2015 WINNERS

45 Park Lane - WINNER OF BEST EMPLOYER CATEY AT THE 2015 CATEYS

In a nutshell A 45-bedroom boutique hotel in the Dorchester Collection’s luxury portfolio

Location 45 Park Lane, London W1
Employees 139
Labour turnover 2.85% (February 2014-January 2015); 1.5% (February 2015)

Annual turnover Undisclosed



From the moment it opened its sleek doors in 2011, the Dorchester Collection’s boutique hotel adopted a One Team approach. Crosstraining starts as soon as a new recruit comes on board. So, if they work in the kitchen, they will also spend time front of house in chef Wolfgang Puck’s Cut at 45 Park Lane restaurant. Similarly, a host will perhaps spend time working alongside the housekeeping team, making beds.

The results have been impressive. More than 50% of the team are able to do more than one role, aiding cross-departmental communication and co-operation and also improving service for guests.

Even better, it’s generated a strong team spirit that has affected staff morale, with the hotel hitting 85.5% for their employee engagement in 2014 – the highest result across the Dorchester Collection. Equally, it is reflected in labour turnover, which was just 1.5% in February.

Last year some 43% of the team moved up the ladder, with 15% being promoted to the company’s flagship Dorchester hotel. Structured development and on-the-job training is delivered by departmental trainers and there’s reportedly strong attendance at the group’s continuous development academy.

A lot of work also seems to go into finding out what makes staff happy. For instance, there’s a Your Voice committee, where reps from each department meet with the hotel manager and HR director every two months to discuss how to make life better for the team and the guests.


Georgian House

Shortlisted for the Best Employer Catey

In a nutshell Built in 1851, this four-star B&B hotel has 62 chic rooms and is still run by the original family

Location St George’s Drive, London SW1
Employees 33
Average labour turnover One out of 33 monthly and 26% annually
Annual turnover £2.1m




This four-star business is run by Serena von der Heyde, the great-great-granddaughter of the man who first bought the beautiful Georgian property. Her belief is that the best service comes from staff who are happy, healthy, have a good work-life balance and are empowered in the workplace.
With this in mind, she took the brave step of empowering the team to make changes to enhance the hotel and its services. The so-called Improvement Project kicks off with meetings of the whole team to brainstorm ideas. These have included better laundry storage, how the phone is answered and the location of a staff smoking area.

Staff work together to prioritise the projects and then elect cross-department volunteers. The project team is then put off-rota to work on the issue. They assess the situation, decide on the ideal solution and then brainstorm ideas to achieve it.

The plan is then presented to the management team for feedback. If it gets the go-ahead, it is implemented, reviewed and, if necessary, revisited. When it kicks in successfully, the team celebrate with a meal.

“It is a simple way to improve what we do, empower our team, develop their strategic and leadership skills, and improve cross-departmental communication,” says von der Heyde.


Cubitt House

Shortlisted for the Best Employer Catey

In a nutshell Family-run public houses with hotel rooms

Locations Four venues in London neighbourhoods, such as Knightsbridge and Chelsea
Employees 235
Labour turnover rate Not measured
Annual turnover £14m




Cubitt House comes across as a tight-knit family-run business that won’t compromise on getting the right person in the job. Where possible, it tries to employ family and friends of the team and promote from within. Once they’re in, however, staff are provided with a rigorous career and training path.

During the three-day induction the company sets out to discover what the employee would need to aid their development, and this training is then provided. Anyone with the right attitude is also given a progression plan.

On a day-to-day basis, each of the sites has a training schedule that gives the managers on duty a topic to focus on with staff. These can range from health and safety procedures through to cocktail training.

Besides friendliness and personality, candidates have to display the core values of hard work, honesty and integrity. It’s a culture that breeds a strong sense of inclusion and involvement. An open-door policy means communication is encouraged at all levels and head office managers work at least three shifts a week, allowing them to get to know staff while monitoring performance.

There are also a number of work benefits to attract the right calibre of staff, with “knockoff” drinks, the guarantee of two consecutive days off, policies to limit too many consecutive shifts, bonus packages, incentive schemes and fun field trips. The extras sound tempting, too. These include childcare vouchers, health care and discounts at 3,000 online and high-street retailers.


Jurys Inn

Shortlisted for the Best Employer Catey

In a nutshell A three-star hotel brand founded in Ireland

Location 31 hotels – four in London, 21 across the rest of the UK, five in Ireland and one in Prague
Employees 2,030 across the UK and Ireland
Average labour turnover 48% (2014) – this includes all leavers, including casuals
Annual turnover £175m




It’s been a busy start to the year for Jurys Inn, scooping Best Small Hotel Company at the 2015 Business Travel Awards and attracting a wealthy new owner, US investor Lone Star Funds.

At ground level, Jurys Inn makes a point of recruiting its operations team for personality rather than experience. It then sets about developing them into managers through learning and development programmes. As a result, some 93% of general managers have progressed through the company from operational roles.

But it’s not all work and no play. Staff are urged to get involved in summer barbecues, the annual charity challenge, monthly birthday celebrations, fun Fridays and other jolly activities. And Investors in People reckons it’s a good place to work, too, accrediting it with a Gold Standard.

Asked to single out one successful initiative, the HR team chose Grow Online, an e-learning portal. This covers the company’s induction for new employees, as well as continued learning modules and dates for workshops and webinar training.

The company’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. The people development team have been recognised with two awards from e-learning partner Learning Pool. Most recently, they were singled out by the Irish Institute for Training and Development for the most Innovative Use of Technology.


Auchrannie Leisure

Shortlisted for the Best Employer Catey

In a nutshell A family-owned hotel, which opened in 1988 with 16 bedrooms. It is now a resort with two four-star hotels with 64 bedrooms and 30 five-star, self-catering lodges

Location Brodick, Isle of Arran
Employees 143
Average labour turnover 31.7%
Annual turnover £5.6m




When the Johnston family opened the doors of their 16-bedroom guesthouse on Arran in 1988, their goal was to create a resort with indoor leisure facilities. It may have seemed ambitious at the time, but today Auchrannie consists of two four-star hotels with 64 bedrooms, 30 five-star self-catering lodges, three restaurants, a shop, two leisure clubs with pools, a destination spa, outdoor adventure centre and a children’s playbarn.

The island location inevitably means the Johnstons have to work hard to retain and recruit the best staff. Nevertheless, they seem to have built a team of people who live and breathe the values of the company and deliver great hospitality. Last year, for instance, the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards ranked Auchrannie the Number 1 Family Hotel in the UK, while the Herald Scottish Family Business Awards saw them scoop the Customer Service Excellence prize.

Arguably, it’s the staff themselves who best understand what it takes to make a great team member. Certainly, one strategy that has worked well is the staff referral scheme, which was launched in 2010. If the referred candidates are successful, the employee who introduced them picks up a bonus.

The result is that 21% of the current team have been recruited this way and quality standards have consistently risen year-on-year for the past five years.

The Johnstons have evidently had success in retaining talent, too. Richard Small took over as general manager in March 2007, having worked his way up through the business from the age of 14, when he started as a kitchen porter. 


Redefine BDL hotels

Shortlisted for the Best Employer Catey

In a nutshell An independent hotel management company working with 70 managed hotels and clients such as IHG, Wyndham, Hilton, Best Western and Starwood

Location Two offices, in Glasgow and Brentford
Employees 4,617 Labour turnover rate 37.6% (rolling year); 1.97% (February)
Annual turnover £2.5m (2013-14)


With a remit in hotel management for blue-chip clients, Redefine needs employees who are on the ball. No wonder, then, that underpinning its HR programme is a commitment to health. Last year, it introduced a Health and Wellbeing Initiative. Tackling mind and body issues, the scheme helps thousands of staff across the portfolio to pinpoint areas of their lives that could be enhanced, whether it’s diet, smoking, drinking, stress, mental attitude or any other difficulty.

The three stages – bronze, silver and gold – each take about 12 months to complete. However, individual hotels can personalise the scheme, spawning a lot of creative ideas. For instance, the Crowne Plaza Marlow used its fitness team to carry out body MOTs, checking blood pressure, cholesterol and lung capacity.

Partnership with Redefine’s healthcare provider means employees can get health treatment costs refunded. Similarly, there is a link with charities – Crowne Plaza Reading recently supported the Reading Half Marathon on behalf of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

The financial benefits are astonishing. Area human resources manager Martin McPhail says in the last quarter there has been a reduction in the total cost of absence across all hotels amounting to £30,000.


7. Coworth Park

In a nutshell A five-star, 70-bedroom hotel opened by the Dorchester Collection in 2010
Location Ascot, Berkshire
Number of employees 220
Average labour turnover (2013) 24.1%, down from 54.1% and “seeing year-on-year improvement”
Annual turnover Undisclosed

Here’s a five-star hotel and spa that takes a progressive attitude towards employment, promoting a culture of camaraderie and high standards. So instead of stuffy, hierarchical reporting lines, there is a “one team” approach, achieved through creating a flat structure that allows staff to have direct contact with their managers.

The aim is “to work together as one professional team, supporting and helping each other, encouraging an atmosphere of serenity and efficiency”.

To this end, the spa’s managers make sure they get to know each team member personally, ensuring they are well-trained and confident.

The theory is that by making staff feel supported, they enjoy their work and can give their full attention to the guests. In turn, the guests sense a positive and relaxed atmosphere, which is essential if the luxurious treatments, service and environment are to work their magic.

It’s a system that works. Engagement figures rose from 86.8% in 2013 to 93.5% in 2014, making the spa the highest operational department at Coworth Park.


8. The London Edition

In a nutshell Part of Edition Hotels, a slick, uber-cool hotel with 173 Ian Schrager-designed rooms and Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton overseeing the restaurant
Location Berners Street, London W1
Employees 250
Average labour turnover 5% a month
Turnover £5.9m year-to-date 2015

The London Edition was the first in a ground-breakingly trendy international brand that was created by boutique hotelier Ian Schrager, working with Marriott International.

Somehow, this city-slick luxury hotel in the heart of Fitzrovia combines innovative design and cutting-edge dining and entertainment with personal, friendly, modern service.

To keep it like that, there’s a concerted effort to maintain high employee engagement. Most hotel staff have not experienced five-star service themselves, so it’s to the hotel’s credit that it arranges monthly events to help connect them with the cool Edition culture.

These might include a private cinema event, art competition, pub quiz, boat trip, family barbecue and so on.

This is a switched-on company, so the HR team also arranges secret pop-up employee parties on the hotel’s private roof space. That way managers and staff can get to know each other in more relaxed surroundings.


9. Aztec Hotel & Spa

In a nutshell A contemporary four-star hotel with 128 bedrooms and a one-Rosette restaurant in the Shire Hotels portfolio
Location Aztec West, Bristol
Employees 180
Average labour turnover 53%
Latest annual turnover £7.5m

Cannily, Aztec has taken its customer initiative of “Quality, Integrity and Care” and used it for what it calls its “internal customers”, or team.
It reckons this makes for a happy, friendly workplace, something that is commented on by customers and job candidates alike.

The personal relationship starts at recruitment stage, with a face-to-face interview followed by a work trial. Once on-board, all staff have an appraisal and a development plan, so they know the aims of the hotel and what their role is in achieving this.

The HR door is open to everyone. One of the team, whose role at breakfast is making tea and toast, asked for a different apron. Reports suggest they were delighted when one was commissioned for them saying “Toast technician”.

Achievements are recognised, too – whether it is a milestone birthday or good attendance. Rewards range from celebratory lunches for long service to arranging free ice-creams to be delivered by an ice-cream van simply because it is a hot day.

This close relationship between managers and the team makes the hotel almost self-sufficient in terms of growing its own leaders and retaining talent. As evidence, it cites the fact that four managers have been with the company for more than 20 years and a further five for nearly 10 years. The general manager has been with the company for 15 years.


10. Peach Pubs

In a nutshell An independent, progressive pub group with 17 sites
Location Mostly market towns in the heart of England
Employees 500
Labour turnover rate 9.9%
Annual turnover £22.3m, 8% up on previous year, with one new pub, the High Field

This progressive pub group is no stranger to employee incentives. Back in October 2013 the company introduced the Master Peach programme.

Part of the company’s Route to Partnership initiative, it helps to identify possible future stars and generates enthusiasm and competition within the junior team.

A Master Peach will have been identified for several reasons. For instance, they will know their regulars and build relationships with new guests; they will coach junior team members, sell more than an average team member, and take on extra responsibilities, such as training or reducing waste. As well as completing extra modules and training, they will be assessed by the Peach directors.

It all sounds worth it, though. In return, a Master Peach receives discounts of 40% and a bonus of £1 per hour per shift, up to a maximum of £50.


11. Marlin Apartments

In a nutshell A serviced apartment provider with a portfolio of 700 apartments, and more under construction and scheduled to open in 2016
Location Six sites in London
Employees 100

With demand for serviced apartments reportedly outstripping supply, Marlin can’t afford to get its people initiatives wrong. One that it is most proud of is Development Track, which launched in 2013.

Under this programme, employees get to train in various departments and experience other facets of the company. This means they not only build knowledge of the industry, but can identify and progress into the role they are most suited to.

The HR team also offers an NVQ programme to attract local talent who they can then train and develop. Many NVQ candidates go on to gain permanent positions within the company and some go on to Development Track. Marlin reckons it can retain its best people through Development Track. Not least because employees are happy in their role since they were actively involved in carving it out.

Marlin’s annual Innovation Award would seem to stimulate this further. One nominee from each department is chosen for their contribution in pushing the boundaries within their roles. This gives a boost to employees, who are rewarded for their hard work and efforts, and it motivates them to be the most innovative they can be.


12. The Zetter Group

In a nutshell Boutique hotel concept, with restaurants such as the Grain Store in its repertoire
Location London – two hotels in Clerkenwell, with another due to open in Marylebone this spring
Employees 200
Average labour turnover 51%
Annual turnover £11m

The Zetter Group likes to remind us that it was once credited with reinventing the boutique hotel concept, and it’s certainly got a reputation for developing ideas.

No surprise, then, that in July 2014 the group introduced a profit-sharing scheme for staff, inspired by retailer the John Lewis Partnership. Zetter Group’s scheme is believed to be the first implemented by a UK hospitality company.

Open to all employees who have been with the company for at least two years, the scheme pays a bonus calculated as a percentage of salary. This percentage is the same for all workers irrespective of seniority. Why did they do it? Well, simply because guest feedback shows it is the hotel’s team that sets it apart from competitors. “The scheme reflects the values of our company. It is innovative, generous and, most of all, it recognises
the essential role our employees play in making the group the success it is today,” says a member of the HR team.

Zetter’s employees are almost certainly happy. They also get perks, such as maximum working weeks, neck and shoulder massages, staff discounts, private loans, a referral bonus of up to £1,000, wine purchase at cost, bike and annual travel card loans and a whole host more.


13. Rapport Guest Services

In a nutshell Launched in 2012, it’s the guest services arm of foodservice giant Compass
Location Contracts predominantly in the London region
Employees 145
Average labour turnover 17% (excludes implications of new contract gains)
Annual turnover £5.9m

The company wanted to recognise the achievements of its receptionists and call services teams and also raise its profile with clients and clients’ employees across the industry as a whole.

Cue the debut in the UK of National Receptionists Day in 2013. This now-annual eventhas been running since 1991 in the USA but had little presence here. Rapport built a new UK website and invited a number of businesses to come on board.

Its success put Rapport in the mood to launch National Telephonists Day in 2014 to recognise those who are on the frontline of building good customer relations across a number of businesses.

Both of these annual celebrations are an excuse to foster team spirit and dole out treats. These might be visits to chair masseurs and manicurists, a delivery of telephone-shaped cakes, competitions with prizes or recognition awards. Perhaps best of all, senior managers go “back to the front” and work alongside the teams for the day.

More importantly, they are fun, says managing director Greg Mace. He maintains that staff perform at their best when they feel included and valued. Rapport’s goal is to have the most engaged teams in the hospitality industry and to instil a “one team” approach to providing great guest services.


14. The Trout Hotel

In a nutshell Privately owned four-star, 47-bedroom hotel, refurbished in 2010
Location Cockermouth, Cumbria
Employees 76
Labour turnover rate 17% (1 March 2014-28 February 2015)
Annual turnover £3.6m (including VAT, year ending 31 July 2014)

This is one of those rare hospitality businesses that won’t accept that hotel work means forfeiting family life. The owners maintain that a healthy work-life balance should be regulated by sensible shift patterns and sticking to contracted hours. As a result, staff are offered flexibility, even at Christmas, while any co-working couples can take their annual leave and days off together.

If that isn’t enough, employees get discounts for themselves and their friends and family when they eat at the hotel. This is extended to its sister, the Lakes Distillery, too.

To underline the importance of a healthy lifestyle and facilitate team outings, staff enjoy free membership at the local leisure centre.

Back at work, financial performance is discussed freely, giving employees an understanding of cost centres and how the hotel is performing. All get biannual bonuses linked to net profit. Paid breaks, meals on duty, free uniforms and access to vocational training are also part of everyone’s package.

With a number of awards under its belt, including bronze at VisitEngland’s Awardsfor Excellence 2012, it’s clear the hotel’s style of management and the consideration it has for people has established a cohesive and committed team.


15. The Dorchester

In a nutshell Five-star flagship hotel of the luxury Dorchester Collection
Location Hyde Park, London W1
Employees 630
Labour turnover rate 2.48% (February 2014-January 2015) per month (2.1% in February 2015)
Annual turnover Undisclosed

Housekeeping has been under the spotlight at this world-famous 250-bedroom hotel. The Dorchester Town House & Designer Florist Services has been introduced, which gives long-serving staff the chance to showcase their skills outside the hotel by offering housekeeping services to local homes and apartments in Mayfair.

It has also had the effect of promoting the Dorchester as a lifestyle choice. This is going from strength to strength and saw the team scoop the Dorchester Collection Global Award for Innovation and the Dorchester Team of the Year in 2014 for housekeeping.

All in all, this recognition has helped drive up internal promotions to 21 in 2014, retain talent with only 11% turnover and motivate the team to achieve a 6.2% improvement in the mystery shopper’s programme.


16. The Savoy

In a nutshell Managed by Fairmont, this five-star hotel has 268 bedrooms
Location The Strand, London WC2
Number of employees 550
Average labour turnover 29% (year-to-date 2015, 4%)

Needless to say, this iconic hotel isn’t short on requests for placements from hospitality students. It also has a large number of vacancies. Seeing an opportunity to address both issues, the hotel rolled out a new placement programme in 2013, whereby 30 students complete an internship every year.

These so-called “SPPs” are drawn from partner universities – Surrey, Oxford Brookes, Shannon and The Hague. Each intern completes three rotations and is given quarterly learning sessions in revenue management, sales and marketing, and finance.

Now about to complete its second year, the scheme has been proclaimed a resounding success. The managers are impressed with these motivated, energetic trainees, and the programme is being seen as important in helping to strengthen the hotel’s relationship with education. 

Director of human resources Emma Jayne says: “We are now seeing the success of this programme in terms of building our talent pipeline for the future, and we are now interviewing our SPP graduates who want to come back to the Savoy.”

Its success looks set to grow. This year the Savoy has added a fifth university to its programme, Bournemouth.


17. Macdonald Windsor

In a nutshell A 120-bedroom hotel with an AA-Rosette restaurant run by Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, which has more than 40 hotels in the UK
Location High Street, Windsor
Employees 94 (nine are casuals)
Average labour turnover Last year18 employees left (19%)
Annual turnover £6.7m

Top of the list for Macdonald Windsor is the wellbeing of employees. To achieve this, it embarked on the Investors in People Health and Wellbeing award, becoming the only hotel in the group to do so.

As a result, the hotel has ushered in a number of new initiatives, including flexible working patterns, free dental checks, free flu jabs and smoking patches. According to the HR team, the results are a happier and healthier workforce.


18. Red Carnation

In a nutshell A collection of 17 five- and four-star boutique luxury hotels, along with a gastropub and a South African-inspired London restaurant
Locations Africa, the USA and Europe
Employees Worldwide: 1,500; UK and Guernsey: 850 Labour turnover rate 31% in 2014, year-to-date 3.09%
Annual turnover £87.6m (UK and Guernsey £48.7m, overseas £38.9m)

This close relationship between managers and the team makes the hotel almost self-sufficient in terms of growing its own leaders and retaining talent. As evidence, it cites the fact that four managers have been with the company for more than 20 years and a further five for nearly 10 years. The general manager has been with the company for 15 years. 

The group’s learning and development programme, Championing Our Elite, has been running for just over two years and is gearing up for a new intake in 2016.

It was developed to plug a skills gap at senior management level that was preventing progression to general manager and executive team levels. Senior and general managers attended the course over 12 months to gain the expertise and techniques needed to become effective leaders as the company expands.

Managing director Jonathan Raggett says he was pleasantly surprised by how well the groups have gelled. “The course resulted in a level of management ready to step into our key roles with the networks and relationships needed at that level already in place.”

HR director Claire Golden, who had firsthand experience of the course, adds: “Not only did it develop my management and leadership skills, it also gave me the skills to be a mentor, which is a key part of how we support new starters joining our graduate management programme.”


19. Langdale Leisure

In a nutshell A four-star hotel, spa and timeshare self-catering cottages
Location The Lake District
Employees 200
Labour turnover rate In 2014-15, 33% turnover and 69% employed for more than one year
Annual turnover £7.5m

Langdale reckons it has not only torn up the rule book when it comes to training, it’s also thrown the budget out of the window. With a declaration that they want employees to get as much as possible out of their time at Langdale, the HR team has offered what they call a person-centred approach to training. This ranges from the basics, such as first aid and food hygiene, right up to master’s degree university courses. Sometimes the requests for learning support don’t quite fit with the role that somebody is in, but that’s OK. The HR team will consider any suggestion that is likely to enhance personal development and make the employee a more rounded individual. It’s a fluid system, too, so staff don’t have to wait for their appraisal to discuss development.

In line with its pragmatic approach, the company recognises that staff are expected to deliver a four- or five-star level of service, yet often haven’t experienced it themselves.

To address this, it takes groups to London, where they get to measure themselves against their own understanding of four- and five-star service. Back at the hotel, they draw down ideas that they can introduce.

What stands out about Langdale is that while these training initiatives have encouraged many staff to stay, the company is sanguine about those who take their newly developed skills and leave.


20. Buzzworks Holdings

In a nutshell A group of eight stylish restaurants, bars and bistros
Location Ayrshire
Employees 380
Average labour turnover rate 20%
Annual turnover £12m in 2014-15, projected £13m in 2015-16

The company’s general manager and head chef training programme has helped to develop cutting-edge management skills. The results have been threefold: better engagement; higher personal and business productivity; and support in growing the business over the next few years.

One of Buzzworks’ core aims is “to have all our people happy to be at work”. The reasoning behind it is simple: if you look after your
staff, communicate with them and engage them in your culture, they will want to look after your guests.

The strategy kicks off at recruitment stage, which is geared to attract high-calibre staff in the first place. Interviews are face-to-face and there are practical working interviews. Similarly, young talent is identified by forging relationships with local colleges and schools.

With staff turnover in the past six months sitting at just 17%, the indication is that Buzzworks’ staff retention initiatives are working.

That’s proved particularly popular are the regular in-house competitions, such as Chef of the Year, Barista of the Year and Mixologist of the Year. But there are also bonus schemes for senior managers, practical training for all staff, guest trainers and educational days out. Oh yes, and the Buzzworks Ball every January.


21. Ampersand Hotel

In a nutshell Privately owned stylish 111-bedroom hotel opened in 2012
Location Harrington Road, London SW7
Employees 65-70
Labour turnover rate 10%
Annual turnover About £8m

There’s been a push at Ampersand to maintain the momentum and excitement of its opening. The focus for the past 12 months, therefore, has been on continual professional development.

The backbone of its strategy are the individual training plans, which offer staff a range of courses, such as revenue management and online IT courses as well as NVQs in skills such as housekeeping and hospitality management. This has helped keep staff turnover at 10% – well below the 30% target – and increased staff morale.

Ampersand has nurtured a close relationship with Lambeth College and First4Skills, and has taken on two apprentices with a promise of a permanent job at the end of their stint.

General manager Roberto Pajares puts team building at the top of his agenda. To ensure staff have the tools to succeed, regular away days are held for the senior team to set goals, move the business forward and ensure that every department is aligned with the vision of the business.

This is not a stuffy, traditional five-star hotel. If anything, it pushes the boundaries and combines modern ideas with a funky approach. Word is that this cutting-edge vibe means Pajares has built a team who love working there.


22. Brasserie Bar Co

In a nutshell A casual drinking and dining group with two core formats: Brasserie Blanc, the French brasserie business inspired by chef Raymond Blanc, and the White Brasserie Company, a high-quality pub dining business
Location Six southeast-based pubs and 20 Brasserie Blancs
Employees 750
Labour turnover rate 80% (industry turns over a large number of staff)
Annual turnover 2014-15 will be about £40m

Personal development is encouraged at all levels within this company, from the brasserie floor up to head office, and includes
a comprehensive management-in-training programme.

According to marketing manager Emma Williams, many team members have been ranks over the years. Among them are Claudia Reiter, general manager in Beaconsfield, who has been with Brasserie Blanc for 13 years.

Apprenticeships are another example of how the team is nurtured organically. The scheme, which was launched with the Mayor of London two years ago, has been extended to embrace interns at head office and junior members of the accounts team studying for qualifications.

“I myself joined the company nearly three years ago from my previous career as a solicitor,” says Williams. “I have been involved in an exciting phase in the company’s growth, with invaluable hands-on experience.”

There are also a number of fun incentives to boost sales. For instance, high-performing staff at Christmas can win trips to wine suppliers in France, or all-inclusive ski trips to Austria with tuition provided by the RAF.

Other perks include subsidised staff meals and a staff share scheme, which has been updated to enable members to save on capital gains tax.


23. Thomas Franks

In a nutshell Contract caterer operating across B&I and independent education as well as events and fine dining
Location Contracts across England
Employees 745
Labour turnover rate Management turnover 1.5%, chef turnover 1.7%, and core location staff turnover 5.6% (net turnover is increased by casual labour)
Annual turnover £20.6m (as of 30 March)

Client director Glenn Campbell says there is a big emphasis on showing staff they are valued. The company is working towards Investors In People status, which it should achieve this year, and has also broadened the remit of its Employee of the Year award to include chefs, employees, managers and locations for different sectors. Similarly, long-service awards recognise staff who are loyal to the business and diligent in providing a service to the clients – and that includes TUPE transferees.

On a more practical note, the company has relaunched its training programmes. Now, the majority of courses are online, which makes them easier for staff to complete.

Communication has been improved, too, with MyTF, an IT platform that supports managers and chefs by promoting best practice and providing information resources, innovation forums and chat rooms.

There are two new initiatives this year. One is the benefits and discount plan, whereby teams are rewarded with discounts at national retailers. The other is the customer service champions initiative. Here, particularly skilled and dedicated staff, such as pastry chefs, coffee baristas, administration gurus and so on, are raised up as customer service champions. They then help to train and develop their colleagues.


24. Just Hospitality

In a nutshell A 10-year-old family-owned contract catering, office catering and hospitality firm
Location Based in central London
Employees 44
Annual turnover July 2013-June 2014 £1.9m, forecast July 2014-June 2015 £2.9m

Just Hospitality’s team culture is one of openness and mutual respect. Managers are encouraged to speak out about their team’s achievements, play to every individual’s strength and interests, and give equal weight to all ideas and suggestions.

Its “staff happiness” programme sets out to improve staff engagement and reflect the company’s appreciation. So far this has resulted in the introduction of free lunches, a cycle-to-work scheme and paid days off for charity work.

One of its greatest successes, however, has been the Employee of the Quarter programme. This sees managers every three months championing members in their team to win a £150 dining voucher – something, apparently, managers are often more competitive over than their staff. The winners to date have been met with warm congratulations from all colleagues, which the company has taken as a clear signal of the strong sense of goodwill and camaraderie across the business.

Experimentation, initiative and food knowledge is nurtured through the monthly CrEATe workshops. The idea is that senior chefs teach cooking techniques and food theory and that anyone who wants to attend can try something new. This has created a collegiate atmosphere across sites – a shared sense that everyone is engaged in the process of learning and providing great food, despite the team’s varied locations and responsibilities 


25. Bennett Hay

In a nutshell Bespoke hospitality services provider
Location Based in London
Employees 105
Labour turnover rate 5%
Annual turnover £8m

Everyone at Bennett Hay is invited to an annual dinner at the five-star Berkeley hotel in London to celebrate the Guest First Awards. The winners are those staff who have gone the extra mile to “delight and anticipate the needs” of the client or guests.

These awards do seem to drive performance. One winner was a barista who impressed a client by managing to re-create a personalised design on her latte foam just before she had an important meeting. The director was so impressed, she emailed a photo of it to company offices around the world. This resulted in a team award for exceptional guest impact.

The team also notched up a 100% rating in a recent guest service survey. Another example is the Food Impact Award that went to one of the directors’ dining chefs. Apparently, 10 of the top London corporate banks so enjoyed his food at an industry dinner that he now cooks at their monthly meetings.

Perhaps most surprisingly, this company gives shares to its top performers every September – and then buys them back at a multiple based on the growth of the business in five years’ time. Recipients include butlers, chefs, kitchen porters, receptionists and managers.


26. Exclusive Hotels

In a nutshell A collection of four luxury hotels, plus conference venue and golf club
Location South of England
Employees 700 full-time and a further 350-400 casual workers
Labour turnover rate 45%
Annual turnover £49m

A big focus over the past year has been on the recruitment and retention of chefs. This is a challenging area for many hospitality businesses, and in response Exclusive set up its own chefs’ academy last August.

Besides offering chefs the chance to visit suppliers and experts across the industry, this initiative also gives them an opportunity to learn from the group’s in-house chefs, three of whom have Michelin stars. This created quite a buzz, and the group reports an improvement in retention since the programme launched.

In addition, the Exclusive Management Academy team was challenged to overhaul the reward and recognition programme last year. This resulted in the launch of the Wow Awards, where team members as well as managers are empowered to recognise great service in the business. The fact that staff can nominate their colleagues has raised the profile of the programme and triggered discussion across the business on how it can deliver “wow” experiences both front and back of house.


27. Chewton Glen

In a nutshell A five-star award-winning hotel and spa with 70 bedrooms and 12 tree-house suites
Location New Milton, Hampshire
Employees 260
Labour turnover rate 33% (2014-15)
Annual turnover £14.7m (2014-15)

Check out the Gold Duck Award. This luxury hotel has always has an award of excellence for staff who push the boat out on service, but this particular accolade publicly acknowledges good performance and nifty initiatives in front of an audience of colleagues and guests.

The high-performing member of staff is presented with a specially made miniature gold rubber duck. Staff who are talented enough to line up three ducks receive an award of excellence in the shape of a gold duck pin, which is presented by the managing director at a staff address.

The result is a huge boost in motivation for the rest of the team, who can appreciate the kudos of notching up ducks. At the same time, staff enjoy wearing the gold duck pin and are proud to explain why they have got one to those guests who ask.


28. Trustcott Arms

In a nutshell An independently owned gastropub
Location Maida Vale, London
Employees 54
Labour turnover rate 20% of opening staff are still with the company
Annual turnover £2.2m forecast this year

This meticulously restored and designed pub has been the passion of Andrew Fishwick and his wife, Mary Jane, since 2012. They set
out to source all their produce from microbreweries and independent local food suppliers, earning them the accolade of Three Star Sustainability Champion from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

Their social conscience extends, of course, to staff. The Fishwicks were founding members of the Living Wage Foundation, which rallies employers to pay above the minimum wage, and this has had the knock-on effect of helping them to attract and retain staff.

Indeed, an independent study examining the business benefits of implementing a Living Wage policy in London found that more than 80% of employers believe that the Living Wage had enhanced the quality of the work of their staff, while absenteeism had fallen by about 25%.

At the Trustcott Arms, some 20% of the opening team are still on board, many having moved up to more senior roles. The head barman was a runner with almost no English when it launched. “We offer extensive training opportunities both in house and out,” says Andrew. “And in May we are launching our own Wine and Spirit Education Trust school based at the Truscott Arms.


29. Village London

In a nutshell Comprising independent modern British restaurants the Garrison public house, Village East restaurant and bar and Riding House café
Location Bermondsey and Great Titchfield Street, London
Employees 190
Labour turnover rate Not available
Annual turnover Not available

Village London is hot on mentoring. Everynew recruit is assigned one and managers get regular training updates on improving their mentoring skills. The result is that new staff are more confident and buy into the “sharing” culture.

Of course, some staff do leave, but the company has just launched an online exit interview to gather feedback on why. Already, the findings have triggered an investigation into management style.

As for development, employees who want to take up a course relevant to their job can now apply for up to 50% of the cost. The aim is to encourage people to stay not only in Village London but also in hospitality. Similarly, the company has paired up with First for Skills and created a tailored one-year NVQ curriculum for those aged 16-25 who want to further their career.

Part of the company’s bid to connect with employees has been the creation of the Village London workbook. This outlines the probationary period, sets objectives and outlines six-monthly and annual appraisals linked with succession planning. In short, it manages expectations.


30. Vapiano

In a nutshell An Italian chain launched in 2002 in Hamburg, Germany, there are now more than 150 Vapianos in 29 countries on four continents – and growing
Location The three UK restaurants are in London
Employees 239 employees (managers included)
Employee turnover rate (2014) was 9.2% (an average of 22 leavers per month)
Annual turnover Not supplied

This growing chain of Italian restaurants has introduced several team-focused initiatives in the past year. All are aimed at driving engagement and motivation among staff. They include training opportunities, an updated bonus scheme and monthly recognition awards.


Unsurprisingly, among staff favourites are the monthly team days out. These embrace about 20 employees from each restaurant who choose from a range of activities, which have included karaoke, theatre and chocolate courses, ice-skating, paintballing and trips to Thorpe Park.

Outlay for the company is about £400 a month, but it says the benefits are a boost in team spirit, employee engagement and the relationship between staff and management. It reckons labour turnover is down because staff feel rewarded for their hard work and they now see Vapiano as not only a workplace, but a fun place to be.