Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Patrick Dempsey, Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants

06 December 2012
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Patrick Dempsey, Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants

Overall ranking: 12 (ranked 4 in 2011)Hotelier ranking: 3 (ranked 2 in 2011)

Patrick Dempsey - Snapshot

Patrick Dempsey is managing director of Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants, created in 2008 by combining the leisure group's Premier Inn business with its pub-restaurant arms. The 620 Premier Inns - equating to 50,000 rooms are located in India and Dubai as well as the UK, with a pipeline in place to take the portfolio to 65,000 rooms by 2015/2016. The business operates almost 400 (389) restaurants under the Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Table Table and Taybarns brands.

In the year to March 2012, Whitbread Group saw sales grow by 11.2% with total revenue of £1,778m and underlying pre-tax profits up 11.3% to £320.1m. Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants saw revenue up from £415.2m to £478.3m, with underlying profit up 8.5% to £181.3m, up from £167.1m the previous year.

Patrick Dempsey has worked for more than 30 years in the hotel and restaurant business, and has held posts including chief executive of Macdonald Hotels, managing director of Forte Hotels UK and CEO of Restaurant Associates, part of Compass Group.

Dempsey joined Whitbread in 2004 from Macdonald Hotels to run the company's franchised Marriott hotels business but after that was sold off, he became managing director of Premier Inn. He joined the board as an executive director in January 2009. He is a trustee of Hospitality Action, a member of the Business in the Community talent and skills leadership team, and sits on the DCMS Tourism Advisory Council.

The Whitbread group has gradually been refined over the years and now has a much narrower focus. The once-diverse leisure giant has exited brewing, sold most of its pubs and ended its involvement in businesses such as Britvic, David Lloyd and the UK operations of Pizza Hut and TGI Friday's. In an interview with the Publican, Dempsey said: "We don't do a lot of different things now, we do a few things well. There's been a change from the days when big companies were driven to keep diversifying - the focus now is on what you do best."

The business now comprises Premier Inn, with pub restaurant sites alongside hotels, as well as the Costa Coffee operation. Alongside revamping existing sites, Premier Inn has continued to expand and now operates more than 50,000 rooms in the UK, as well as opening sites in Dubai and India. On the restaurant side, to the long-established Beefeater and Brewer's Fayre operations have been added the casual pub dining Table Table, and the fixed-price, family focused Taybarne brand. The group has also trialled its new Beefeater brand with 3 trial restaurants across the UK and one new restaurant in Halifax taking the total estate to 387.

Patrick Dempsey - What we think
When Whitbread's new chief executive Andy Harrison took up his post in September 2010, any trepidation he felt at taking the helm of one Britain's best known leisure brands must have been tempered by the knowledge that the business is in astonishingly good health. And for that, Patrick Dempsey deserves much of the credit. While competitors have hit financial troubles, Premier Inn is still on the road of expansion and profit increases.

Over the past 10 years, the hotel group has trebled in size and Premier Inn is currently the UK's largest hotel brand, while also operating in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and India. The group saw its highest room growth in 2011/12, opening 4,055 new rooms and 29 new hotels and has plans for a further 4,200 during 2012/13. PI has future expansion goals of 65,000 bedrooms over the next four years (by 2015/16) from its current estate of 50,000 bedrooms, as well as six new restaurant sites.

With 11,000 bedrooms in the pipeline - 90% of which have full planning permission - Dempsey is already well on the way towards achieving this target. In October 2012 Premier Inn announced 1,100 new rooms in 15 new hotels across the South West of England and South Wales, creating an estimated 750 new jobs.

Various factors and innovative approaches have helped Premier Inn weather the tough economic times. Focussing on the good nights' sleep promise has helped secure return customers, while retaining competitive rates during the Olympics was seen as a strategic decision to encourage new guests to try the brand. Targeting business accounts, which previously might not have considered budget hotels, has also been important.

Dempsey also takes a strong lead on industry issues. Premier Inn was the first hotel group to withdraw its rooms from use by third parties approved by London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) after it emerged they were being sold on in highly marked-up tourist packages. Protecting the integrity of the brand is seen as essential.

On the staffing side, Dempsey and his team have begun in-house training programmes and recruiting the long term unemployed through a link up with Job Centre Plus, resulting in 60% of staff at the group's two newest properties coming from this sector.

Since 2006-07, revenue from business accounts has grown from £75m to over £180m with around 55% of turnover now be attributed to corporate business.

He was awarded an OBE in the 2012 Queen's Honour's list, while the group retained its title of 'Best Budget Hotel Brand' for the third year in a row at this year's Business Travel Awards, and more recently was named Leisure Hotel Chain of the Year at the 2012 British Travel Awards for the 3rd year running.

Patrick Dempsey's ranking in the 2011 Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 >>
Premier Inn passes 50,000 room milestone >>

Dempsey gets involved in the Big Conversation >>

The Caterer Interview: Patrick Dempsey >>

Premier Inn rooms withdrawn from LOCOG agreement >>

Whitbread winning in age of austerity >>

Whitbread appoints Patrick Dempsey as its executive director >>

Tackling Youth Unemployment >>

Premier Inn adds more than 1,100 new bedrooms across the South west >>

Whitbread website >>

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