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Born into a family of hotel and pub operators and proudly following in the footsteps of her grandparents, parents and great-uncle, it comes as no surprise that Sally Beck is recognised as one of the most naturally gifted and inspirational hoteliers of her time.
As general manager of the Royal Lancaster London, over the past four years she has navigated the 411-bedroom property through the inescapably choppy waters of an £85m refurbishment, keeping it open throughout, maintaining every single one of its client contracts, and refurbishing it from a somewhat tired, mid-market hotel to a luxurious establishment that expects to boast 48% growth for that period to the end of 2019.
However, the recently inducted Master Innholder, who is also a St Julian Scholar, has not just transformed the look and feel of the Lancaster Gate property in which she works, she has also acted as an agent of change, re-energising the workforce by personally driving a shift in attitude throughout the business to promote communication, respect and trust among its staff. Pioneering initiatives include an inverted hierarchy and a no-blame culture where mediation is the preferred choice of action when any issues arise between employees.
Speaking to The Caterer in 2018, Beck revealed it was her goal "to run the happiest hotel in London", adding that she and her team work hard to foster an environment where each colleague can be the best version of themselves every day. Encouragingly, "we always care" is one of the hotel's core values, and the fact that the Royal Lancaster London has been listed in The Sunday Times' Top 100 Best Companies to Work For for the past four years, voted for by the hotel's workforce, illustrates that Beck and her team are very much on the same page.
As devoted as Beck is to her team and her property, her commitment to a better world does not stop at the hotel's front door. Team members are passionate about giving back to the community, and their five-year-old Royal Lancaster London's Community Consortium enthusiastically supports five charities within the local community. Meanwhile, Beck works with local churches, the police, schools and residents to ensure that the projects in which the team invest their time and efforts, such as working with the homeless, are supported fully and make a real difference to their Westminster neighbourhood.
What the judges said
"Sally is clearly an expert in her field who has transformed the Royal Lancaster beyond recognition. My feeling is that this is an award that is very much overdue."
"Sally's all-round dynamic and brilliant track record make her a very clear winner. I have a personal admiration for her achievements and feel this is very much her year."
"The way Sally has put all her natural skills into not only refurbishing the hotel but also raising standards and instilling a caring culture in both the property and the community has been amazing."
Sally Beck, general manager, Royal Lancaster London
Jorge Gertrudes, hotel director, Home Grown Hotels
Andre Mannini, operations director, M Restaurant Group
James Stewart, resort director, the Belfry, Sutton Coldfield
Michael West, group general manager, the Social Company
Silvano Giraldin, Service and management consultant
Zoe Jenkins, general manager, Coworth Park
Tim Jones, chairman, CH&Co
Liz McGivern, vice-president people and culture, Red Carnation Hotels
Philip Newman-Hall, hospitality consultant
Chantelle Nicholson, chef-patron, Tredwells
Justin Pinchbeck, general manager, Sheraton Grand, Park Lane
Laura Sharpe, general manager, Ham Yard hotel
David Taylor, vice-president of operations, Principal Hotels at IHG
Kevin Watson, managing director, Amadeus, NEC Group
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