The hoteliers’ lot is a complex one, laments Robin Hutson, requiring skills far beyond that of being just a ‘people person’
Everyone should know the ‘Qualities of a Hotelier’ poem. I am not sure who originally penned it or how long ago, but here is an extract (apologies to the author if not exact): “A hotelier must be a diplomat, a democrat, an autocrat, an acrobat and a doormat. He must have the facility to entertain prime ministers, princesses of industry, pickpockets, gamblers, bookmakers, pirates, philanthropists and prudes. He must be on both sides of the political fence and be able to jump that fence.
“He must always look immaculate when drinking with ladies and gentlemen – as well as with bankers, swankers, theatricals, commercial travellers and company representatives, even though he may have just made peace between any two, four, six or more of the aforementioned patrons.
“To be successful he must keep the bar full, the house full, the storeroom full, the wine cellar full, the customers full, and not get full himself. He must have staff who are clean, honest, quick workers, quick thinkers, non-drinkers, mathematicians, technicians, and at all times on the boss’s side, the customers’ side, the outside of the bar.”
Humorous, yes, and from a previous era, but it occurred to me that, in this day and age, these qualities are only half of the picture. We are in the people business, we deal with staff and the public every day, but there is much more for us to get our heads around. There is an expectation – indeed, it’s the law in some cases – that we should have expertise in a new list of topics.
Rightly so, there is a desire and expectation for us to lead the way with sustainability issues, a huge topic and completely new ground for many hoteliers.
Medical dietary conditions, food preferences and fads are increasing every year, and these are challenging and constantly changing. Employment law, mental health awareness, race, gender and sexual equality issues are fast-moving and continually evolving. Then there’s the evermore complex technology used to keep our establishments running.
This, in turn, has thrown up the more recent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) issues to administer. I am sure there are many other industries facing all of these challenges and more, but hoteliers certainly have their fair share to absorb.
At Lime Wood (pictured) and the Pigs we are trying to stay at least ‘on’ or ‘ahead of’ the curve. We are making progress on the sustainability front. Of course, our garden produce and 25-mile menu helps, and we have lots of other initiatives being worked on. In fact, I have appointed a young graduate (who originally applied for our Budding Entrepreneur Management Training Scheme) as our sustainability officer, and she is measuring the carbon footprint of each hotel.
Our use of vintage, antique and upcycled building materials helps on the development side. Our GDPR audit has thrown up some interesting challenges that we had not previously considered, and these extend far beyond the use of customer data and touch every corner of the organisation. I must say our teams (and the industry at large) have worked hard and done well to understand allergen awareness and training, and our well-educated young teams seem to take the issues of race, gender and sexuality easily in their stride – our latest hotel has gender-neutral WCs.
So, lots to do. Perhaps one day I will update the ‘Qualities of a Hotelier’ poem. One thing’s for sure, it’s likely to be a good deal longer than the current version.
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