Hotel Owner Hotel Owner July 2017 digital - Page 41

FEATURE MILESTONES | NEIL KIRBY MILESTONES: 50th Anniversary for Neil Kirby PAUL JAMES sits down with Neil Kirby, the protagonist of the biography, ‘Celebrity Hotel’, as he looks back on his 50-year career in hospitality C I also get very annoyed that in some hampagne corks popped recently at Eastbourne’s Langham Hotel when hotels, breakfast isn’t included in the price. proprietor, Neil Kirby, celebrated You have to pay extra for that. And some a remarkable fifty years in the hospitality hotels will charge you for Wi-Fi or room industry. Starting his career as a teenager in service. To charge people, say £15, to bring 1967, washing dishes in the basement of the a tray to a room, and that’s not including Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, Neil the food that is on it, is daylight robbery. gradually rose through the ranks with his Then there are parking charges. You can sights set on becoming a general manager. pay £37 a night to park your car in some It was a goal that he not only achieved, but hotels in London. I can understand why some proprietors actually exceeded when he purchased the do it. We have increased costs all the time, Langham in 2005 to become a hotel owner. with a raise in the minimum wage, pension Never one to rest on his laurels, within eight years Neil Kirby and his wife Wendy schemes, and higher costs of food and had transformed the hotel and in 2013 the wine with suppliers blaming Brexit, but I Langham was awarded an additional star think you have to be sensible with pricing to become Eastbourne’s first and only AA four-star hotel. The Kirbys continue to strive NEIL KIRBY for customers. If you offer value for money, customers will keep coming back and so to make their hotel the best in town. Most of and when I moved on from washing up to you can recoup your expenses that way. the 77 bedrooms have been fully refurbished become a valet, tips began to play a very It is better to have a full restaurant and all to an extremely high standard; the reception important part to supplement my income. In functions sold out because your pricing is and lounge were redecorated in January those days you used to keep all your own reasonable, than overcharge and have your 2017, and plans are afoot to completely tips, which made you very attentive towards hotel half empty. remodel the restaurant in 2019. Planning the customer. Today there is often a 12.5% Of course, with increased costs, we permission has also been obtained to build a service charge automatically added to the all have fewer staff than 50 years ago. 90-foot ballroom at the rear of the hotel. bill and you have no idea if the staff actually People now have to multi-task far more and receive it. teamwork is required. When I started work, Although Neil Kirby is always looking to the future, his fiftieth anniversary has Recent news stories have revealed everyone had their own particular job and they stayed with that small area. provided an opportunity for reflection and that sometimes they don’t. I am disgusted time to contemplate how much hotels have with hotel and restaurant owners who keep changed since 1967. tips. That is tantamount to stealing from is not always as good as in the 1960s. the staff. At the Langham I make sure all There is less respect, they answer back, £19 a night when I first started work. Today the tips are divided equally amongst the and timekeeping can be bad. But I believe it would cost you in the region of £5,500. In staff, from the chambermaid to the general that training is paramount. I tell my staff London you can pay up to £27,000 a night manager, then it is fair. How can we expect that the most important thing is a smile for for a suite at the Lanesborough, so prices young people to come into the industry if the customer and we, as bosses, say thank have certainly changed. companies are stealing tips from staff to you every day to our staff so that they feel prop up their businesses? appreciated. If the staff are happy, then The best suite at Grosvenor House was My first wage was £12 10s a week (£12.50) July 2017 Staff have changed too. Their attitude www.hotelowner.co.uk 41