The Best Places to Work in Hospitality awards, held in partnership with Purple Cubed and sponsored by Perkbox, celebrate those operators who put people at the centre of everything they do and in the process deliver an exceptional product. Rosalind Mullen rounds up the innovative employers that make up the top 30
You can be the biggest, most luxurious, cutting-edge hotel, restaurant, pub or contract caterer out there, but if you don’t support and develop your staff, any success your business has is going to be short-lived or, at best, hard-won. And in this TripAdvisor, social media age, your failures could be spectacularly public to boot.
As the country gears up for Brexit, many in this industry fear the implications for recruitment. But Brexit or not, hospitality operators are continually battling skills shortages.
What many switched-on employers realise is that by improving training and creating a great working atmosphere their staff recruitment and retention problems become less of a headache. Furthermore, it makes their company energised and competitive. Let’s face it – if an engaged workforce makes for a happier, more productive team, it follows that you will also have happier, more satisfied guests… and a robust bottom line.
Each of these 30 Best Places to Work winners has been recommended by the majority of its employees. Between 77% and 92% of their staff will have filled out an anonymous survey created by people retention expert Purple Cubed. This survey analyses and showcases the performance of their employer against industry benchmarks.
And as you will see from those profiled below, a common trait of good employers is that they understand how to engage their staff to get the best out of them. They recognise their needs and aspirations and exceed the minimum requirements of an employer in ensuring that everyone who works for them is happy, motivated and working towards their own goals.
TOP 30 BEST PLACES TO WORK IN HOSPITALITY
1. Firmdale Hotels
In a nutshell Tim and Kit Kemp’s collection of uber-cool, luxurious boutique hotels
Locations Five hotels and three townhouse hotels in London; two hotels in New York
Average staff turnover 31%
Annual sales turnover £122m
WINNER OF THE BEST EMPLOYER AWARD AT THE 2017 CATEYS
Firmdale’s recent long service awards flag up that just over a quarter of employees have five or more years’ service with the company.
One employee comment explains why: “It’s a fun and vibrant company to work for. There is ample opportunity to grow and explore your own strengths. The number of people who leave the company and return speaks volumes of how it compares to others.”
Certainly, its communication, engagement and employee involvement initiatives
are often fun and always cutting-edge. The latest, Employee Engagement Week, was launched in February with a rolling programme of internal and external exhibitor stands, masterclasses, presentations, competitions and interactive events designed to highlight training opportunities and reinforce the team spirit. Each day was themed, culminating on the Friday with the Love What You Do Employee Awards, with quirky recognition for Inspirational Service, Bright Idea, Unsung Hero and Rising Star.
The results are tangible. There has already been an increase in training nominations, attendance and waiting lists for courses, plus an increase in the group’s Glassdoor rating to 3.9 and the engagement survey shows an increase of 2.6% to 82.6%.
During Employee Engagement Week, the team Facebook group saw a 994% increase in traffic to the page with 14,282 video views in one week and the number of people reached increased to 22,232. At one point, more than 150 people were watching the in-house Ready Steady Cook competition live.
2. The CD Pub Co
In a nutshell A family-owned business set up in the Midlands in 2007 to offer quality pub dining with slick, efficient service
Locations Two sites in Leamington Spa, one each in Redditch and Crowle
Average staff turnover 15.2%
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed
CD Pub Co retains the family values it was founded on. Operations director and founder Charles Harris explains: “We know that our business will only grow by the continued support and hard work of our employees and we therefore recognise and nurture the talent shown by them, helping them to develop in a way that is both beneficial to them and to us.”
Many of CD Pub Co’s managers started with little catering experience. Their development, along with the growth of the company, means they now have a strong sense of ownership.
Indeed, as the company expands to a fifth location, the plan is to draw all managerial appointments from existing team members who understand the company values.
Making this possible is the fact that everyone has access to accredited training, from NVQs to WSET. In addition, the biannual personal development reviews occasionally highlight the need for specific learning courses, such as cellar management or social media.
Communication across the team is seen as key, but to avoid information overload the process has been streamlined. The company is part of the beta trial for Facebook’s new work platform, Workplace, which gives all staff a voice without the confusing plethora of emails, Twitter and so on. In addition, great importance is given to face-to-face meetings and social events, with full team meetings held every eight weeks.
Incentives keep everyone agile and focused. Rewards are described as “bigger and better” and include distillery visits followed by dinner for up to six people. There is also a prize of £100 worth of vouchers for the employee of the month and a £50 employee attendance bonus. These can be spent at one of CD’s pubs, which in turn helps promote networking.
And the “one big happy family” idea is reinforced by an expenses-paid employee day out once a year, as well as regular team nights out. This company has even been known to send a bottle of Champagne to employees when they arrive at a hotel for the first night of their holiday.
3. The London Edition
In a nutshell A Ritz-Carlton partner hotel, this is a slick, uber-cool property with 173 Ian Schrager-designed rooms and Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton overseeing the restaurant
Location Berners Street, London W1
Average staff turnover Undisclosed
The London Edition hit the London scene in 2013, launching a new-generation luxury hotel in the UK, created by Ian Schrager working with Marriott International.
This city-slick hotel in the heart of Fitzrovia combines innovative design and cuttingedge dining and entertainment with personal, friendly, modern service.
To keep it like that, there’s been a stellar effort to maintain high employee engagement.
Scores of 81% in 2014 and 76% in 2015 and 2016 show that the London Edition has surpassed the Ritz-Carlton engagement benchmark of 70% for three consecutive years.
Credit for this success can be attributed to a large extent by its fresh approach to
creating a bonded team. Berners Street Social, for example, comprises a group of employees who devise a fun social scene for their colleagues. Let’s face it, not many hotels offer their staff the prospect of a boat party on the Thames, zombie laser tag, a private cinema screening, party in the park, Christmas lunch, pub quiz, bowling or trampolining. No wonder that in 2016, an average of 72.5 employees joined every month.
One of the company’s priorities for this year has been wellness, through yoga and meditation classes. Pop-ups that support this health push include massage sessions, a juice bar and a breakfast bar.
But it’s not all play and no work. Bi-monthly communications meetings update staff on business performance and a small group of employees are invited every month to meet with the general manager.
Key courses on offer include: Essential Skills, to enhance management and supervisory skills for high performers; Departmental Trainers, which helps staff to gain leadership skills within their department; individualised training for heads of department; and Cross Training, a hotel-wide policy that encourages internal movement.
So far, 80 employees have graduated from the Essential Skills course, 75% of whom were promoted during their time on the programme. And in 2016, there were 85 internal promotions.
4. Ego Restaurants
In a nutshell 14 restaurants/pubs in the Midlands and North West serving Mediterranean dishes in a family-friendly environment
Average staff turnover 15.7%
Annual sales turnover £18m
It’s not insignificant that Ego’s chief executive is James Horler. Having built up brands such as La Tasca and Frankie & Benny’s, he’s no stranger to commercial success. But as a life patron of Springboard, a charity that encourages young people to work in hospitality, he also understands about nurturing people.
Certainly, people are at the heart of Ego. To keep staff in the loop, the company’s weekly newsletter shows key financial updates and includes a message from Horler recognising hard work and notable achievements. General
managers also add congratulations to the named employee of the week. Staff perks include meals during shifts, plus discounts across the portfolio.
There’s scope for spontaneous fun, too, as illustrated by a recent competition devised by group executive chef Neil Morris. He used the Head Chef WhatsApp group to challenge the teams to create the best special dish of the day and win a £50 John Lewis voucher. They simply had to post a photo of the dish with costings and full description, plus a photo of the floor team trying the dish in their pre-shift briefing. The result was immediate. Every site entered within five hours and as well as generating fun, banter and interaction among the teams it saw the sale of 73 special dishes against 44 the previous Saturday.
It is company events such as these that are no doubt responsible for 70% of staff reporting they are happy working there “all the time”. Some 94.62% (against a benchmark of 79.47%) valued being part of a team that respects each other and 95.06% (82.61%) reported they had good communication with their manager
5. Q Hotels
In a nutshell A collection of 26 four-star hotels with leisure, golf and meeting facilities
Location Across the UK
Employees 5,000 (2,500 full-time)
Average staff turnover 33%
Annual sales turnover £199m
There’s a clear remit to develop talent at Q Hotels as evidenced by its Management Trainee programme. Awarded by University College Birmingham, its bespoke Hospitality Management Foundation Degree is one of the first qualifications of its type to be provided by a UK hotel group.
The course is offered to current employees and external applicants who are given hands-on experience in full-time operational roles while they study towards their degree.
Such has been its success that it has been singled out for accolades such as Springboard’s Education & Industry Liaison award in 2016 and the HR Distinction Award in Developing Future Talent.
One member of staff who joined as a graduate two years ago told the Purple Cubed survey that they have since been promoted three times. “If you work hard and treat everyone with respect you can progress really quickly. It is big enough that you have access to progression, but small enough that everyone knows your name and you can build up a strong reputation quickly,” they said.
You get a strong sense that QHotels puts people first, with 83% of employees recording a good relationship with their manager.
“This comes from the top,” says one. “Our MD is inspirational, kind and experienced. He allows us to make mistakes and learn from them. A genial leader, putting his team and clients first.”
6. The Macallan Estate
In a nutshell The whisky-making distillery was founded in 1824; a majority share was bought in 1999 by the privately held Edrington Group
Location The Visitor Centre is on the 390-acre Macallan Estate on Speyside
Average staff turnover Undisclosed
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed
The Macallan Estate is home to one of the world’s most famous single malt whiskies.
Visits to the stills are limited to groups of 10 guests at a time, and staff share their knowledge of how the spirit is created and then lead a nosing and tasting session of four of the Macallan whiskies.
Macallan’s owner, Edrington, has its headquarters in Scotland but more than 60% of staff are based overseas, focusing on brandbuilding opportunities. The company’s business model has always had social responsibility at its core and to this end it donates a portion of profits to good causes chosen by staff in its overseas offices.
Private ownership allows Edrington to be quick in its decision-making but long range in its planning, which gives its employees greater flexibility. That may be why Macallan’s employees are so apparently content. Astonishingly, its hospitality team has scored 100% on several categories, including appreciating good communication with a manager, respect and trust for a manager, and access to personal development.
Among the many positive comments from staff, is this one: “This job can be demanding. With people above me who respect and encourage me, this job is made easier.”
7 Rudding Park
In a nutshell A privately owned 90-bedroom country house hotel with two golf courses and two restaurants
Location Set in 300 acres near Harrogate
Employees 245, plus a large casual database for events and functions
Average staff turnover 38%
Annual sales turnover £14.5m
Business is set to ramp up a notch when Rudding Park’s £9.5m spa opens in May. In the meantime, it is pushing two new incentives. The first focuses on giving middle and junior managers formal managerial training. The hotel is working in partnership with a local college to support Chartered Management Institute qualifications and a tutor is based at Rudding three to four days a week.
It’s proving to be a rewarding project, not just for those involved, but also the senior team who are acting as mentors and the managing director and HR manager who are also engaged with the programme. Feedback is good, with 66% of staff saying the company is “brilliant” at personal development and 32% saying they do it well.
The second initiative is the F&B-led Rudding Passport, aimed at new staff. The step-by-step programme boosts staff knowledge of products and confidence in providing service. There’s even a reward after its successful completion. As it’s tailored to the individual’s requirements, the aim is to use it as a development plan going forward.
8 The Koh Group
In a nutshell Founded in 2009, the chain of Koh Thai Tapas restaurants recently
underwent a management buyout
Location There are 13 restaurants in Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset and Hampshire
Average staff turnover 3.43%
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed
One of the attractions for staff at Koh is that there is a proven path to progress, even for those joining at entry level. Nobody illustrates this better than the chief operating officer who started with the company just five years ago as a waitress.
Certainly, the Koh Group is hot on incentivising its staff. As well as managers nominating their ‘spotlight’ employee, staff are encouraged to nominate each other for being ‘awesome’. The latter is done across the whole group, creating a culture of peer-to-peer recognition and prizes for the top performer.
Staff also gain recognition for being named in guest reviews and helping to hit TripAdvisor targets. And to keep things fun, there are a number of incentives encouraging staff to upsell and meet targets, such as Food Bingo, Koh Olympics and Fantasy Foodball, with rewards such as recognition and vouchers.
As to whether it works, Koh’s extremely low staff turnover of 3.43% says it all. There is also a consistent score on the Purple Cubed survey of more than 90% who feel they are part of a team that respects each other, their manager, being in a good environment and working well with a team to produce good results.
9 The Frog
In a nutshell Award-winning chef Adam Handling opened his urban-chic restaurant the Frog in 2016, and uses Asian flavours and techniques in his cooking
Location The Old Truman Brewery, London E1
Average staff turnover 0% in the kitchen and one or two front of house since opening
Annual sales turnover £1.4m
Although it’s not been open for a full year, it’s hard not to be impressed that labour turnover at the Frog is a resounding 0% in the kitchen.
That degree of loyalty is compounded by the fact that all of the brigade have been working with chef-restaurateur Adam Handling for between two and 10 years.
Most of the original front of house team remains too. Over the next couple of months, the Frog will be recruiting 47 new members of staff to work in both the original site and the new Frog restaurant in London’s Covent Garden, which will open later this year.
The Frog’s hiring process is simple, but has proven effective in that Handling and senior management take into account personality over skill. In Handling’s view, junior members of staff can be taught skills over the course of their career, but enthusiasm, a willingness to learn and a belief in the familial environment at the restaurant is crucial from the start. Clearly the warm, sociable atmosphere makes the restaurant an attractive place to work. Some 95% surveyed reckon it’s a good environment and 100% said they were proud to work there and that the company treats them well.
10 CEME Conference Centre
In a nutshell A purpose-built conference venue
Location Rainham, close to the City of London
Average staff turnover 5.5%
Annual sales turnover £850,000
This small conference team has achieved huge recognition – not least earning Gold Standard accreditation from the Meetings Industry Association and being a member of Conference Centres of Excellence.
Among the many tools it uses to boost performance and team spirit, the not-forprofit regeneration charity recently invested in personal profile analysis (PPA) for all staff through a learning and development partner.
Individuals then had one-to-one coaching sessions to identify their motivations and traits.
This culminated in a team engagement day that explored how employees could understand their colleagues’ profiles to improve teamwork, communication and performance.
The PPA profiling was hugely beneficial in increasing individual and team performance, as underlined by the fact that 75% feel they are part of a team that respects each other.
An astonishing 100% said they were proud to work for the company and acknowledged there was respect for work-life balance, and 87.5% said it treats its people well.
11 The Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa
In a nutshell A modern five-star, 269-bedroom property
Location 1 Festival Square, Edinburgh
Average staff turnover 33.3%
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed
Feedback reveals this hotel is recommended by 92% of its guests. That has to be partly down to its success in developing staff. All senior staff, for instance, must complete a two-day leadership retreat. This provides a framework for management style and embraces key messages about their role and an insight into improving both individual and organisational effectiveness.
Assistant managers and supervisors are also offered a tailored training course, which senior leaders are trained to deliver in-house. This is rolled out to teams to give them the best start in their career paths as managers.
More than 94% of staff surveyed said they felt part of a team that respects each other and that they work in a good environment. With comments such as: “This hotel really cares for its employees. We are recognised for the good work we do and our successes are celebrated regularly,” there seems little else to add.
12 One Event Management
In a nutshell An independently owned company encompassing six brands and the catering expertise for large-scale sports events, concerts and so on
Location Head office is in Bicester, Oxfordshire
Employees 250 salaried/2,500 casual
Average staff turnover 10%
Annual sales turnover £28m
One Event’s brands range from F3, which provides match day and non-match day catering in sports stadiums, to event design company Absolute Taste, which lists private jet catering among its remits. What they all have in common is that employees are trained and motivated.
To incentivise and reward staff, the company has introduced two games. The first, Wheel of Fortune, is played each match day. Employees are asked questions about the area they work in, relating to menu, pricing and company values. The first to get a question correct spins a wheel to reveal their prize, which might be books, vouchers or club merchandise.
The other game is Plinko, whereby the management team awards poker chips to any employee who is seen going above and beyond to ensure great service. When staff collect five chips they can swap them for a gold coin, which is then dropped into the Plinko game to reveal a prize. No wonder 92% of staff surveyed say they want to do a good job – prizes range from mini iPads and flat-screen TVs to Virgin Experience vouchers and concert tickets.
Most of the comments on the Purple Cubed survey mention the great working atmosphere.
Here’s one that sums it up: “It’s a fun and rewarding environment where we are achieving great things as a collaborative team.”
13 Georgian House
In a nutshell A privately owned luxury B&B hotel
Location St George’s Drive, London SW1
Average staff turnover 15%
Annual sales turnover £2.4m
Last year, this hotel became only the second in London to receive the five-star guest accommodation award from VisitEngland. This is down to owner Serena von der Heyde, who believes that the best service comes from staff who are happy, healthy, have a good work-life balance and are empowered in the workplace.
To make it easier to reward and motivate staff, the hotel recently invested in employee benefits service Perkbox, which has been well received. Another success is the staff committee, created to give the team ownership of staff welfare and events, and to boost communication between staff and management.
These simple initiatives help not only to improve the running of the business, they also empower the team, develop strategic and leadership skills, and improve communication. It has also fostered an atmosphere of respect with 93.33% of survey respondents saying they trust their manager.
14 Ennismore International Management
In a nutshell Ennismore is the owner and developer of properties and experiences across the world, founded in 2010 by Sharan Pasricha
Location London-based, embracing the Hoxton hotels worldwide and Gleneagles in Scotland
Average staff turnover 11%
Annual sales turnover £39.2m
Part-developer, part-operator and part in-house creative and design studio, the multidisciplinary team at Ennismore is currently crafting the global expansion of the Hoxton, building on the Scottish legacy of Gleneagles, as well as launching several standalone restaurants across London.
Just one of the initiatives introduced last year was a Switch It Up programme, which allowed team members in London to swap roles, properties and lives with two of their colleagues in Amsterdam for a month.
Needless to say, this exciting opportunity was well received by the team, with each of its participants growing as a result of the experience, not only professionally but personally also. And with hotels set to open in Paris, New York and more in the pipeline, there’s scope to roll it out even further next year.
One team member commented: “It’s dynamic and that keeps it fresh and stops you getting stale. The leadership is always looking for new opportunities but is also focused on its goals, making it rewarding as well.”
15 Red Carnation Hotel Collection
In a nutshell A collection of 17 four- and five-star boutique luxury hotels
Locations South Africa, the US and Europe
Employees 850 in the UK
Average staff turnover 25%
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed
Whatever the role, Red Carnation provides employees with the training and development needed. That’s why it holds Investors in People Gold Standard Awards across the portfolio as well as being listed third in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For 2016.
“This has only been possible through consistently brilliant service delivered by highly trained and motivated employees,” comments vice-president of HR Liz McGivern. If the HR team could single out just one of their great initiatives, however, it would be the two-and-a-half year management programme that aims to equip junior managers with the tools to embrace long-term careers within the company. This has helped with succession planning, reduced the need for ad hoc training, helped promote brand consistency and reduced external recruitment costs.
In addition, recruitment costs have drastically reduced by 90% and the trickle-down effect from employees learning to manage and in turn make their team feel recognised and rewarded has reduced staff turnover to 25%.
16 The Trout Hotel
In a nutshell Privately owned four-star 49-bedroom hotel, refurbished in 2010
Location Cockermouth, Cumbria
Average staff turnover 5.4% (full time), 29% (including part-time)
Annual sales turnover £3.5m year end July 2015 (last full year of operating)
The owners run this business with the mantra that a healthy work-life balance is maintained by sensible shift patterns and by sticking to contracted hours. Staff are offered flexibility even at Christmas, while any co-working couples can take their annual leave and days off together. If that’s not enough, everyone gets biannual bonuses linked to net profit.
However, the management ethos was put to the test when in December 2015 the Trout was flooded during Storm Desmond and was forced to close for seven months. Happily, the jobs of most employees were safeguarded. To keep people motivated, the owners offered staff placements with a sister business and during the closure everyone benefited from training and development together with site visits.
The team was involved in every step of the restoration and had significant input when it came to planning specific areas within the business. Insiders say this inclusive attitude has generated a sense of ownership among staff. The business, in turn, benefited from retaining loyal employees. However, some 23 part-time staff did leave, which accounts for a higher than normal staff turnover percentage.
It’s evident that the hotel’s style of management and the consideration it has for its people has established a cohesive and committed team, with 95% saying they want to do a really good job. This year, their commitment was recognised in a gold award from VisitEngland and a rosette from the AA.
17 Gibbon Bridge
In a nutshell A 30-bedroom privately-owned hotel
Location The Forest of Bowland, Lancashire
Employees 34-38 (seasonal)
Average staff turnover 6%
Annual sales turnover £1.7m
As a family-run business, the focus at Gibbon Bridge has always been on work- life balance, fair pay and career progression for staff. The company strategy for a successful working environment has been to create a community.
Thought, for instance, has been given to the staff living accommodation, which is located in the beautiful grounds around a picturesque pond in a peaceful part of the estate.
Owner Janet Simpson has also just invested in a fibre SIP line to upgrade the staff Wi-Fi connection. Other amenities include gym facilities and bikes, while three meals a day and laundry facilities are available at a minimal charge, even when staff are on days off.
As the Purple Cubed survey reveals, the result is a loyal and happy team. Gibbon Bridge scored a performance rating of 90% on being a company that treats its people well and 85% on creating a team that respects each other.
One member of staff sums it up: “I have worked here for 34 years. Janet is inspirational as a boss and wouldn’t ask you to do anything that she wouldn’t do herself. She is fair, hardworking and has created a great environment to work in that we all feel proud of.”
18 The Kitchin Group
In a nutshell Tom and Michaela Kitchin opened the Kitchin restaurant in 2006, scooping a Michelin star in 2007. In 2010, the Kitchin and chef-proprietor Dominic Jack launched Castle Terrace restaurant, which also won a Michelin star a year after opening. More recently they have opened the Scran & Scallie gastropub.
Average staff turnover Undisclosed
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed
The Kitchin Group’s listing here is partly down to husband and wife team Tom and Michaela Kitchin, who are described as hands-on proprietors. Their passion and ambition are reflected throughout the strong team, with 88% of staff surveyed saying the leaders are inspirational and 85% saying they are motivated to do a good job.
This is certainly a slick operation, demanding trust and loyalty from a close-knit team. Guests, for instance, can watch Tom and his brigade through a glass window in the Kitchin’s dining room. As well as leaving no room for disharmony, the team need to be able at all times to display their professionalism.
That’s because in line with Tom’s nature-to-plate philosophy, all the meat and fish is bought in whole and the butchering and filleting is done in-house daily “One team; one dream,” is a telling comment from an insider.
19 The Ampersand Hotel
In a nutshell Privately owned, chic 111-bedroom hotel, opened in 2012
Location Harrington Road, London SW7
Average staff turnover 3-4%
Annual sales turnover £9m
This super-stylish five-star boutique hotel has remained vibrant and exciting since it opened five years ago. To maintain the momentum, general manager Roberto Pajares is driving an “own and deliver” culture among employees.
“This puts guest satisfaction at our heart by giving staff the freedom to make decisions and gets things done,” says Pajaras. “It’s what our customers say about us that really counts.”
There is certainly a strong emphasis on creating a positive work environment, with 83% of surveyed staff supporting that view. Proof that they are proud of their workplace is underlined by the fact one 20% of the team have been recruited through referrals from existing employees.
But no wonder employees are happy to work here. Among the initiatives rolled out, professionals were brought in to give back and shoulder massages. Due to its popularity, this was extended to include an informative session on how to combat stress and test body composition, which was also a huge hit.
“It’s things like this that set us apart from other hotels and makes us a truly nice place to work,” explains HR manager Bushra Masood. When it comes to training, staff provide feedback on which courses they are interested in and the HR team “make it happen”. This strategy has resulted in a number of internal promotions over the past 12 months and 82% of staff surveyed acknowledging everything is in place to do their job well.
20 Redefine BDL Hotels
In a nutshell An independent hotel management company working with 47 hotels under brands such as Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Best Western and Marriott International
Location Two UK offices in Glasgow and London and one in Frankfurt
Average staff turnover 28%
Annual sales turnover £14m
Redefine is on track to realise its goal of expanding into Europe with the recent opening of an office in Frankfurt, Germany. But that would not have been possible if it hadn’t built up such a strong UK team.
About 2,000 hotel workers are managed by the company on behalf of its clients so it needs a strong internal communications strategy to ensure staff are kept informed and involved.
Collaboration across HR, IT and marketing has also resulted in provision of a forum for networking and to share best practice.
On a more pastoral level, Redefine believes the health and wellbeing of employees is paramount. To that end it directs energy into its Tree of Life programme, which aims to create a happier healthier workforce and better working environments. Indeed more than 90% of Redefine’s employees surveyed say they are happy all or most of the time, with one adding: “The company has integrity, which means a lot.”
The programme has four areas – Nutrition, Active Body, Social and Mindfulness – and each month, there is a focus on one area, such as mental health awareness or simply making healthier lunch choices. One of the more recent key initiatives was to encourage managers to take part in the company’s Steps Challenge by giving staff Fitbit step counters. This proved popular, with the pilot scheme attracting 64% uptake. “The aim is to help all of our employees champion health and wellbeing within the workplace and that process starts with making a difference in their own lives,” explains chief HR officer Susan Bland.
In a nutshell Part of Compass Group, it provides managed, high-quality front and back of house guest services, including reception, concierge and client meeting rooms
Location Clients are large and small companies across the UK
Average staff turnover 21% (excludes implications of new contract gains)
Annual sales turnover figures Undisclosed
In this competitive age, nothing makes your staff more likely to perform well than the opportunity to progress. At Rapport, employees indicate that access to personal development is notably above the average, with 83.51% of survey participants showing appreciation against a 74.38% benchmark. But the company isn’t just looking at targets. It wants staff to be happy and comfortable. So in 2016 it recruited a dedicated business coach to work with senior leaders, including those aspiring to move into a leadership role.
Feedback from employees who have worked with the coach shows that they are benefiting on a personal level. For example, an operational manager who had previously been worried about presenting at meetings due to a lack of personal confidence recently commented to a colleague: “Oh don’t worry about me; I’m not nervous. Thanks to my coaching sessions, I am totally ready for this one.”
No wonder more than half of employees claim they are happy at work “all the time”.
22 Bennett Hay
In a nutshell Independently owned company that delivers support services such as telephony, concierge, catering, events, and housekeeping to blue-chip firms
Location Head office in Hammersmith, London
Number of Employees 130
Average staff turnover 5%
Annual sales turnover £7m
A personalised career path is guaranteed to every team member at Bennett Hay. Employees can also expect to benefit from its Transformation Academy, designed to nurture individual strengths. Staff learn the importance of understanding themselves, colleagues and guests as well as how to multi-skill to deliver seamless service. It clearly pays off, with 92% claiming they work in a good environment.
Bennett Hay helps its staff to find more personal fulfilment, too. It has teamed up with Benefacto, the social enterprise that engages professional people in volunteering across London. Team members can take two days a year out of work to volunteer with a charity.
At the other end of the scale is the company’s equity ownership scheme. Shareholders can be in any role; to be eligible for the scheme, they simply need to be delivering excellent service and scoring a five in their performance review linked to company values. According to one impressed insider, this, in turn, empowers people and boosts productivity because “everyone at the Bennett Hay family feels part of a bigger cause”.
23 Buzzworks Holdings
In a nutshell A family-run portfolio of bars and restaurants
Locations Eight sites across Ayrshire
Average staff turnover 30%
Annual sales turnover £12.8m
The Blair family launched Buzzworks in 2003 when they opened their first bar-restaurant in Prestwick. More venues have subsequently opened in Ayrshire towns such as Troon, Kilmarnock, Largs and Stewarton, notching up several awards along the way– not least a listing in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For in the UK for the past two years.
As one of the biggest hospitality employers in Scotland, Buzzworks recognised that to attract and retain talent it had to work hard to improve the work-life balance of staff. So, having consulted their teams, it decided to make a significant financial investment in changing how it operates and in creating real benefits.
Initiatives have included changing the working patterns of managers through reducing hours or changing shift patterns. A ‘lifestyle form’ has also been introduced to enable managers to request regular time off each week to take up an activity or enjoy family time.
To push staff development, managers hold reviews with team members every few months to find out how they are getting on and what support they may need to progress. Needless to say, some 90.58% of employees surveyed reckon they work in a great environment. The company has pledged to continue to review and refine this process over the next 12 months.
24 Farncombe Estate
In a nutshell A family-owned estate that includes three award-winning boutique hotels – Dormy House, Foxhills and the Fish hotel
Location The Cotswolds
Average staff turnover 40%
Annual sales turnover £11m
While average staff turnover of 40% isn’t the lowest in the hospitality industry, it’s worth noting that in 2014, Farncombe was seeing closer to 62%. And the figure is continuing to reduce, with January this year showing its lowest moving annual total turnover of 39%. This is a big achievement bearing in mind the business has seen a significant transition, particularly in the past four years, moving from a conference centre and head office on a private estate to the launch of three award-winning hotels. To ensure Farncombe’s family culture wasn’t unsettled, HR director Holly Glover included staff in helping to define the company’s values and behaviours. Farncombe even closed all three hotels for a day in January to throw a party for all staff – with the morning off the next day to allow for recovery time.
To drive loyalty, there has been an increase in internal succession across the portfolio, with 48 internal promotions to the year-end in 2016, representing 20% of the head count. This compares with 11 in 2015 and none in 2014. To underline how much it values staff, Farncombe replaced 71 casual contracts for permanent ones in 2016. More than 28% of the team at year-end last year had more secure employment, with only 14 seasonal employees remaining on casual contracts by choice.
“The teams in each of the businesses are now integrated and working brilliantly together, rather than in isolation,” says Glover. “Ultimately there has been a real shift in culture on the estate.”
25 The Headland Hotel & Spa
In a nutshell A 96-bedroom four-star hotel with an award-winning spa, five-star cottages and surf school
Location Newquay, Cornwall
Average staff turnover Not measured
Annual sales turnover £8.39m
As a hotel that is consistently listed in Best Places to Work, there’s no doubt the Headland has a successful staff engagement strategy driven partly by the opportunities it offers.
In the recent survey, some 80% of staff said they valued having access to personal development. The introduction of its Headland Talent Development Plan is a case in point. This schools employees in the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to become a manager.
Another facet of the hotel’s success is that it listens to staff. Last year, for instance, feedback on the appraisal system revealed that the team considered it to be a “tick-box exercise” and “too generic”. In response, the hotel has devised staff development workbooks that provide the tools and information to enable meaningful conversations that identify how ambitious staff can reach purposeful goals.
Although it is in the early stages of implementation, reception has been positive. One employee comments: “The Headland goes above and beyond to offer training opportunities and room for progression. There are always opportunities to provide feedback, which I know will be taken on board.”
Those at the top admit they are learning new things about the team, which is enabling them to step up their support of individuals in achieving their aspirations and building hospitality careers.
26 Clayton Hotel Manchester Airport
In a nutshell This 365-bedroom four-star hotel is part of the Dalata Hotel Group, Ireland’s largest hotel operator
Location Outwood Lane, near Manchester Airport
Average staff turnover 18%
Annual sales turnover £14m
An airport hotel has transient guests, but it doesn’t need to have transient staff. This is a challenge that Clayton Hotel Manchester Airport has risen to, ensuring it has a well-motivated, cohesive team. This is borne out by the fact some 83.5% of staff who participated in Purple Cubed’s survey said it was a good environment to work in and 87.5% said they felt they were part of a team that respects each other.
Driving this engagement is the hotel’s WOW scheme. Staff earn points for four qualities: attendance, grooming, positivity and time-keeping. The incentive to perform well is boosted by the fact they also accrue points that are shared with the team. And those with the most points are nominated for employee of the month.
Staff have been given a voice, too. The Excellence Committee, comprised of one or two team members from each department, meets regularly to share ideas on how to improve employee areas at the hotel, organise events, services and address any concerns. One member of staff sums it all up: “It’s a friendly and professional place to work where your efforts are appreciated.”
27 Bartlett Mitchell
In a nutshell An independent contract caterer set up by three entrepreneurs with strong sustainable ethics Locations Caters at 90 sites throughout London and the South East
Average staff turnover 12%
Annual sales turnover £35m
Bartlett Mitchell is a growing company boasting a 98% client retention rate, running contracts with businesses across a broad range of sectors including finance, legal and media. One simple initiative that has boosted staff engagement is the introduction of the “we’re building a better company” noticeboard across all 90 sites. The HR department posts monthly updates on the boards such as: team meeting details and minutes; employee benefits and scheme details; the Employee Assistance Programme; sustainable product news; training events; company events; a monthly newsletter; HMRC details and so on to assist team members; key contacts; and any other snippets.
Running in tandem with this are the weekly team talks. These focus on messages from the noticeboard as well as site and employee news. Another element is that every team member is asked to share, over a team breakfast, one thing that has made the week go well and one thing that will make next week even better.
As a result, the HR team says audit results have improved, staff turnover has reduced, there are fewer team issues and niggles and everyone says they like working together as they now “share together”. All this is borne out by Purple Cubed’s survey, with 51.61% against a benchmark of 38.23% reporting that they feel creating a team that respects each other is “done well” by the company.
28 Just Hospitality
In a nutshell A contract caterer focused on providing fresh, healthy, sustainable food in workplaces
Location Central London
Average staff turnover Undisclosed
Annual sales turnover £4.7m
As a contract caterer that states it is committed to keeping its clients’ workforces happy, it goes without saying that Just Hospitality strives to make its own staff feel cared for, too. Indeed, in the past year, it has added new initiatives to make sure they know they are valued.
Some are very simple – but effective. For instance, tapping into the fact no-one really wants to be at work on their birthday, Just Hospitality now gives staff a paid day off. This is in addition to the initiative that’s been running for the past few years offering working parents an extra day off for their child’s first day of school. It’s a clear win for most of the team, with 91.67% of those surveyed enjoying a good work-life balance.
Back at work, all staff now have the opportunity to shadow a colleague in a different department or contract for a day. This helps broaden employees’ understanding of how the company works, build relationships with the people they collaborate with and try something new and exciting.
And should employees be facing personal or professional difficulties, they can access an employee assistance programme run in partnership with charity Hospitality Action that provides specialist, independent and confidential advice, support and assistance on a wide range of issues. As one HR insider says: “It’s a small way of showing our commitment to our employees – that we care about them as individuals and not just their wellbeing while at work.”
29 Exclusive Hotels & Venues
In a nutshell A collection of four luxury hotels, plus two venues and one Golf Club and Castle Inn
Location South of England
Average staff turnover 39%
Annual sales turnover £50m
Past listings in Best Places to Work show that this employee-centric company never rests on its laurels. Over the past year, the focus has continued to be on offering employees learning and development opportunities through the introduction of a number of new programmes. For instance, weekly training sessions enhance development opportunities for the F&B team, building knowledge and practical skills across all roles. This includes a new Bar Training Programme that has proven popular for bartenders.
Fun and interactive educational trips to visit suppliers are a continuing feature, and there is constant encouragement for interested team members to gain nationally recognised qualifications The Chefs Academy, a two-year programme introduced in 2014, is gearing up for its latest intake in July and the assessment centres are proving popular.
This year has also seen the introduction of a customer service programme, which has been rolled out across all the properties and forms an integral part of Exclusive’s revised on-boarding programme. The reservations, sales and events teams have all benefited from dedicated courses and are armed with online learning tools so they can continue to develop skills after the programme.
Last but not least, the Exclusive Graduate Management Programme is well under way. The company has broadened its partnership with colleges and universities so the programme now extends to all properties. And as it matures, those who have graduated from the scheme are mentoring the most recent joiners.
30 Brasserie Bar Co
In a nutshell Brasserie Bar Co comprises two core formats: Brasserie Blanc, the French brasserie business inspired by Raymond Blanc, and quality pub dining business the White Brasserie Company
Locations 29 sites across both brands in the UK
Average staff turnover Undisclosed
Annual sales turnover £48m
Brasserie Bar Co is on the expansion trail. The White Brasserie pub company, based in the south of England, started in 2016 with six sites and now has 11. Meanwhile, Brasserie Blanc, which has sites dotted UK-wide, will open its 19th venue in Hammersmith in June.
To keep its people sharp, engaged and in shape, the company launched a bespoke management leadership programme at its annual management conference last September. Such is the momentum of this that by the end of March, all of its general managers, head chefs, operations teams and the executive had completed a two-day residential course with external consultant Developchange.
The programme will be one of continuous development for managers to help further develop both brands into high-performing businesses. Nearly 90% of staff told Purple Cubed they were happy to work at Brasserie Bar Co, so what do they appreciate about it? “[The company is] rapidly expanding, so there is plenty of opportunity for everyone; great training programme in place,” is one remark. Another says: “I work hard for my company because they work hard for me.”
Best Places performance measurement
Employee engagement expert Purple Cubed partnered with The Caterer on the Best Places to Work in Hospitality awards. Combining its expertise in people strategy with creative bespoke solutions (including multi-award-winning Talent
Toolbox software), Purple Cubed enjoys an excellent track record of helping to create best places to work.
The Best Places to Work in Hospitality are identified via a survey, which asks employees first what really matters to them at work, and then allows them
to score their employer against those criteria. Not only do the businesses that enter receive key reporting, which enables business improvements, the very best
employers across the hospitality sector can be ranked.
Established in 2001, Purple Cubed takes a proven, pragmatic, business-savvy approach to the ‘people stuff’. Working with stand-out employers such as Valor Hospitality Europe, Lexington Catering and Dishoom; it helps organisations gain bottom line benefits through becoming great places to work while improving performance, employee engagement and profitability.
Perkbox helps businesses to engage their employees by providing staff with access to over 200 perks, an online reward and recognition system and an expert-led health platform.