Hotel Cateys 2015: Outstanding Contribution
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In recent years the name of Philip Newman-Hall has become almost as synonymous with Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons as that of its founder, Raymond Blanc.
While Blanc has always been the creative genius who built up Le Manoir to become one of the most successful hotels in the UK, Newman-Hall has been the steady hand who has ensured the hotel's smooth running and profitability.
It is for his contribution to the hotel's success, combined with his mentoring of young people and support for industry charities, that Newman-Hall was propelled to the top of the list for this year's Outstanding Contribution award.
Having run the hotel as general manager from 1999 to 2004, Newman-Hall returned to Le Manoir in 2009 as managing director, eventually retiring two months ago. On each occasion, he made an indelible mark.
He led the refurbishment and expansion of the property from 19 to 32 bedrooms and oversaw Richard Branson's sale of his majority shareholding of the business to Orient- Express Hotels (now Belmond). More recently, he steadied and grew business through the recession, achieving an annual turnover in excess of £15m and one of the highest average rooms rates outside of London, breaking the £600 barrier for the first time in 2012.
Undoubtedly, Newman-Hall's greatest impact was in creating a team continually inspired by his fair and encouraging leadership. Having developed his hotel-keeping skills via the vocational route rather than through academic study, he has always been a hands-on manager who leads by example.
"Primarily, I manage by walking about," Newman-Hall told The Caterer in a 2012 interview. "It really works as it enables me to catch people doing things right and give them instant praise."
For Newman-Hall, looking after staff is a fundamental and fulfilling element of the role of a hotelier. Having appreciated the support he received from George Goring, Ivo Vannocci and Michael Herriott in working his way up from his first job as an impressionable waiter in Eastbourne, he has always understood the importance of training and nurturing staff. Excellence, Newman-Hall, believes, will follow.
Newman-Hall supports industry bodies and charities such as the Master Innholders and Hospitality Action (HA). On behalf of HA he raised £11,500 last year by doing a tandem parachute jump and, together with fellow hotelier Danny Pecorelli, founded the Back to the Floor event, which has raised nearly £80,000 for HA over two dinners.
Newman-Hall is regarded by staff and guests as one of the most personable and approachable operators in the business. You only have to look at his Twitter timeline (@PNH_Hotelier) to appreciate his enthusiasm.
Following a short break away from work, which will include a trip to Australia and New Zealand, he intends to undertake some advisory and consultancy roles. The owners and team members of the hotels he chooses to work with are going to be in for a treat.
There is no shortlist for this award
2014 Robin Hutson, Chairman and chief executive, Lime Wood Group & Home Grown Hotels
2013 Patrick Dempsey, Managing director, Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants
2012 Paul Gayler, Executive chef de cuisine, Lanesborough, London
2011 Gordon Campbell Gray, Chairman, CampbellGray Hotels
2010 Alan Parker, Chief executive, Whitbread
2009 Willy Bauer, Chairman, AB Hotels
2008 John Williams, Executive head chef, the Ritz, and executive chairman, the Academy of Culinary Arts
2007 Grant Hearn, Chief executive, Travelodge
The Caterer editorial team