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.
I love the challenges of operating hotels… well, even if I don’t necessarily love them, because it’s really hard, I do at least find them utterly fascinating. We’ve not been to a hotel for a while, but I so enjoyed chatting to Gareth Banner from The Ned a fair few episodes ago, I thought it was time to return. This time, instead of one super huge hotel in the city, we’re taking a look at a few stunning properties spread over a somewhat larger area.
And If you want examples of how hotels can evolve with the times, and bring in new types of guests, without alienating their traditional following, this is the episode for you.
Andrew Stembridge is Executive Director of Iconic Luxury Hotels. They are a small and impressive collection, including The Lygon Arms, a coaching inn that dates back to the 1600s; Cliveden House, a stately home and Chewton Glen, an 18th Century manor house which has enjoyed half a century of award-winning 5 star-hospitality.
As you’ll hear, Chewton Glen has led the way over the decades. It was one of the first hotels in the country to open a spa, in 1990. Under Andrew’s leadership, it has also become very family-friendly, with wonderful tree house lodges (more on those in a moment), the Beehive Kids’ Club, and classes at the hotel’s cookery school, The Kitchen. And by hosting Chris Evans’ Children in Need events, it’s broadened its fanbase even more, and helped to raise millions of pounds along the way.
So how do you introduce so much change, and still maintain the historical spirit of a place? Keep listening, and you’ll find out.
MIDWEEK BONUS EPISODE – Although this podcast is aimed at anyone who loves food and drink it has a natural slant towards people who work in or around hospitality.
And If you listen to these conversations regularly, you’ll have noticed that certain issues keep cropping up. So as well as chatting about these issues, and trying to get people to think about them when choosing where to spend there money, it’s pretty awesome to also be able to give some advice as to how as an industry we work together. One way we do this is to meet up at shows and listen to speakers or brainstorm situations.
So In this episode we’re going to look at some of those issues and touch on what topics are going to be discussed at the Independent Hotel show this month.
So for example, words like ‘craft’, ‘artisan’ and ‘boutique’ have been borrowed by bigger brands, giving the impression that they are as bespoke as the little guy. But actually, if you listen to my chats with Joel from Bad Hand Coffee, or Pete from Bakehouse 24 or Claire from Chococo, you’ll realise they really aren’t.
Online Travel Agencies – known as OTAs in the trade – are another one. They’re great when you want to book a trip or room within a couple of clicks, but tough for the small hotels at the other end, who pay big in commission.
Oh, and then there’s Trip Adviser. Don’t get me started!
Instead let’s meet Miranda Martin, who runs The Independent Hotel Show, which takes place in Olympia, London on Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th October. And if your inspired or irritated by any of the topics in this conversation, you can dive deeper by popping along to the show yourself, or I’m sure we’ll be touching on many of these topics again in future episodes of the podcast. Sign up for my weekly newsletter at humans of hospitality .co.uk.
James Golding’s impressive chef career has come full circle. Yes, he’s worked with some very big names in London and New York. He learned his craft under Anton Edelmann at The Savoy and then moved to Le Caprice, working for Mark Hix. And as Head Chef at Soho House in New York, his team cooked for A list actors, music stars and royalty.
But he began his culinary journey in and around the New Forest, foraging for mushrooms with his dad, and getting ‘bored out of his mind’ at Mr Bartlett’s, the butchers, when his parents were having nice chats about cuts of meat. Fast forward around 20 years and James is back in his childhood stomping ground of Hampshire and Dorset.
And as Group Chef Director of THE PIG, he makes sure that all the restaurants source their ingredients either from their own kitchen gardens or from producers within a 25 mile radius. That includes beautiful cuts of meat, which James turns into British charcuterie with – wait for it – Mr Bartlett’s son!
Passion has definitely replaced boyhood boredom, as you’ll hear…
There has never, ever, been anything quite like The Ned in the UK before. Created from the former headquarters of the Midland Bank, in the heart of the City Of London, the Grade I listed building is now home to 10 restaurants, 250 bedrooms, 6 private event spaces, a spa, a gym and a club with over 3000 members…
In any given week, 30,000 meals are served on the ground floor alone. As its managing director, Gareth Banner, says modestly, ‘for a single address there are a lot of moving parts….’
Just three years ago, when he was looking through the dust and the scaffolding at what was the final phase of five years of renovation, he knew it would be special. As you’ll hear, his career – which takes in stints with global brand The Marriott as well as iconic boutique hotel, The Hempel – is also impressive. It went some way to prepare him for this amazing project. But actually, as you’ll hear, the biggest learning has happened since The Ned opened its doors to the public two years ago.