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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Robin Hutson, Lime Wood

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Robin Hutson, Lime Wood

Overall ranking: 58 (ranked 69 in 2010)

Hotel ranking: 13 (ranked 15 in 2010)

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. It was subsequently sold to Richard Caring's Caprice Holdings for £105m in 2008.

Today Hutson is chairman and chief executive of Lime Wood Group, and was instrumental in the design, development and launch of Lime Wood country house hotel in the New Forest, where Hutson has once again defined "laid-back luxury" for a new generation. His current focus is the launch, at the end of July 2011, of the 26-bedroom The Pig, the first of a new breed of mid-priced country house hotels with a strong emphasis on simple, local food and quirky interiors.

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. He is now chairman of Lime Wood Group which comprises Lime Wood and The Pig in the New Forest and Le Portetta and Le Portetta Mountain Lodges in Courchevel, France.

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. His 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.

Lime Wood may be a more serious type of laid back luxury than the original Hotel du Vin proposition, but 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 Pig - Hutson intends to 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. It remains to be seen how the market will take to The Pig, but given his form, we think Hutson has once again come up trumps with a hotel concept in tune with the times.

Robin Hutson - Further information

Robin Hutson's raning in the 2010 Caterersearch.com >>

Lime Wood hotel >>

Lime Wood achieves five AA stars and Relais & Chateaux membership >>

Lime Wood hotel - in the limelight >>

Lime Wood brings laid-back luxury to country house hotels >>

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