General manager, Eastwell Manor – a Champneys Hotel & Spa, Boughton Lees, Kent
Nominator William Simmonds, group operations director, Champneys
Proudest moment “Becoming a general manager for the first time at the age of 25. I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility for the opportunity I had been given and that has stayed with me.”
Greatest inspiration “I have always looked up to my brother, William, who is a previous Acorn winner (2015). He has kept me focused in my career and offered me support and guidance.”
Why hospitality is a great career “It has given me the opportunity to be my own boss. I am able to treat the business as if it were my own and lead my team accordingly.”
When Robert Simmonds joined Eastwell Manor in January he was taking up his third general manager position – and at 29, that’s a remarkable achievement. His early career flagged up his ambition.
On joining the then De Vere Venues, he put himself forward for development groups, earning a spot on the De Vere Top Team.
By the time he was headhunted by the managing director of Champneys, he had moved through the ranks to contract operations manager at De Vere Holborn Bars.
Champneys gave him his first general manager role at Henlow Grange. This proved challenging as the property was in need of refurbishment, but through sensible management controls he delivered strong financial results, including double-digit profit growth.
It was as general manager at Forest Mere health spa, however, that he came into his own, introducing shepherd’s huts to boost an already buoyant business and implementing a group-wide dinner menu that resulted in an increase of £120,000. Altogether, he delivered almost £1m of revenue growth last year.
The real proof of Simmonds’ ambition is the fact he left a thriving Forest Mere to take on the challenge of establishing Eastwell Manor as a leading country house hotel. Today, he also mentors groups studying for a level three apprenticeship in hospitality management.