Robyn Jones – My life in hospitality

24 April 2008 by
Robyn Jones – My life in hospitality

Highs… In the early days of Charlton House, one of the highs was winning our first big contract, at the Sony UK headquarters. Not only was it a very prestigious contract, it was a fantastic building that we could show off to potential clients. It was definitely our big break and we felt the business was really going forward.

Also in the early days, we made the big decision to go with Gary Crossley [Caterer's then editor], who wanted us to become an Adopted Business in the magazine. He wanted warts and all - and some weeks it was very "warty" - but I've often thanked him since, because it really raised our profile in the industry. Consultants who'd sniggered when we first started began to recognise us and take us seriously. I'd say we've always been very structured at Charlton House and we've always known what we've wanted, like setting out to build up the law firm side of the business around seven years ago, and consciously not targeting sectors where people have to eat, like schools, the police or contracts like the MoD because we didn't want to dilute or dumb down.

We had the Chester Boyd acquisition last year, which increased our turnover to £75m, and our teams are now fully dovetailed. We're also about to launch Charlton House Restaurants, focusing on attraction catering, like zoos. There's a deluge of average to poor caterers in this area and the clients and consultants I've spoken to are crying out for a quality operator. Obviously the proof will be in the pudding, but we're very excited about it.

Lows… Moving to a construction company in the middle of a recession after leaving High Table, now Avenance, was questioned by a few people, especially after I was made redundant. I was devastated at the time but it turned out to be the right move in the long run because it meant that I set up Charlton House.

Now, my lows tend to be when I'm not engaged in the business, or if I'm bored or things are routine. I usually go round causing problems to make things interesting again. Taking on the wrong people can lead to serious lows too, and it's expensive to get rid of them.

Age 46

Status Married, with a daughter aged 12 and a son, eight

Lives Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Drives Jaguar XKR

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