Cateys 2021: Manager of the Year Award: Joanne Taylor-Stagg, the Athenaeum Hotel & Residences

08 September 2021
Cateys 2021: Manager of the Year Award: Joanne Taylor-Stagg, the Athenaeum Hotel & Residences

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Joanne Taylor-Stagg has managed to successfully create a hotel that is welcoming to guests, where staff feel important and cared for, and of which the owners can be proud.

Her first task as general manager of the five-red-AA-star, 164-bedroom Athenaeum Hotel & Residences in London at the beginning of 2019 was to build the departmental head team, clarifying roles, responsibilities and expectations. Together they created a new purpose for the hotel: ‘recreating a magical haven in a frenetic world'. She also instigated an impactful approach of ‘sawubona': an African Zulu greeting which means "I see you". Living and breathing the company values, the team is clear on what is expected and what success looks like.

Taylor-Stagg kept the hotel open to accommodate long-term and resident guests as well as key workers, using this income to retain a core team of staff, including new employees who were ineligible for furlough. All salaries were topped up to 100%, including 80% of tronc, while Taylor-Stagg worked at 80% of her salary.

When supermarkets were in short supply, she arranged for the team to order groceries through the hotel's suppliers, as well as arranging taxis so staff did not have to use public transport.

In recognition of the number of rough sleepers in London, Taylor-Stagg organised the donation of toiletries, food and clothes to charity Only a Pavement Away and the preparation of meals for those sleeping in the local church, while also participating and encouraging the team's participation in fundraising for charities including Hospitality Action and Cancer Research.

She also recognised that the redundancies across hospitality were often from supervisory level positions, which could result in a lack of future managers for the industry. Alongside Dr Hilary Cooke, she developed MIDAS, the Master Innholder Developing Additional Skills, securing £10,000 from the Master Innholders Charitable Trust to run six months of masterclasses to provide practical advice to young people at supervisory to head of department level whose roles have been made redundant.

One page is not enough to list all the positive comments from colleagues submitted within the entry: "Joanne is an inspirational leader who I know I can count on for support and encouragement"; "I appreciate her for helping me become a better professional and at the same time letting me get on with what I can do best"; "Joanne knows the name of everyone and takes a genuine interest in her team and takes the time to show this".

This has resulted in recognition including being shortlisted for Springboard's Best Employer Award, a 92% employee net promotor score in The Caterer's Best Places to Work in Hospitality, ranking 18th – and now the Manager of the Year Catey.

What the judges said

"Her dedication to her team, business and the wider hospitality industry has been unwavering over many years." - David Connell

"Joanne has worked exceptionally tirelessly and selflessly and is at the top of her game right now. She truly deserves this award." - Liz McGivern

"Joanne's contribution to the industry cannot go unrecognised. She has had an amazing year despite the incredible challenges we have all faced. A very worthy winner." - Chantelle Nicholson

The shortlist

  • Joe Calvey, the Wiremill Lakeside Pub & Inn, Surrey
  • Adrian Ellis, the Lowry hotel, Manchester
  • Francisco Macedo, Cliveden House, Berkshire
  • Joanne Taylor-Stagg, the Athenaeum Hotel & Residences, London
  • Knut Wylde, the Berkeley, London

The judges

  • David Connell, general manager, South Lodge
  • Zoe Jenkins, general manager, Coworth Park
  • Liz McGivern, vice-president, people and culture, Red Carnation Hotels
  • Chantelle Nicholson, chef-owner, Tredwells and All's Well
  • Justin Pinchbeck, general manager, Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
  • Laura Sharpe, general manager, Ham Yard hotel
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