Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

Cateys 2016: Lifetime Achievement Award

08 July 2016
Cateys 2016: Lifetime Achievement Award

Sponsored by PSL - the Food Professionals

Bea Tollman

Over the past 32 years, our winner has created a legacy in 17 individually designed properties that make up one of the most admired hotel collections in the world. Indeed, in London, where competition is possibly the toughest in the world, her hotels rank first, second and third on TripAdvisor.

If you speak to any member of staff within the 17 properties that make up the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, you quickly establish that its founder and president is someone who is universally admired and respected.

Every day, no matter where she is in the world, South African-born Bea receives a report of the performance of each of the hotels in the Red Carnation Hotel Collection.

Pages of documents with occupancy figures, room rates, guest comments, performance data against competitors and images of special events are printed off (Bea does not use a computer) for her to analyse.

"I want to ensure every guest is being looked after and is receiving the very best service - I don't want anything to slip," says Bea. "Picking up on complaints is the best means of learning about the business. I also respond to guests' comments - never with a standard letter; always one that is personalised."

Bea's hands-on approach and obsessive attention to detail have always been central to her ethos. She oversees every element of the theatrical designs which gives each Red Carnation hotel its unique look.

However, the most important element of the success of Red Carnation hotels, as far as Bea is concerned, is that her team is consistently happy and inspired.

This is no mean feat, considering the size of the group, which now operates eight hotels in the UK and a further nine in Guernsey, Ireland, Switzerland, South Africa and the US. In addition, she is involved in the design of the Uniworld collection of 19 boutique river cruise ships, which operate in Europe, Egypt, Russia, India, Cambodia and China. Red Carnation and Uniworld are just two of the 30 brands that make up the Travel Corporation, which employs 10,000 staff and is overseen by 85-year-old husband Stanley as chairman.

As the group has expanded, Bea has always ensured that the staff have had the support, to enable them to climb the career ladder, as well as be recognised for their success.

An annual party and awards dinner is held for 950 staff at London's Grosvenor House, with representatives of each country where Red Carnation has a presence in attendance. Meanwhile, every Christmas, Bea personally selects presents for the 4,000 employees across both Red Carnation and Uniworld.

It is no surprise, therefore, that staff turnover is just 27%, and that Red Carnation has been in the top 10 on The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list for the last three years.

How does the group consistently achieve such positive results? "It primarily comes back to the service and staff," explains Bea. "The guests may say they love the hotels, but they always mention how well they have been looked after by the staff."

The judges

The editorial team of The Caterer, with nominations from all the Cateys judging panels

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.


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