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Interview with Andrew McKenzie, Hotelier of the Year 2008

16 July 2009 by
Interview with Andrew McKenzie, Hotelier of the Year 2008

Nominations are sought for the 2009 Hotelier of the Year, sponsored by Casna Group. Last year's winner Andrew McKenzie tells us what being chosen has meant for him and the qualities he'll be looking for in aspiring applicants

"It sounds cheesy, but winning Hotelier of the Year was the absolute pinnacle of my career," says Andrew McKenzie. "As I mentioned in my acceptance speech, people like Harry Murray, the Stafford's Terry Holmes and Ken McCulloch were my ‘pin-ups' when I started out and I never thought I would ever be spoken of in the same breath as them."

RECOGNITION

Then there's the fact that McKenzie's name is far more widely known now. "It's surprising how many people I have met who are not in the industry but know that I received the award," he says.

Since being made Hotelier of the Year he has been invited to events to speak or to judge, or to sit on panels.

Being in charge of one of the UK's finest country house hotels, as managing director of the Vineyard at Stockcross, in Newbury, Berkshire, was a major influence on judges when it came to finding their best hotelier for 2008. The John Campbell-led kitchen produces outstanding two-Michelin-starred food; the cellar - inspired by owner Sir Peter Michael - has more than 2,300 bottles. Meanwhile, the 49-bedroom hotel has a range of rooms to attract visitors to its boutique ambience.

McKenzie also manages the four-star Donnington Valley Hotel and Spa near by, which requires slightly different skills - it has more bedrooms but an equal emphasis on excellent service and facilities.

And his contribution to the industry goes further. McKenzie is on the board of the Restaurant Association and of the National Skills Academy; a non-executive director of Cantley House hotel, Wokingham, Berkshire; a Southern Region committee member of the British Hospitality Association; director of Newbury Corn Exchange; a director of Newbury Spring Festival; a Worshipful Company of Innholders liveryman and a chevalier in the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne.

It's an impressive array, the result of a long and varied career in the hotel industry. McKenzie's career path has taken in more experiences and different venues than most - whether working with De Vere, Stakis, InterContinental, Thistle or Shire Hotels - he has spent time in many properties across the UK, at a range of mid- to top-end hotels.

"Someone asked me recently why I got into this business," says McKenzie. "I remembered making tips in my first job as a 13-year-old hall porter in the Royal Hotel Bridge of Allan and working out that if you are nice to people they give you money - nothing much has changed over the years.

SOUND ADVICE

"Great hoteliers give people a good time and are successful - sometimes we make it more complicated, but the essence hasn't changed."

What advice can he give to those looking to become the 2009 Hotelier of the Year? "They'll need to provide evidence that they can create great environments staffed by great teams. A great hotelier runs a business that has happy staff who want to work for him, happy customers who want to return and happy stakeholders who want to invest in him. Easy, really!"

If only it were so - it's just that McKenzie makes it look that way.

  • To nominate individuals for the award, go to www.hotelcateys.com. The closing date for entries for this award is Friday 14 August 2009.

SKILLS AND CHARACTERISTICS OF A HOTELIER OF THE YEAR

The 2009 Hotelier of the Year is likely to display the following skills and qualities:

PERSONAL ATTTRIBUTES

  • Total commitment and dedication to the hospitality industry.

  • Demonstrates fair and decisive leadership skills.

  • Excellent communicator.

  • Well respected in the industry.

  • Exemplary business track record.

  • Innovative and creative.

  • Strong attention to detail.

  • Manages by example.

    HOTELKEEPING SKILLS

  • Runs well-maintained hotel that consistently surpasses its competitors.

  • Consistency of delivery: ensures all guest stays exceed their expectations.

  • A personal touch with guests.

  • Offers value for money.

  • Develops and introduces new services to enhance customer experience.

COMMITMENT TO EMPLOYEES

  • Focuses on developing employees' careers and maximising potential.

  • Willing to impart knowledge to employees.

  • Organises staff surveys and acts on them.

  • Empathic and approachable.

    INDUSTRY COMMITMENT

  • Supports Government initiatives to promote hospitality as a career of choice and raise standards of training.

  • Promotes the industry to the local community.

  • Supports hospitality organisations and events, both personally and with their hotel or business resources.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

  • Contributes personally, and with hotel resources, to help charity initiatives; involves staff in charitable and community events.
  • Has a well communicated and effective environment policy.

PAST WINNERS OF THE HOTELIER OF THE YEAR

  • 2008 Andrew McKenzie, Vineyard at Stockcross, Newbury, Berkshire
  • 2007 Michael Gray, Hyatt Regency London, the Churchill
  • 2006 Richard Ball, Calcot Manor, Tetbury, Gloucestershire
  • 2005 John Stauss, Four Seasons, London
  • 2004 Patrick Elsmie, Gleneagles, Auchterarder
  • 2003 Robin Hutson, then at Hotel du Vin
  • 2002 Gordon Campbell Gray, One Aldwych, London
  • 2001 Karen Earp, then at the Four Seasons Canary Wharf, London
  • 2000 Peter Crome, then at Chewton Glen, New Milton, Hampshire
  • 1999 Nick Ryan, the Crinan, Argyll
  • 1998 Nicholas Rettie, then at the Metropolitan, London
  • 1997 Peter Lederer, Gleneagles, Auchterarder
  • 1996 Chris Rouse, then at Turnberry, Ayrshire
  • 1995 Ricci Obertelli, the Dorchester, London
  • 1994 David Levin, the Capital, London
  • 1993 Ken McCulloch, then at One Devonshire Gardens, Glasgow
  • 1992 Dagmar Woodward, then at the Mayfair InterContinental, London
  • 1991 Martin Skan, then at Chewton Glen, New Milton, Hampshire
  • 1990 George Goring, Goring hotel, London
  • 1989 Grete Hobbs, then at Inverlochy Castle, Fort William, Inverness-shire
  • 1988 Ronald Jones, then at Claridge's, London
  • 1987 Eion Dillon, then at the Copthorne Tara, London
  • 1986 Harry Murray, then at the Imperial, Torquay, Devon
  • 1985 Terry Holmes, then at the Stafford, London
  • 1984 RamÁ³n Pajares, then at the Four Seasons, London
  • 1983 Richard Edwards, then at the Chester Grosvenor, Chester
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