100: Patrick Dempsey

01 July 2010

Overall ranking: 6

Pub ranking: 3

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.

Along with almost 600 Premier Inns, with locations in India and Dubai as well as the UK, the business operates about 375 restaurants under the Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Table Table and Taybarns brands.

In the year to 4 March 2010, Whitbread reported total revenue up 7.5% to £1,435m, of which the Hotels & Restaurants division contributed £1,096m, up 3.2%.

Patrick Dempsey - Career guide

Patrick Dempsey, 51, 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 and 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 Tourism Advisory Council.

Patrick Dempsey - What we think

In 2006 Whitbread announced that it was effectively exiting the stand-alone pub sector and that, in future, pub-restaurant sites would be developed only as part of sites that also included one of the group's Premier Inn budget hotels. However, it was a couple more years before the change was enshrined in the merged Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants division with Patrick Dempsey as managing director in a board-level role. It's a position of considerable influence at Whitbread.

In the past decade, 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.

That effectively leaves Whitbread with just Costa Coffee and the hotel and restaurant operation. While Costa is a hugely successful brand, in the last financial year it accounted for less than 25% of group revenue. The hotel and restaurant division is the engine room of the group's finances, and Dempsey is the man in the engine driver's seat.

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."

However, playing to your strengths is not the same as avoiding challenges. The logistics of integrating Whitbread's Travel Inn business with the Premier Lodge operations acquired from Spirit Group in 2004, to rebrand them first as Premier Travel Inn and then as simply Premier Inn, are impressive.

As well as revamping existing sites, Premier Inn has expanded and now operates more than 42,000 bedrooms in the UK. It has also opened in Dubai and India.

With his hotel background, Dempsey might be forgiven for seeing the pubs as ancillary, but under his stewardship Whitbread has doubled its number of brands. To the long-established Beefeater and Brewers Fayre operations have been added the casual pub dining Table Table and the fixed-price, family-focused Taybarns brand.

There is a clear recognition that the core Whitbread customer prefers a pub environment to a formal restaurant, just as much as they prefer a value hotel offer to four-star trappings - and pricing. The success of the strategy is hard to argue with.

Patrick Dempsey - Further information

Whitbread website >>

Dempsey's board appointment >>">" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Read more about the 100, the list of the most influential people, here >>

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