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Top 100: Tim and Kit Kemp, Firmdale Hotels

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Written by:
Top 100: Tim and Kit Kemp, Firmdale Hotels

Overall ranking: 35 (17 in 2012)
Hotelier ranking: 5 (5 in 2012)

Husband and wife team Tim and Kit Kemp are the co-founders of Firmdale Hotels, a collection of individual boutique hotels they founded in 1985. Over the intervening years they have bought and sold a number of properties to create a group that currently has eight hotels in London (Ham Yard, Haymarket, the Soho, Charlotte Street, Covent Garden, Dorset Square, Knightsbridge and Number Sixteen) and two in New York (Crosby Street and the Whitby). Together, they are a formidable couple. Tim is chairman and managing director, overseeing the development of all new properties, while Kit is design director. A plethora of awards have been bestowed on the Kemps, including MBEs for services to hospitality and charity in 2012.

What we think
When it comes to Firmdale Hotels, the standout feature is Kit’s designs. They are regarded as among the most distinctive and colourful interiors in the business and are frequently heralded as an inspiration to others. She and her design team work exceptionally hard at creating spaces that are adventurous, fun and beguiling, with an exquisite attention to detail that includes sourcing artwork and furnishings from around the world. Every bedroom in the portfolio features Firmdale’s oversized headboards and dressmaker dummies, and more and more areas of the hotels are home to the fabric and carpet designs Kit has created in conjunction with Chelsea Textiles, Christopher Farr and Wilton Carpets.

But Firmdale’s hotels are much more than beautifully curated properties. While the designs may attract guests, it is the top-notch customer service that will bring them back, as highlighted by the group carrying off the Best Employer Award at the 2017 Cateys. A strong, people-centric approach to the business is set out in the group’s core values of passion, enthusiasm, relationships, resilience and attention to detail, all of which are lived by the staff in day-to-day operations. It is no surprise to learn that a quarter of all employees have more than five years’ service and employee retention stands at 76%.

The Kemps may not be hoteliers themselves, but they ensure they have the best people in place to carry out the ethos they care so passionately about. For nearly 20 years, Carrie Wicks headed the operational side of the business until her departure in 2016. Now that role has been taken by Anna Jackson, another long-serving team member.

Firmdale enjoys one of the consistently strongest set of performance figures for any London hotels. The group’s most recent financial results, for the year to 31 January 2017, show a revpar rise of 5.3% year-on-year to £307, based on a 3.3% rise in room rate to £360 and an increase in occupancy by 1.6 percentage points to 85.2%. Revenue for the eight London hotels increased by 5.3% year-on-year to £97.4m, while pre-tax loss dropped to £4.1m from £9.3m the previous year.

There is no sign yet that the Kemps have stopped opening hotels. In fact, they are thought to be scouring London, New York and Los Angeles for their next property. Expect to see Firmdale inspiring many a hotelier for some years to come.

Further information
Firmdale Hotels’ Employee Engagement Week: keeping staff keen >>

Cateys 2017: Best Employer Award, Firmdale Hotels >>

Hotel Cateys 2017: Human Resources Team of the Year winner, Firmdale Hotels >>

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