Charles Morgan is the general manager of The Forbury Hotel in Reading, Von Essen’s newest five star property rescued from administration last October, and the first in the group’s new Metropolitan Set.
My big achievement
I’ve always admired Von Essen because of its vision. The chairman, Andrew Davies, is a visionary figure and his passion is leading the company into the high-end luxury market. So becoming general manager of a five-star Von Essen property before the age of 30 really is a dream come true.
How I got to where I am
The hospitality industry is a drug. I first came across it when I was at university and just fell into it really. I quit my degree in French and German to work as a bar supervisor at The Winchester Royal, and soon became F&B assistant manager. After three years there I was head hunted to join The Oxford Belfry.
My general manager at The Belfry was Greg Fehler. The patience and time he spent moulding me gives me a lot to be thankful for. He moved onto work for Menzies at the Welcombe Hotel, Spa and Golf Club in Stratford, and asked me to join him as his deputy manager. After a couple of years I left to join another Menzies hotel, The Stourport, where I got my first role as general manager.
In October last year I heard there was a position opening within Von Essen hotels, which naturally I went for. It turned out the position was for The Forbury.
When I arrived, the hotel and team here had been neglected - they needed direction and leadership. Prior to its administration there was no attempt to develop the sales or market the business. The hotel had been completely dead and as soon as Von Essen took over, their massive sales and marketing engine started running and The Forbury jumped from 40 per cent occupancy to 80 per cent immediately. The team were very keen to get on with running a beautiful product - they love the hotel and want it to do well.
The most valuable things I’ve learnt
Be patient and unwilling to compromise. As soon as you do that you become mediocre. It’s also important to remain passionate. Passion has to start with the chairman of the company but at unit level, it starts with me. I have to show my team my own enthusiasm to want to be the best. If you stop striving to do better than the rest, then you’re losing the war.
The hardest thing about my job
The main thing that annoys me about this job is time and the lack of it. Small tasks take a long time and the hardest thing is fitting in the daily operation around the development strategy. Implementing a new procedure takes a while because you have to sell it to the team and make them understand why they should do it before it will be accepted.
With The Forbury the sky’s the limit. Reading is fast becoming a luxury market, growing in retail and commerce, and needs a luxury boutique townhouse. We can be that hotel, and aim to achieve red star status. The property is there, the team will be trained to deliver that standard and now Michael Parks, our executive chef can deliver at least three rosette level for our Cerise bistro, and I’ll support him in every way I can to achieve that. From where we were in November we’ve made a huge leap forward. It will take time, it always does, but The Forbury will be a fine townhouse hotel.