Craig Bancroft, whose career has centred around being a charismatic mine host as he has gone about creating one of the UK’s most lauded regional hotels and nurturing the careers of others, has been named as the 2016 Hotelier of the Year.
The managing director of Northcote in Langho, Lancashire, was presented with his award at a celebratory lunch today at Soho Farmhouse, near Great Tew, Oxfordshire, by Amanda Afiya, editor of The Caterer, and Nick Appell of Casna Group, the award’s sponsor.
A judging panel – made up of past winners – praised Bancroft for his drive and tenacity in rising from kitchen porter to taking the industry’s coveted award. Along the way he, together with his business partner of more than 30 years, chef Nigel Haworth, have succeeded in establishing Northcote as an exemplary four red-AA-star hotel with four AA rosettes and one Michelin star.
The partnership has recently overseen a £7m redevelopment of the property, after investors Richard and Lynda Matthewman took a majority stake in the business. As a result, the hotel has grown to 26 bedrooms with a new restaurant, Louis Roederer private dining room, bar, cookery school and kitchen.
In addition, Northcote has developed heavily in the back-of-house facilities, with new staff accommodation, a computer room and canteen, highlighting Bancroft’s philosophy that caring for the hotel’s team will make huge returns in attracting and retaining people.
Typically, Bancroft, who said he was “overjoyed” to receive the award, praised his team, Haworth, the Matthewmans and his wife Helen in contributing to his success. “I know it’s a Craig award, but it’s not a Craig win,” he explained.
Andrew Mckenzie, managing director, the Vineyard Group, and 2008 Hotelier of the Year, summed up Bancroft’s achievements: “Craig possesses the holy trinity of skills that make up a great hotelier. He is a great host and leads from the front at Northcote – ever-present with his team and his guests.
“He is a great business man – he has overseen the rebirth of Northcote and presides over a growing empire of successful businesses. And he is a great practitioner – his personal knowledge and skills around wine and wine service make him stand hour from the crowd in inspiring many young people to carve out successful careers as leading sommeliers.”
Past winners of the 33-year-old Hotelier of the Year award that attended today’s lunch included Harry Murray (who won in 1986), Gordon Campbell Gray (2002) and Robin Hutson (2003). Last year’s winner, Nick Jones, founder and chief executive of Soho House & Co, hosted today’s event.
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