Robin Sheppard, chairman of Bespoke Hotels, was presented with the Outstanding Contribution award at the Hotel Cateys 2016 this evening.
He was honoured for a career that has spanned nearly 40 years, during which time he has run some of the UK's most prominent hotels including Bodysgallen Hall, the Lygon Arms, the Royal Berkshire and the Bath Spa.
Together with business partner Haydn Fentum, he launched Bespoke Hotels in 2001 as a management company to improve and inject value into the often-overlooked regional mid-market sector. Today the company comprises more than 170 hotels and 8,000 employees in the UK and overseas.
In the midst of building Bespoke up into the successful business it is today, Sheppard was struck down with Guillain-Barré syndrome, which affects the peripheral nervous systems and, at one point, left him completely paralysed.
He had to relearn how to sit, stand and walk as a result of losing all fine motor controls and was left with restricted mobility.
Despite a two-year recovery period, Sheppard was never going to let the illness hold him back from continuing to work in an industry that continually inspires him. Indeed, it has led him to campaign on behalf of disabled guests, who he believes are often treated like second-class citizens by hotels.
He previously told The Caterer: "There is not much chuffing joy at being disabled and rocking up at a hotel knowing you will end up being put into a basic room next to the lifts."
In order to encourage a more "joyful experience" for disabled guests, Sheppard has played an instrumental role in launching the Bespoke Access Awards, in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects. Winners of the first set of awards, with prize money totalling £30,000, will be announced next week at the House of Lords.
A gathering of 625 guests at the Hotel Cateys presentation dinner, at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London, gave Sheppard a standing ovation as he was presented with the accolade, sponsored by Diversey Care.
Sheppard was one of 18 winners at the glittering awards ceremony, which saw the 1,019-bedroom host venue carry off two awards for Conference and Banqueting Team of the Year and Food and Beverage Manager of the Year (Simon Seis).
Impressionist Debra Stephenson presented the awards, with entertainment from The Boy with Tape on His Face, a finalist on America's Got Talent. Hospitality Action benefited from the evening's fundraising efforts.
2016 Hotel Catey winners
Laura Godman, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
Front of House Team of the Year - Sponsored by Syft App
Gleneagles hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire
Conference and Banqueting Team of the Year - Sponsored by Reynolds
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London
Housekeeper of the Year - Sponsored by SCA Hygiene
Jane Steel, Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa, Luton, Bedforshire
Sustainable Hotel of the Year - Sponsored by Wi-Q
Battlesteads, Wark on Tyne, Northumberland
Hotel Restaurant Manager of the Year - Sponsored by Tchibo Coffee International
Rebecca Galland, the Vineyard, Stockcross, Berkshire
Hotel Restaurant Team of the Year - Sponsored by Zenith Hygiene Group
The Balmoral, Edinburgh
Food and Beverage Manager of the Year - Sponsored by Britvic
Simon Seis, Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London
Spa Professional of the Year - Sponsored by Christie & Co
Cathy Ball, the Calcot Collection
Revenue Manager Award - Sponsored by Sky
Olga Sommer, Ham Yard, London
Hotel Chef of the Year (fewer than 250 covers) - Sponsored by Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division
Phil Carmichael, Berners Tavern at the London Edition
Hotel Chef of the Year (more than 250 covers) - Sponsored by Craft Guild of Chefs
Chris Wheeler, Stoke Park Country Club, Spa & Hotel, Buckinghamshire
Human Resources Manager of the Year - Sponsored by Just Chefs
Tristan Knight, Rosewood London
Human Resources Team of the Year - Sponsored by Citirecruit
Concierge Award - Sponsored by Castello del Nero
Anton Coburn, Rockliffe Hall, Darlington, County Durham
Extra Mile Award - Sponsored by Bidvest Foodservice
Crowne Plaza Leeds team
Hotelier of the Year - Sponsored by Casna Group
Craig Bancroft, managing director, Northcote, Langho, Lancashire
Outstanding Contribution - Sponsored by Diversey