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The Berkeley has long been renowned for its excellent service, creative touches and innovation. All three characteristics were heightened once the full force of the pandemic took hold, with the introduction of a generous and comprehensive food and drink service for the emergency services, and the creation of standout alfresco dining and delivery services. The hotel emerged as one of London's hero properties.
Once the hotel was forced to close, it became the focus of a campaign by hotel management, led by general manager Knut Wylde, to support frontline services, neighbours and staff. The Berkeley 999 Drive Thru was born within days of the announcement of the first lockdown and served 80,000 meals to firefighters, police, ambulance teams, street cleaners and taxi drivers. A further 250 meals a day were delivered to the vulnerable and elderly in the local community. After running the Drive Thru every day through three lockdowns, the hotel decided to continue operating it on the first Wednesday of every month forever, calling the emergency services its ‘forever VIPs'.
When hospitality opened up again, the Berkeley turned a parking space into a new alfresco restaurant called the Garden. Complete with fairy lights, flickering candles, blankets and a menu of family-style dishes, it became one of London's most desirable dining spaces. It was replaced by Winter at the Garden during the colder months, with five wooden cabins offering an alpine eating experience. For summer 2021, the Berkeley Beach Huts – serving a seafood-focused menu to celebrate the British staycation – were born, to the delight of an enthusiastic domestic customer-base. Delivery services – including cocktails and breakfast in bed – were also introduced.
The initiatives helped create a family-like culture among employees, with the volunteer experience conferring a sense of pride. Staff helped out at vaccine centres, and an intranet was created so everyone could share lockdown stories, videos and masterclasses. A nurse administered Covid tests to staff twice a week.
In what has been the most challenging of times, the Berkeley has stayed positive and active, while supporting community heroes and those in difficult circumstances. The excellence, sensitivity and innovation it has demonstrated make it an exceptional winner of the 2021 Hotel of the Year – Group award.
What the judges said
"2020 was the most humbling and challenging year for the entire sector, but some businesses used this as motivation. The creativity and team spirit shown by the Berkeley set it apart." - Gareth Banner
"Throughout the pandemic the dedicated team, under the leadership of general manager Knut Wylde, threw away the rule book and went well beyond the call of duty. Their daily commitment, sensitivity and innovation to support frontline heroes were an inspiration to the whole industry." - Harry Murray
"The Berkeley set the standard for its community engagement during Covid, from providing hot meals and refreshments for the emergency services to encouraging team members to volunteer when on furlough." - David Taylor
- The Berkeley, London
- Calcot & Spa, Gloucestershire
- Fowey Hall, Cornwall
- The Langham, London
- Gareth Banner, managing director, the Ned London
- Gordon Campbell Gray, founder, Wee Hotel Company
- James Clarke, general manager, Hilton London Bankside
- Harry Murray, chairman, Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa
- Danny Pecorelli, managing director, Exclusive Collection
- Laura Sharpe, general manager, Ham Yard hotel
- David Taylor, chief operating officer, Lore Group