The Cateys are the Oscars of the hotel industry, with the winners nominated, selected and rewarded by their industry peers. To be named Hotelier of the Year is a huge achievement and if you’re curious to learn a bit more about Jonathan’s route to the top, here are a few details.
Jonathan joined the industry 27 years ago because he liked being around people. His interest was sparked during his A levels when a friend showed him around the hotel where he worked. “It was though a light was switched on. I knew this was the kind of place I wanted to be”.
He then became a Management Trainee with Norfolk Capital Hotels and within two years was appointed Assistant Manager of the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate. He then progressed to become Front-of-House Manager at the Highcliff Hotel in Bournemouth. In 1985, the year after the bombing of the Conservatory Party Conference at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, the Tories decided to book the next conference at the Highcliff. “Being directly responsible for the conference stay, I was involved in countless meetings with the police and security staff. We worked hideously long days, but it was enormously satisfying and valuable in my development as a hotelier as the attention to detail was second to none.”
After three years as Deputy General Manager at the Londonderry Hotel (now the Metropolitan), Jonathan went to Durban, as Hotel Manager of the Maharani, a 5 star 300 bedroom property. “While I don’t believe it is necessary to go overseas to become a good hotelier, it did help me grow as an individual, broaden my knowledge of culture and help me become a better all-round manager.” It also impressed upon him the importance of good staff relations. “The unions were very big in South Africa and I came to realise that can be a good thing. They force you to communicate clearly with your employees, and to listen to them.”
He then moved to Guernsey as General Manager and Director of the St Pierre Park Hotel, which he established as a highly successful hotel, golf and spa destination. Here he met regular guests Stanley and Beatrice Tollman – they were sufficiently impressed by his achievements to invite him to manage their newly acquired Rubens hotel, which was undergoing a multi-million pound upgrade, and to oversee the creation of their 5 star boutique hotel, 41.
Returning to London in 1988, he was promoted to Managing Director of the rapidly expanding Red Carnation Collection in 2000. With 13 luxury properties on three continents, a staff of 1500, and further plans for growth, he certainly has his hands full!
The seeds of his success are evident in the story I’ve just related. He still has his passion for the business, his attention to detail is extraordinary, and his pleasure in being around people is undiminished – he’s extremely good at getting the very best out of the staff, whilst also truly appreciating the kind of experience that guests really want. The judges also comment on the fact that he leads by example. This is something everyone on the Red Carnation team will agree with – having initiated the company’s Trading Places scheme he’ll happily muck in to clean the rooms and then do a shift as a breakfast chef.
This last point gives you a clue to his success, and something that particularly impressed two of the judges – he’s genuinely caring, has a great sense of humour, and “does it all with a smile and not an ounce of pomposity”.
He commented that “I’m delighted, but humbled, to accept this award. It reflects the terrific effort made by every single member of the Red Carnation Team. We are a small family-run collection of five and four-star hotels who fight the big chains for business. We will never have the same Sales and Marketing spend as these players, so it is my belief that we need to make an even better job of taking care of our guests. Our promise that ‘No request too large, no detail too small’ puts huge demands on every member of staff, but we are fortunate to have a group of individuals who are passionately committed to rising to the challenge.”
Founder and President of the Red Carnation collection, Mrs Bea Tollman, also commented that “I’m delighted that Jonathan has been honoured with this tremendous accolade. He is an exceptional individual whose talent and dedication would do any organisation proud. A real credit, and inspiration, to the entire Red Carnation team”