The Caterer

What makes a winning hotelier?

12 May 2010
What makes a winning hotelier?

Nominations are being sought for the 2010 Hotelier of the Year award, sponsored by Casna Group. We ask last year's winner, Jonathan Raggett, what he thought endeared him to the judges, and the qualities he will be looking for as he assesses the aspiring applicants

Successful hoteliers are a rare breed. Not only are they multi-talented, but they also take on each and every task with enthusiasm and inspirational zeal, no matter how taxing the challenge. That's why previous winners of the Hotelier of the Year award are elite operators, able to turn their hand to any aspect of a hotel's smooth operation. They are men and women at the pinnacle of their profession, capable of managing the smooth and successful running of a hotel with a smile for guests and support for staff.

For last years' winner, Red Carnation managing director Jonathan Raggett, the recognition of his and his team's talent and dedication to service was "a brilliant feeling".

"It's a terrific accolade to win. To be put alongside some of the greatest hoteliers is a wonderful thing to happen to anybody," he adds.


Raggett has found time to make use of his enhanced status to help others in the industry at colleges, events and on a one-to-one basis.

"Many people that I don't know have been in touch," he explains. "A number of senior managers have sought out opportunities within Red Carnation Hotels as a result.

"I think the fact that Liz McGivern, our HR director, won the Human Resources Manager of the Year award at the same time enhanced our reputation even more."

Raggett's hands-on approach and commitment to guests contributed to his success. He leads by example and, having initiated Red Carnation's Trading Places scheme, has spent a Sunday morning as breakfast chef at the Chesterfield Mayfair hotel and worked as a room attendant for the day.

This approach has now been applied to the industry as a whole. "What it has enabled me to do - and I've certainly done more than ever before - is get out there and visit a number of universities and colleges," Raggett explains.

"I've done my best to promote the industry as one that's exciting and one in which people can progress quickly to a management position if they're prepared to work hard."

He has taken an active role with Springboard and has just spoken at the Institute of Hospitality's annual general meeting. "With the title it's been useful to get people to listen and lift both the company's and my own profile," Raggett adds.


What Raggett will no doubt tell his audience is that the key ingredient for a hotel's success is to build guest loyalty to generate repeat business. He says top class service, facilitated by thorough training, lays the foundations for business success and, in turn, industry recognition.

"I believe that if you're running four- and five-star hotels there are only two things that differentiate you: location and service," he adds. "We've worked really hard at the training and culture within the business so our people understand the most important thing they can do is service."

But what makes a Hotelier of the Year? "This is a difficult business to fake. You have to be in it because you enjoy it. I enjoy every minute of it and it does show. I speak to guests and staff, and it's often said that I'm happy and enthusiastic.

"I probably won it because while I have bad days I really enjoy what I do - I don't know what else I'd do in life. Everything about it I enjoy and it rubs off.

"Attitude is a huge part of life but in a hotel business you have to get stuck in, understand every part of the operation and create the theatre. But you can only create the theatre if you believe in it and enjoy it."


2009 Jonathan Raggett, Red Carnation Hotels

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

1988 Ronald Jones, then at Claridge's, London

1987 Eion Dillon, then at the Copthorne Tara, London

1986 Harry Murray, then at the Imperial hotel, Torquay

1985 Terry Holmes, the Stafford hotel, London

1984 Ramón Pajares, then at the Four Seasons, London

1983 Richard Edwards, then at the Chester Grosvenor, Chester


The 2010 Hotelier of the Year is likely to display the following skills and qualities:

Personal attributes

â- Fair and decisive leadership skills

â- Excellent communicator

â- Well respected in the industry

â- Exemplary business record

â- Innovative and creative

â- Strong attention to detail

â- Manages by example

Hotelkeeping skills

â- Runs well-maintained hotel that consistently surpasses its competitors

â- Consistency of delivery: ensures that all guest stays exceed expectations

â- A personal touch with guests

â- Offers value for money

â- Develops and introduces new services to enhance customer experience

Commitment to employees

â- Focuses on developing employees' careers and maximising potential

â- Willing to impart knowledge to employees

â- Organises staff surveys and acts on them

â- Empathic and approachable

Commitment to industry

â- Supports Government initiatives to promote hospitality as career of choice and raise standards of training

â- Engages with local community to promote industry

â- Supports hospitality organisations and events both personally and with his or her hotel/business resources

Social responsibility

â- Contributes personally, and with hotel resources, to help charitable initiatives

â- Involves staff in charitable/community events

â- Has well communicated and effective environment policy


This year, the Hotelier of the Year award will once again be incorporated into the Hotel Catey awards, which will be held at London's Lancaster Gate hotel on Friday 12 November.

By presenting the winner of this prestigious award to an audience of young hotel professionals, we aim to provide aspiring hoteliers with exemplars whose successes they can mimic in their own careers.

So if you know or work with a hotelier that delivers an exceptional guest experience in an inspirational atmosphere of excellence, we want to hear from you.

To make a nomination for Hotelier of the Year visit The closing date for nominations is 9 July 2010.

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