse inherited five stepchildren and, eventually, 17 grandchildren. Despite a busy home life, Brickhouse has no plans to retire. “I enjoy the service industry,” he explains. “I love the people, especially getting to know the people.”
What is the best part of your day?
I will come home … I’ll say, ‘Hola, baby!’ and say, ‘Hola!’ and I’ll give her a kiss. If she’s got her workout clothes on, I know we’re going to work out. Every time I come home, there is always something prepared and I always ask her how her day was. Then we’ll go workout, come home, and eat dinner.
Who is your hero?
My mom and my dad… I call my mom every day.
Leisure and hospitality services account for more than 100,000 jobs in Austin making it one of the top five industries in the city. What advice would you give to someone looking for a lasting career in the service industry?
Number one you have got to remember: it’s not about you. It’s not about you. If you can get past thinking it’s about you, you will get your focus and attention off of yourself and focus on the client and their needs. Don’t focus on the money — the money will come — focus on the client. Don’t worry if they’re angry or rude, you don’t know what they’re going through. You may be the one person who can help their day get a little bit better. You have to have a sense that you enjoy serving others cause that’s what we do.
Who is the most famous person you’ve met?
The Dalai Lama. So, the Secret Service brings him in, he comes up to me and asks, ‘Are you from Mexico?’ and I laughed and said, ‘No, I’m from right here in Texas.’ And we had a couple more words and the who was with him came back down and he asked, “George, what did you do man? The Dalai Lama, all he was talking about was you!”
I always tell people this: as long as the Four Seasons will have me, I will be here. There is a scripture that says, “If a man does not work, he should not eat.” And I stay hungry all the time.