Sponsored by The Balvenie
Sarah Williams, Ham Yard Hotel
Sarah Williams is a hands-on manager and leads by example at Ham Yard Hotel in London. Working at the hotel since its opening, she has built a team of over 120 employees; not only are most of them new to Firmdale, but many are also new to hospitality.
They staff a vast food and beverage operation, which encompasses a 120-capacity bar, 105-cover restaurant, room service for 91 rooms and events spaces including a 300-capacity bowling alley.
Motivating such a workforce clearly takes someone committed to training and development and Williams' track record speaks for itself. She has achieved 82% retention across all food and beverage departments. Several of the team have progressed through promotion, four have taken part in Firmdale's management development programme and four have completed customer service apprenticeships.
And since it's a new opening, Williams has learned to be flexible with the structure to ensure the department meets the business's needs. Initially, the head-count structure was based around other Firmdale properties, but she has revised this to maximise revenue. For instance, afternoon tea can be delivered by all members of the team, and seven hosts manage the flow of guests around the restaurant and bar, ensuring a fabulous first and last impression and generating more revenue through delivering quicker turn times.
As some 55% of total hotel revenue comes from food and beverage, there is considerable focus on the department and Williams doesn't disappoint. The whole of food and beverage in the first year of Ham Yard Hotel exceeded budgeted revenue by 32%, while events revenue was 40% over budget. The beverage cost of sale for the first year was 0.52% under budget.
Though she has not implemented many promotions, Williams has targeted specific services to great effect. For instance, she has championed the company's relationship with bookatable.com and promoted afternoon tea on afternoontea.co.uk, generating an average of 600 covers per week. Her success has seen the initiative rolled out across the Firmdale group.
This business success is significantly influenced by the culture Williams has created. When a guest makes an enquiry, she develops the team's product knowledge so they can offer the correct recommendations and drive revenue. Every day, Williams organises a detailed tasting of specials, while encouraging continuous learning through her wine club.
Unsurprisingly, given these high standards, Williams was awarded manager of the quarter for Firmdale, and one of her team was awarded employee of the quarter. Now Williams has been commended by another independent panel of experts, and is clearly a worthy winner of this award.
What the judges said
"Sarah seems to be full of energy and close to all staff. She has overseen a fantastic opening with a great performance."
Erick Kervaon, general manager, the Bingham
"Sarah has demonstrated a phenomenal ability to train and develop both team and revenues in Ham Yard's opening year."
Peter Bradley, director of food and beverage, Red Carnation Hotel Collection
"I feel Sarah represents all that is important about the future of food and beverage within the hotel market. She is forward-thinking, disciplined, passionate about people development, knowledgeable and successful."
Paul Boyce, director of operations, Cirrus Inns
Alastair Phillips, Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire
Nigel Sandiford, The Dorchester, London
Sarah Williams, Ham Yard Hotel, London
2014 Axelle Besson, Lancaster London
2013 Peter Bradley, The Montague on the Gardens, London
2012 Moses Solomon Flemings, Mayfair, London
2011 Amit Jaitly, Hilton Birmingham Metropole, Birmingham
2010 James Clarke, Grosvenor House
2009 Erick Kervaon, South Lodge Hotel
2008 Richard Ellison, Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa
2007 Paul Boyce, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin