Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Robin Hutson, Lime Wood, the Pig

06 December 2012
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Robin Hutson, Lime Wood, the Pig

Overall ranking: 18 (ranked 58 in 2011)Hotelier ranking: 6 (ranked 13 in 2011)

Hutson is chief executive of Home Grown Hotels and chairman and chief executive of Lime Wood Group, having been instrumental in the design, development and launch of Lime Wood country house hotel in the New Forest in 2009, where Hutson has re-defined "laid-back luxury" for a new generation. He has since launched the 26-bedroom The Pig (in the Forest) in July 2011, the first of a new breed of mid-priced country house hotels, The Pig (in the Wall) a 12-room B&B in Southampton in September 2012 and is set to launch The Pig (on the Beach) in Dorset in June 2013.

Robin Hutson co-founded Hotel du Vin with Gerard Basset in 1994, and in doing so redefined the boutique hotel sector. Hutson was responsible for growing the brand from a concept in 1994 to a group of six quirky, ground-breaking hotels, and the successful sale to Marylebone Warwick Balfour for £66m exactly 10 years later.

Hutson has since been involved in various projects as an investor, chairman and partner to Nick Jones in the hip Soho House Group. A majority share (80%) was subsequently sold to Richard Caring's Caprice Holdings for £105m in 2008.

Robin Hutson - Career guide
Things didn't look all that promising for Hutson at the outset. His school years were spent "chasing girls and having fun" but along the way he did discover an early fascination for culinary matters, which resulted in him studying for an OND in hotel and catering operations at Brooklands College, which he found he enjoyed and excelled at.

He was then accepted onto the Savoy Group's management training course and things started to click. Stints in all departments at Claridge's, Stones Chop House and the Berkeley hotel preceded a year in Paris at Hôtel du Crillon. He then returned to the Berkeley, where, aged 23, he became the Savoy Group's youngest-ever reception manager.

While at the Berkeley, Hutson met his wife, Judy, to whom he has been married for nearly 30 years - they have two sons. He worked in Bermuda at the Elbow Beach hotel for two years before returning to the UK to work with Martin Skan for eight years as general manager and, ultimately, managing director of Chewton Glen. Hotel du Vin opened its first site in Winchester in October 1994.

He successfully developed the group for a decade before receiving "an offer they couldn't refuse" from MWB. After a break, then a stint with Soho House Group developing, amongst other projects, the Miami site, Hutson returned to the UK limelight with Lime Wood, a new luxury boutique proposition, owned by chemical multi-millionnaire, Jim Ratcliffe.

As chairman of the Lime Wood Group, he oversees the 29-bedroom Lime Wood hotel, on the outskirts of Lyndhurst, and Le Portetta, incorporating a hotel, lofts and mountain lodges in Courchevel, France. While marketed alongside Lime Wood, the growing Pig concept - the 26-bedroom Pig in the Forest (July 2011), Pig in the Wall, a 12-bedroom B&B in Southampton (September 2012), and Pig on the Beach (set to launch in Dorset in June 2013), now falls under the ownership of Home Grown Hotels, of which Hutson is chief executive.

The £3m development costs of the original Pig was shared between Hutson, marketing director David Elton, finance director Mike Rice and the banks.
During his time heading Hotel du Vin he received many accolades, including two Cateys, and was named Hotelier of the Year in 2003. He is also a shareholder and director of the Relais & ChÁ¢teau property Hôtel Crillon le Brave in Provence and the Hampshire wine merchants Caviste. He sits on the board of governors of the University of Surrey Food and Wine Society and the Academy of Culinary Arts . Hutson also developed the idea of Action Against Hunger, of which he is still a committee member.

Robin Hutson - What we think
Hutson's 35-year career in hotels has been about redefining relaxed luxury and it seems he just can't help himself as he now turns his hand to the Pig brand and its 'piglets'.

It's well documented that Hutson's early Chewton Glen experience inspired him to want luxury "without having to put a tie on" and this resulted in his dedicated approach to delivering a different sort of experience. He is one of the key figures responsible for redefining the boutique sector from stuffy old school into what it is today.

While Lime Wood showcased a more serious type of laid back luxury than the original Hotel du Vin proposition, Hutson has remained true to his principles and the 29-bedroom hotel opened to widespread critical acclaim in November 2009. Mr & Mrs Smith dubbed the property "the last word in out of town indulgence" and in June 2010 it achieved a five star rating from the AA as well as Relais & Chateaux membership.

November 2010 saw the opening of Herb House - Lime Wood's 22,000 sq ft destination spa set comprising 10 treatment rooms (single and double), indoor and outdoor double bathrooms, state-of-the-art gym and more.

With his latest project - the three-strong Pig brand - Hutson is showing he can also revitalise the dowdy three-star market in the country with properties that offer shabby-chic décor and food from kitchen gardens or sourced within a 15-mile radius. With a third property to follow next year, the critical acclaim which has been bestowed on the Pig so far and his previous form, we think Hutson has once again come up trumps with a hotel concept in tune with the times.

With responsibility for originating the Hotel du Vin, Lime Wood and Pig concepts, Hutson has proved he is one of the most ground-breaking and innovative hoteliers in the UK who has redefined hotels for two generations - from luxury, to midmarket and now even B&Bs.

Robin Hutson's ranking in the 2011 Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 >>The Pig to open new hotel on the Dorset coast >>

Cateys 2012: Manager of the Year - Justin Pinchbeck >>

B&B version of the Pig to launch in Southampton >>

Angela Hartnett to join forces with Lime Wood for restaurant launch >>

Robin Hutson's latest project, the Pig >>

The Pig website >>

Lime Wood >>

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