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Charles Morgan – My Life in Hospitality

18 December 2009 by
Charles Morgan – My Life in Hospitality

Charles Morgan is group operations director at AB Hotels.

Charles Morgan knew he wanted to spend his life in the hospitality industry when he was just 10.

"I was on the train from Bristol to Penzance when the waiter in the old-fashioned dining car poured my mother a cup of coffee. He never spilled a drop," Morgan recalls.

Fascinated, he forced his mother to have 10 more cups and was captivated by the waiter's professionalism. "I was just blown away by the fact he never spilt anything and from that moment on it was all I wanted to do," he explains.

His mother influenced his career path further, accepting Morgan's decision, but stipulating if he was going to do it, to do it with the best and go to the Savoy. So that's what he did.

Beginning with a stint buying fruit and vegetables for Flora, the Savoy-affiliated fruit and veg merchant, he then worked his way through every department until in 1986, he became assistant food and beverage manager at the Savoy under the legendary Willy Bauer.

A real people person, Morgan still swears by The One Minute Manager, a book Bauer made all his staff read, and says it's vital to walk the floor, talk to staff every day and treat everyone with respect.

"It's important to remember what it's like to be on the bottom of the pile as the kitchen porter and how bad management can make you feel. It's easy to be quickly demotivated but conversely, as a manager, it's easy to inspire people if you notice them and appreciate their efforts," he says, adding that you will reap the rewards by having loyal and motivated staff.

HIGHS… Being made food and beverage director at the Ritz and getting Willy Bauer's blessing to go there was a great period of Morgan's life.

"I'd always said I wanted to be a food and beverage director by 30, and I did it at 28. I got to work with and be accepted by amazing professionals like Peter Romeiro and Michael Da Cosa, which was just wonderful" he explains.

He describes Hotel du Vin as a great experience all round. "It was new, different and broke the mould and summed up everything I thought was important in catering. When Robin [Hutson, the co-founder] asked me to join, I didn't hesitate; it was just the right thing to do and ticked every box for me, and is why it was so successful - it gives people what they want."

Most recently, Morgan cites being able to work at Sopwell House as a high, where he turned it around and saw it as a personal achievement when the staff started to enjoy working there and take pride in their jobs.

Also, he has opened five-star London hotel The Arch this month "with people who are so proud of what they are doing and so passionate for their jobs - that's a huge high".

LOWS… "One night," he explains, "I'd worked an incredibly long 18-hour shift as back-of-house manager at the Savoy. The next morning I got hauled into Willy Bauer's office where he bollocked me royally as he'd checked the dishwashers after I'd left and found a fried egg, which he said meant the machines hadn't been cleaned properly since breakfast.

"I was so demotivated, I couldn't say anything to argue my case or point out my long shift, I just wanted to hit the guy and had to walk away. But it gave me an inner strength and determination and I set my mind that he wouldn't beat me no matter what. It meant so much to me when I eventually left to go to Dukes with his blessing, rather than being sacked or with recriminations."

Selling Hotel du Vin was a terrible low, Morgan admits. "I don't think we ever realised how lucky we were or appreciated how well we - the four directors - worked as a team," he says.

"There there was no politics or backbiting, everyone had such fun and it was a wonderful, exciting period working on an amazing concept. Selling up and moving on was heartbreaking, knowing it can never be recreated.

Family Married with two children
Age 50
Favourite holiday Skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado
Drives Mazda RX8
Motto My passion has always been people - it's what it's all about

TagsHotels and Careers
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