Andrew Stembridge doesn’t believe in panic. His years in Scotland at a time that was arguably the worst for hospitality means that he is no stranger to disaster – and he learnt about 15 years worth of hotel knowledge in just two. Now Andrew has taken all that knowledge into his role as Executive Director at Iconic Luxury Hotels which includes award-winning, produce growing, hospitality LOVING tree house heaven: Chewton Glen.
00:00:00 Marks introduction
00:02:40 Meeting Andrew, setting the scene by the Chewton Bunny, in Chewton Glen Hotel and Spa
- 00:03:16 “This is our most recent tree house, and we now have 14 tree houses all together… Like all things that evolve, it’s the one we are most proud of.”
00:04:05 Chatting about treehouses & the artistic nature of them
- 00:04:42 “We purposely didn’t want them to be a sort of cliché in a way. We wanted them to be a step up from our rooms and suites in the main house already, something very very different.”
- 00:06:02 “The whole thing was really design around the trees. Actually, what was really interesting in terms of working collaboratively and harmoniously was we went to planners and said look: we have a valley, we know it’s in green belt, it’s in a protected area as well…”
00:09:21 How long did it take to get started on the tree houses?
00:11:17 What is Chewton Glen? Describing the 130 acre ground hotel
- 00:11:48 “It’s based around an original manor house which dates back to 1730ish, but as I say, Chewton Glen as we know it today started in 1996.”
00:16:05 The bee hive – tree house for children project!
00:16:40 Awards that Chewton Glen has received… which one stands out the most?
- 00:18:56 “We won the UK award which is great, so went up and got that… At the end of the evening they do the hotel of the year, in the world, and it was Chewton Glen.”
00:19:39 What lured Andrew back to Chewton Glenn after moving to Scotland?
- 00:22:01 “I remember one of my darkest days was having to make 20 people redundant in one day. As I say, I learnt so much about how to run hotels…”
- 00:23:48 “I remember sort of sitting here, and when it hits you and dawns on you you’re taking on one of the countries, if not the world’s, most famous country house hotels… And I was only 32 at the time.”
00:15:22 The selling of Chewton Glen in 2006…
- 00:27:22 “At times it’s not as cosy and friendly, because you know again you’re working for a big corporate beast all be it a family company. But what they are really good at is investing… What it has done is really allow Chewton Glen to flourish.”
00:28:48 Iconic, Luxury hotels… The fifth is on its way!
00:31:28 What’s the niche that the hotel, Mayfair Townhouse, is going to fill in London?
- 00:31:50 “For me, when you take a step down from that really uber-luxury and ridiculously expensive price bracket to something that is still very much in the world of luxury, but something which is more BMW and Mercedes and Audi that Rolls Royce and Bentley.”
- 00:34:26 “Our pillars for iconic are their iconic addresses, people with personalities, unique experiences and then effortless hospitality. That sort of sums up Mayfair Townhouse in a nutshell.”
00:38:49 The formulaic service in the dining sector – why we don’t need it!
- 00:38:59 “I had a really bad journey and the final straw was I’d lost my luggage. Long story short, within 8 minutes of arriving in the hotel 8 different people has asked me the same question which was: ‘How was your journey?’.” [Talking about a bad experience at a hotel in the USA]
- 00:42:02 “If something goes wrong, they’re very quick to tell you. But if you put it right, they are loyal forever.”
00:44:46 When Andrew is looking for employees, how does he find the right person for hospitality?
- 00:46:37 “I think it’s about looking into people’s eyes and actually seeing… We want to employ people that want to work for us. We don’t want people just looking for a job…”
00:51:35 Hospitality’s reputation – does Andrew think it’s changed?
- 00:52:53 “I think as an industry we’ve changed enormously. I think the biggest change now is the gen Y’s, the millennials… They are different. They are the first generation who haven’t adapted to the work environment, we’ve had to adapt to suit them and they work in a very different way.”
01:00:29 The opportunity to get a diverse range of skills in hospitality
- 01:00:48 “I never had a day at work where I felt bored, I say every day’s a school day I’m always learning.”
01:01:50 Andrews parents and childhood – did Andrew always feel like his life would be around hospitality?
- 01:03:33 “They wanted me to be landscape architect. And I almost did that, I applied but I had always had a part time job at school, I didn’t really put the effort into my exams… I didn’t do badly but I didn’t maybe work as hard as I could have, so I didn’t quite get the grade for landscape architecture so I ended up studying hotel management instead.”
01:05:01 The grounds at Chewton Glen – the kitchen garden and growing their own food
- 01:05:54 “He only plants things our chefs want, it’s a very easy relationship. And now that the kitchen have got used to fact that some of the stuff arrives with mud on it, and not all the stuff is perfectly shipped…”
01:07:53 Children in need and Chewton Glen’s reputation – how did this come about?
- 01:14:00 “The industry is like one big family – you occasionally get a person that comes along and doesn’t fit into it but… there can’t be another industry where actually you get so much support from other people.”
01:15:10 Relais and Chateaux – what is Andrews involvement in this organisation and why is he involved?
- 01:17:10 “It gives us international exposure that we couldn’t otherwise afford… It’s also promoting it to likeminded travellers.”
01:25:18 Andrew’s most inspiring people and mentors he’s worked with over the years
- 01:28:06 “The one thing I always say is I’ll never apologise for changing my mind because I listen to people.”
01:29:32 The sporty side of Andrew!
- 01:30:22 “I feel like I missed out on something in my childhood – it was a lack of confidence. I had this picture in my head that I couldn’t do things and that I wasn’t sporty.”
01:37:02 Good and bad advice from Andrew to those who are looking to get into the sector
01:40:31 Andrew’s most rewarding part of his job…
01:42:57 Where to find out more about Andrew, Chewton Glen and the other venues in the group
01:33:40 Marks final thoughts and sign off
If you’d like to learn more about Andrew (though he’s not active on his social media.. for now!), Luxury Hotels or specifically Chewton Glen… Use the links below, or listen to the full episode here.
Website: https://iconicluxuryhotels.com/ (You can find social media for all the sites here!)