Lionel Chatard: Pearls of Wisdom

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: The guest

Lionel Chatard, general manager at Middlethorpe Hall which last week won the Best Service award in LateRooms.com's Best Kept Secret Awards
Lionel Chatard, general manager at Middlethorpe Hall which last week won the Best Service award in LateRooms.com's Best Kept Secret Awards
Lionel Chatard is general manager of Middlethorpe Hall in Yorkshire, a National Trust hotel. The 40-year-old Frenchman worked at Claridge's and The Cadogan hotels in London before moving to his current role. He is also chair of the York Hotelier Association. 

I was born in France near Lyon where hospitality is taken very seriously.​ I went to catering college and worked in Geneva, but I wanted to improve my English, so 12 years ago I moved to London and worked at Claridge's and then The Cadogan as assistant manager then general manager. 

We get a lot of good comments on TripAdvisor about Middlethorpe, ​but it was really lovely to be recognised by the industry and win the Best Service award from LateRooms​. It's great to be recognised by an international bookings website, especially for our service standards. I was so proud of what we achieved. 

Our staff stay here for a long time.​ Our head gardener has been here for 30 years, our pastry chef for 27 and our front-of-house manager for nine. I believe that it always helps with consistency of service if you can retain staff. 

There is a real feeling of team spirit here at Middlethorpe.​ I try and keep things friendly and we really do work together, it is not a case of one department against another.

As a general manager, caring for your staff is so important​. It's an old-fashioned approach, but I like to think we are family here.

Everyone who works here gets fed well​. It's nothing amazing, but more and more places charge their staff for food and I think that's wrong. Staff here get whatever the chef (Nicholas Evans) makes that day, it could be roast chicken or shepherd's pie. We all love chips. 

I leave a hand-written note for every guest in their room. ​It's so important that guests feel personally welcomed. It sounds excessive, but we only have 29 bedrooms so it isn't that hard to do. 

Always focus on the guest is my motto.​ The behind-the-scenes work should always be secondary. 

Middlethorpe Hall was a privately owned hotel until The National Trust took it over in 2008​. Working for the National Trust does mean you care for more the building you work in, but we still run the business in the same way we did before and 80 per cent of the staff are the same.  

I was worried that the countryside might be boring after London​, but York is fantastic, there is so much to do and some wonderful pubs and restaurants nearby, we're on the doorstep to the city of York and we're just an hour-and-a-half from the sea - we have everything near us.

We give our guests free Wi-Fi here​. It's important if you want to welcome every type of guest. The business guest needs it but so now do the international leisure travellers who might want to keep in contact with those back home on Skype.

Being in a National Trust property​, everything has to be in-keeping with the building we are in, but it's still important to keep moving with the standards that guests expect. We have just changed all our TVs. You have to keep up with technology even in an historic property. 

York city council is suggesting a tourism tax be introduced​ which I oppose vehemently.​ It would be such a mistake if a great tourist destination such as York were to say, 'we are going to charge people if they want to visit us'.

If the VAT rate came down in this country​, we could recruit more people and that would be so helpful for employers and employees.

The VAT rate for the hospitality industry is lower in Franc​e, but I think it is going up again soon. Nevertheless, it would be helpful for the UK to be able to compete more fairly with other countries. 

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