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Christian Armstrong – My Life In Hospitality

18 September 2009 by
Christian Armstrong – My Life In Hospitality

Christian Armstrong is head of human resources at Thistle Hotels UK.

Christian Armstrong started out as a restaurant manager at Forte Hotels but his exceptional people management skills were quickly detected and he was soon heading up a human resources department for four hotels.

"There were two of us originally but over the following three years we built the team up to seven HR staff and we were looking after 16 hotels," he says.

When Forte was acquired by InterContinental Hotels Group Armstrong and his team took on the recruitment, performance management and training of 1,300 employees in Scotland and north-east England.

In 2004 Armstrong moved to Macdonald Hotels in Scotland as regional human resources manager before joining Thistle Hotels two years later where he was quickly promoted to head of human resources, managing 32 UK sites and 2,900 employees.

For someone who is now just 32 this was quite a fast move up the promotion ladder, but then Armstrong's potential was spotted early when he was selected for Forte's management training programme following his degree in international travel management at Glasgow Caledonian University.

"I spent 18 months getting experience in everything from food and beverages to housekeeping where I did my fair share of making beds," he says, adding: "Working with people always appealed to me and I wanted to work for a respected hotel group."

As head of human resources at Thistle, Armstrong's duties include managing a team of area managers who in turn are responsible for "cluster" HR managers; overseeing health and safety and corporate social responsibility across the group; and handling employment relations and policy.

Needless to say, Armstrong says it is vital for him to be "well prepared and well planned". He also advises others to "take every opportunity to show your passion for the industry and impress key people". He continues: "Never be afraid to ask for help as there is always someone you can ask for advice."

HIGHS… Being promoted to head of HR at Thistle has to be a high. But so does winning an Acorn Award in 2006. I was recommended by Chris Gillett, then managing director of Thistle Hotels, and see it as a great achievement in terms of industry recognition. The weekend gave me the opportunity to network with the other Acorn winners and I'm still in contact with some of them. We had to act out a scene from Coronation Street and Mark Lewis (Caterer's editor) was in my group - I've still got the DVD.

I was also pleased to be made an Acorn Scholarship judge which gives me the opportunity to promote careers. I get the personal satisfaction of helping someone develop by receiving a year of mentoring from key industry partners.

LOWS… On Valentines Day 1998 I took over the Forte Posthouse hotel restaurant at Glasgow airport. We had 300 external bookings for 150 tables for two and 500 guests at the hotel. We had to think on our feet, use different areas and keep focused. We had all the chocolates, roses, candlelight and soft music and somehow we pulled it off. It taught me that if you don't plan, you are in trouble and also the strength of teamwork. It was incredible that night, we turned a low into a high and everyone left happy.

Age 32
Family Married with one daughter
Favourite holiday The lakes in Italy - great food and great wine
Drives Seat Leon
Motto Great things come to those who try


  • 2006-present Head of human resources for Thistle Hotels
  • 2006 Winning an Acorn Award
  • 1999 Moving into human resources from operations at Forte Hotels


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