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Tudor Hopkins – My Life in Hospitality

26 February 2010 by

Tudor Hopkins is co-owner, of the Place at the Beach in Camber, East Sussex.

Once bitten with the hospitality bug, Tudor Hopkins made it his mission to learn as much as he could about the business.

Following a cocktail course at the legendary Bas Bartending School in London, he took the opportunity to put his skills to use in the Far East, where he helped open the F Stop Bar and Grill in Lan Kwai Fong - "the Covent Garden of Hong Kong".

It was at this point Hopkins realised he was hooked. "I'd fallen in love with the industry but I decided I needed to get more professional about it."

He returned to the UK and enrolled on a hotel management course at Westminster Catering College, which he followed with a series of skills-broadening roles with the Royal Overseas League, contract caterer Baxter & Platt and Browns hotel.

HIGHS… Hopkins was recruited by general manager Stephen Kyjak-Lane at London's K West hotel in Shepherd's Bush, as director of sales. Together they decided that the hotel's target market was the music and entertainment industry.

"Our bar became the who's who of the music world. Up-and-coming bands were put with us by record labels because we were affordable, but we also had a real scene.

"It was a dream job and I had an absolute ball. We started with chaos theory and ended with an amazing hotel."

The decision to move on was motivated by Hopkins's ultimate goal to become a general manager, which was first realised at the Leonard hotel, Marble Arch. From one extreme to another, he describes this hotel as the place to go for people who don't want to be seen.

"It had a jaw-dropping list of guests. Madonna lived there until she bought her house in London; Depeche Mode were regular visitors," he says. "The staff had such great relationships with the guests, they often didn't even tell me who was staying."

But it was the sight of Sven-Göran Eriksson helping a housekeeper to lug a mattress down a flight of stairs that proves most memorable, not to mention repeatable. "He was always there, in his velour tracksuit."

Then Hopkins was offered his "dream job" as a general manager at the Jones, one of a trio of hotels which GuestInvest was spending £340m to launch.

LOWS… Unfortunately the buy-to-let hotel rooms group was backed by ill-fated HBOS and fell into administration.

"It was a tragic story," Hopkins says. "We had assembled a crack team: the sous chef from the Langham was on board; Oliver Peyton was to run the restaurants. But six weeks before we were scheduled to open, HBOS pulled the plug."

As a result he went to the Place at the Beach as general manager, where he and Harry Cragoe, founder of PJ Smoothies, were recruited by owner WAW Leisure as "business angels" to revive the ailing hotel.

"We had started to effect some big changes. By the start of 2009 we were cash-flow positive," he explains. "But on 21 April, WAW went into administration. I had gone bust twice in one year."

Hopkins and Cragoe were forced to run the hotel in administration. "It was heartbreaking - the business was crumbling. We decided to buy the hotel, but it took four months and 11 sets of lawyers."

The 27 August 2009, incidentally the same date his dog Camber was born, marked a real turning point for Hopkins. "We were shattered. We had had nine months of pain and customers queuing up to complain. But in our first weekend as owners we made £30,000 in revenue in three days."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hopkins's top tip to get ahead in the hotel industry is perseverance. "It's easy to think of this business as a holiday job, when actually it's a mini-world. Stay focused," he advises. "The pay is crap, but it does get better!"

Family Weimaraner pup called Camber
Age 35
Favourite holiday Tresco, Isles of Scilly
Drives Golf GTi Mk 3
Motto Keep going


RECESSION-BUSTING TIP

Be creative with your offers. For every market that goes down another one goes up. Recession hit the world and the south coast had never seen so much business.

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