Hand Picked Hotels has won top prize at the first Business Excellence Awards for the hospitality and tourism industry.
The Kent-based group headed a list of five winners at yesterday's ceremony, which was held at Claridges hotel, London.
The company, which operates 14 country house hotels, was rewarded for a system under which managers run each hotel as though it was their own property.
It was set up in 1999 by city financier Guy Hands and his wife Julia after they acquired the properties from the Arcadian and Virgin chains.
First prize was a £2,500 scholarship to attend a programme at the Lausanne Hotel School in Switzerland.
The event, which is organised by the government-backed Best Practice Forum, was presented by tourism minister Richard Caborn. He said: "The awards show that there are many businesses who want to adopt or adapt best practice, and thus become more productive and more profitable."
Second place went to the five-star Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London, which used staff feedback to improve performance.
And TLH Leisure Resort, Torquay, picked up third prize after implementing a People Action Plan that improved recruitment and reduced staff turnover.
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