Rupert Elliott – My Life in Hospitality

18 February 2010 by
Rupert Elliott – My Life in Hospitality

Rupert Elliott is the general manager, of Bibury Court in Gloucestershire.

Rupert Elliott says it was a given, from day one, that he was going to work in hotels. His grandfather worked in the business and his father, Tony Elliott, was a Savoy trainee who went on to own the Greenway hotel in Cheltenham - now owned by Von Essen - and become chairman of Pride of Britain.

"From the age of five I did everything at the Greenway from mopping floors to carrying luggage," remembers Elliott, who was appointed general manager of the three-star, 18-bedroom Bibury Court in Bibury, Gloucestershire, in March 2009.

In 1989, he followed in his father's footsteps and joined a five-year management training programme at what was then the Savoy Group of Hotels & Restaurants. His on-the-job training included working as a waiter at Claridge's, a barman at the Berkeley, a kitchen apprentice at the Connaught and a receptionist at the Savoy.

In the following years, Elliott worked his way through several of the most esteemed hotels in London, including the Goring and the Stafford, and some of England's leading country house properties such as Hambleton Hall in Oakham, Rutland; Priest House hotel in Castle Donington, Derbyshire; and Stapleford Park in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. He also had an 18-month stint at Buckingham Palace as deputy assistant to the master of the household.

"It is my time at Buckingham Palace that people are always most interested in," says Elliott, who explains that it was a job that involved a lot of administration to ensure that all the necessary food and staff were in the right place for both the Royal Family and the household staff - between four different royal palaces - at the right time.

"I learnt a lot about diplomacy and running big functions during my time there," he says.

Elliott left Buckingham Palace to take up his first general manager position at Hambleton Hall, owned by Tim Hart - a man who was to prove an enormously influential figure in his career.

"Tim was always thinking of ways of improving the guest experience, staff experience and revenue. He taught me that no matter how well you think you are doing today, there is always something better you can do tomorrow."

Elliott's other significant influence was Douglas Waddel, operations director at Hand Picked Hotels, who he worked alongside when he was general manager at the company's Priest House hotel.

"It was the first time I had been in a truly commercial environment. Douglas was a brilliant man and taught me more about astute financial operations and change management than anyone."

As a result, Priest House successfully increased its gross operating profit in 2007 by 44%, year-on-year, and carried off the Hand Picked Group's most improved performance award for 2007.

HIGHS… Three weeks after Elliott opened Tim Hart's new venture, Hart's hotel and restaurant in Nottingham in March 2003 as general manager, the property achieved a 77% AA rating. By 2006 the figure had increased to 82%.

The first year occupancy of 50% increased by 30% in year two and in 2006 Hart's won the Cesar Award for City Hotel of the Year in the Good Hotel Guide.

"I was very proud of our success at Hart's as I had recruited all the staff and there was a great sense of achievement among the team," says Elliott.

A more recent high point has been an improvement in the AA rating of Bibury Court, up from 74% to 83%, putting the hotel on target for four stars and possibly red star status. "It has come about through a lot of hard work and the building of a team of dedicated enthusiasts," he says.

LOWS… At the age of 18 Elliott went to work as a waiter in the Mauritania restaurant on the QE2. "I was very excited until I found out that I had to work at two sittings for each meal, seven days a week, for four months - with no days off," he recalls.

After making a complaint, Elliott was moved to the Queen's Grill which operated only one sitting per meal.

"It was still very hard work, but I did get to see half the world," he adds.

Family Married to Jo with two-year-old daughter, Polly
Age 39
Favourite holiday Chedi hotel, Muscat, Oman
Drives Audi A3
Motto I believe that mediocrity in our business is easy, it is being better than the rest that takes real effort. Excellence is not an art, it is a habit


Don't give into the temptation of slashing staffing levels and dropping service standards

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