What makes a hotel luxury and why is your hotel luxury?
Do we exceed the guest’s expectations and do we have a level of offer that exceeds the quality of other hotels? Our bedroom offer has won best bedroom experience from the Manchester Evening News; our spa is as good as anything in the area and the restaurant ranks up there in the top two hotel restaurants in the region. The service standard is to operate a five-star hotel and staff deliver on that.
We know we have the product but the secret is our people and for the last two years we have maintained our team. I also look after the Macdonald Townhouse Hotel in the city so have about 220 staff in total and one of our strengths is that we promote from within. The company has got a policy of ‘best in class’ so we wait until we find the right person for a position. I am delighted that two members of staff are now general managers and I have managed to develop them up to my level.
How can luxury hotels succeed when there is such growth in the budget sector?
The success in the hotel industry for the last four to five years has been down to budget hotel sector. Their business model is really interesting; they have a decent offer and are pushing up standards. If you assess regularly what they are doing and analyse what is their USP you have got to exceed it. Generally, they deliver a bedroom, a breakfast offer and a good check-in and check-out so our luxury offer has to be much better. Any other service such as the fantastic lounge experience, dinner, spa, conference and events have to be better.
During the recession the budget hotels were pushing up standards, luxury hotels were able to deliver but the hotels that struggled were in the middle. The only reason the recession did not affect us was that we were aware we had work even harder on delivering. We continued, and still do, to concentrate really hard on getting repeat business.
The Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa recently won an award. What was this for?
We won the Chairman’s Choice for Best Luxury Hotel at the Manchester Eat Drink Sleep Awards. The award is judged partly by feedback reviews and opinions of the general public. Part of the judging process involves the chairman’s team visiting each hotel and we show them around. We were delighted on the night to win it and it is great for the hotel as we were in competition with a lot of the bigger hotel groups. It was great for the team and we took 17 of them along to the dinner.
You started your career in the army. How has this helped you in your hotel career?
There is a lot of similarity between the military and hotels. Firstly, in this management position I have to look after a couple of hundred people and that is something I had experience of in the army.
Secondly, I was in logistics so by trade I am a chef. I probably had the best apprenticeship in the world at the Army School of Catering. I ended up looking after logistics which included transport, stores, accommodation, food and post. If you translate those skills into a ‘civvy’ background you have basically got a hotel.
You are chair of the Hoteliers Association in Manchester. What is happening to the market in Manchester?
This is the biggest hoteliers association in Europe with 5,000 members in the Manchester region. As an organisation we work closely with the council, other industries and sectors in the city as well as organisations such as Visit Manchester and Marketing Manchester.
Manchester is three things - it is a business hub, a convention city with massive events such as the party conferences and it is also a University city with 280,000 students. This has all crystallised and we have a lot of demand coming into the city.
There are 21 hotels with 1,500 rooms opening over the next two years. We have new hotels opened and going live in the next few months including Hotel Gotham, Hotel Football, and the Melia Hotel. Currently, there are 8,000 rooms in the city and these 1,500 new rooms will have a big impact. In two years’ time it will be interesting to see what happens as the pendulum is currently at more demand than supply.