It's been nine years since The Caterer launched the 30 Best Places to Work in Hospitality, and each year has had its own economic and political challenges. As ever, the awards show that the most successful employers are creative and proactive when it comes to looking after their people. Rosalind Mullen reports
The last few years have been a rollercoaster for the hospitality industry in terms of recruitment and retention. Now, we have a cost of living crisis that is affecting both the employer and their employees, financially and in terms of mental health. What's so wonderful about the Best Places to Work in Hospitality awards is that they highlight and celebrate those companies who, despite ongoing challenges, continue to lead the way in people engagement and workplace culture.
This annual celebration of employment best practice in companies large and small, established or entrepreneurial, was introduced in 2014 by people retention specialist Purple Cubed (now Korero) and The Caterer. Unlike so many other awards, this list is not driven by managers or operators, but by the employees themselves, who filled out an anonymous survey compiled by Korero. This survey rates the performance of their employer in a number of categories that reflect what they value, including: "Being part of a team that respects each other", "Respect for work-life balance", "Positive and welcoming working environment", "Part of a team that works well and supports each other", "Fair pay" and, crucially, "The company cares about its people".
While those listed in the top 30 span the hotel, restaurant, pub and foodservice sectors, their common ground is an understanding of how to get the best out of staff by recognising the needs of individuals. They have gone beyond the minimum requirements of an employer by introducing initiatives ranging from pay reviews and financial advice to flexible working and mental health support. And always, they give people the tools to progress their career.
Tom Lake, co-founder of Korero, said: "We introduced these awards nine years ago with a view to help drive employee engagement, share great practice and improve hospitality's reputation as a great place to work. This year's results are reflective of the continued turmoil within the job market as they show a decrease in the overall engagement score from 86% to 82%, with employer net promoter scores also dropping to an average of +59 from +63 the previous year. However, the organisations that made this year's top 30 are still performing significantly better than the rest of the hospitality labour market, where employee net promoter – or eNPS – scores run in single figures for many businesses and in some cases are in the negative."
Below are the results, with the top six presented in no particular order, as they now qualify for the Best Employer Award shortlist at the 2023 Cateys.
To buy your ticket to the Catey awards, go to www.cateys.com
About Umbrella Training
Umbrella Training is a leading nationwide training and apprenticeship provider for the hospitality industry.
The company works closely with progressive businesses to develop bespoke and elite training programmes which create meaningful impacts.
The company also works with its partners to help improve perceptions of the sector through the development of diverse and forward-thinking recruitment and retention strategies.
As learning and development experts Umbrella Training understands how important it is for employers to maximise return on investment, while implementing new, sustainable, forward thinking and highly sought-after training and apprenticeships. Founded in 2012 by Adele Oxberry, the company works with hotels, restaurants, and foodservice businesses across the UK.
Since its inception, Umbrella Training has supported the recruitment, development and progression of more than 4,500 apprentices. It was the only specialist apprenticeship provider to be presented with the prestigious Princess Royal Training Award in 2020 and is recognised as a Good povider by Ofsted.
Through its dedicated teams, the company ensures that both employees and employers grow and succeed.
The top six
All shortlisted for the Best Employer Award at the 2023 Cateys
In a nutshell The largest hotel operator in Ireland and one of the fastest-growing in the UK
Locations 51 hotels under the Maldron and Clayton brands, and the management of a portfolio of Partner Hotels
Employees 5,571 in 2022 (up from 4,762 in 2021)
To help alleviate rising energy costs, the company decided, on an exceptional basis, to give staff a one-off retail voucher. It was a popular move, as shown by the HR team's annual employee survey last November. In answer to the question: "What's the best thing that happened to you at work this month?" more than 547 staff flagged up the vouchers and gave "incredible" feedback.
The Korero survey reflects this employee satisfaction, too. Of the 95% of respondents who said the "Company cares about its people," 83% added their employer is "brilliant at it".
But this company doesn't rest on its laurels. Last August, for instance, Dalata relaunched its employee benefits package, tailoring it to the mental fitness needs of staff living through the current economic climate. Again, it was a winner, with HR's annual survey recording an increase of 5% in satisfaction in that segment.
And what could better show that the company cares about employees' mental health than the decision to bring forward a pay increase announcement, where from 1 January 2023 wages were boosted by 6.5%?
Among the many glowing comments, one employee said: "I feel it is the best company to work for in the hospitality industry and I have worked for five different companies."
The opportunity for career development is apparently a winner, too, with another happy worker saying: "I have developed in my own career while working here. I have had exceptional experiences."
In a nutshell A hotel management company
Locations A portfolio of 34 hotels in the UK under brands including Hilton, IHG and Marriott. It manages more than 90 properties spanning the UK and Europe, South Africa, the US, Middle East and Asia
Employees 2,554 in the UK with an average employee turnover of 45.2%
After what has been a difficult period for the sector, this people-centric employer put a programme in place to help support health and wellbeing across its UK hotels and central management team.
Cue the launch of Healthy Habits in February 2022, which encourages employees to commit to a new activity – either as a personal goal or within a team – that will make a lasting, positive impact on their health.
As an incentive, the first 100 employees to sign up received a £50 voucher towards a new pair of trainers or – as it coincided with the launch of a Cycle to Work scheme – towards a new bike. Valor also offered a generous £5,000 prize pot to be split between the most inspiring entries.
It clearly engaged the teams, with 175 employees pledging to new habits such as quitting smoking, spending more time outdoors, cooking healthy meals for the family and taking part in charity marathons. In fact, what makes Healthy Habits work so well is that it is inclusive and manageable for all, rather than just being about physical exercise. And thanks to its success, the challenge has just been relaunched.
Employee comments on Korero's survey show that if you look after your staff, they look after your guests. As one team member said: "Management lead by example, it feels a collaborative effort instead of cold, linear and ‘just a job', I enjoy coming to work and they respect work-life balance. I work harder for our customers as my manager treats me with respect."
In a nutshell A four-red-AA-star, 169-bedroom independent luxury hotel
Location Farnborough, Hampshire
Employees 220 in February 2023 (turnover for 2022: 24.7%)
As the cost of living crisis continues to bite, it's significant that nearly 100% of Korero's survey respondents at this hotel appreciated the fact that they were paid accurately and on time.
On a lighter, but equally practical note, the HR team are also offering everyone the chance to spend a paid day with one of the Aviator chefs. The aim is to help them save money and reduce waste by learning how to cook simple, healthy dishes from scratch. An added benefit is that it will also promote healthy eating instead of relying on readymade meals or fast food.
Aviator is no stranger to the top six rankings, with its employee benefits consistently standing out and 91% of respondents giving it the thumbs-up. No wonder, when you discover that as part of the package employees are offered private healthcare – unusual in most industries, never mind hospitality.
New recruits are made to feel super-welcome, too, with an induction that includes pre-employment overnight stays and personalised welcome gifts. And as ever, Aviator's staff Wellness Weeks are fun, particularly when the general manager pitches up to cook healthy breakfasts or when food vendors drop in with healthy choices. Fitness and wellbeing classes include Zumba, yoga, HIT, jiu-jitsu and meditation, while a departmental step-challenge creates a bit of healthy competition.
Feedback from one respondent completes the rosy picture: "Amazing initiatives. Food trucks, pizza when we achieve budget. Private healthcare to get health in order. Paid overtime. No crazy shifts."
Red Carnation Hotel Collection
In a nutshell A family-owned and run collection of five- and four-star hotels
Locations The UK, Ireland, Guernsey, South Africa, Botswana and Switzerland
Employees UK: 550; globally 2,500
This family-run company proves time and again that it values its staff – from the fact it has a Platinum Standard in Investors in People, retained for the past four years, down to individually selected Christmas presents for each employee.
The group continues to fund a degree apprenticeship programme that is on its third cohort. Post-A-level students earn while they learn, attending lectures at the University of Kent on a three-year course. They are mentored by a senior manager, and have regular catch-ups with the managing director, and the group also employs a talent development officer to bolster support for all learners.
In addition to offering internships for college and university students, Red Carnation has more recently started to work with schools and now offers work experience – in person and virtually – to more than 200 students.
What really stands out about this company, however, is the culture of communication and opportunity, driven by founder and president Bea Tollman. Managers take feedback from teams seriously and take action where necessary. Support is given whenever needed, along with opportunities to grow for those who work hard and show an interest in self-progression.
It's perhaps no surprise that Korero reports an enviable flush of scores, with 97% of respondents agreeing with the statement "All individuals are valued". They sing its praises, too: " I feel like I have learned so much in my time here and progressed so far because people have believed in me and given me opportunities." But this comment says it all: "I work here more than 18 years –will not leave, ever."
In a nutshell A privately owned, five-red-AA-star country house hotel in 500 acres of grounds and parkland, with 42 bedrooms, seven country cottages, a Michelin-starred restaurant, contemporary brasserie, luxury spa and equestrian centre
Location Chippenham, Wiltshire
Employees 140 (average labour turnover: around 41%)
If further proof were needed that this is a proactive employer, then take note that Lucknam Park has just received Living Wage Employer Accreditation.
It has also responded to the cost of living crisis by bringing forward the annual pay review and boosting wages. In addition, the hotel acknowledges the hard work of its employees with seasonal gifts, a monthly service charge and access to Hospitality Action's employee assistance programme. Other staff benefits include free car parking, use of facilities, an employee introduction bonus and extra holiday days, as well as employer pension contribution above the minimum level.
The overall package not only gives the team the recognition they deserve, it helps change the perception that hospitality is poorly paid – a canny bid to attract new talent into the sector. To seal the deal, the hotel invests in regular training and enables anyone with ambition to progress through the ranks.
The result, say the HR team, is that it is already attracting excellent candidates and retaining valued employees, many of whom have more than five years of service. Attention is now on building a team of apprentices and expanding their opportunities across departments.
Of course, it's no good offering all this opportunity if your teams are unaware of them. Happily, 96% of respondents told Korero they were "Clear about the benefits on offer" and that they found them "attractive".
Here's what one happy employee said: "Fantastic place to work, so many staff benefits, and everyone looks out for one another. And support from management is second to none."
RBH Hospitality Management
In a nutshell A UK-based independent hotel management company with a portfolio of more than 50 hotels operating across economy through to upper upscale and luxury
Locations Throughout the UK with head offices in Glasgow and London
Employees 93 (current labour turnover of 15% – an increase in headcount of three)
For decades, RBH has been maximising returns for existing hotel owners and developing new hotels, proving its financial acumen through partnerships with international brands such as Hilton, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Accor, Wyndham and Marriott.
But it's not been all about business success, as several respondents to the Korero survey pointed out. "The company strikes a superb balance between creating an excellent culture, supporting its people and performing financially…" said one. While another enthused: "I love working for RBH – always putting people at the top of the agenda and doing their best by them – living by their values."
Certainly, one of RBH's main drivers is to "give something back" to its people, the community and the environment as part of its environmental, social and governance strategy. The RBH Tree of Life Gold Standard Accreditation was developed to enable its hotels to focus on the wellbeing of the team, creating friendly competition among hotels while driving retention and guest satisfaction up, lowering absence and turnover.
So it's no surprise that once again RBH has made it onto the top 30 listing and been shortlisted for the Springboard Employee Health & Wellbeing accolade and the British HR Awards.
Over the years it has consistently proved itself a good working environment, with the Korero survey recording an Employee Net Promoter score above 98% and respondents giving it ratings of 90% and above for everything from having "supportive and inspiring leaders" to being "a company that cares about its people".
The rest of the top 30
7 Point A Hotel Paddington
In a nutshell A 137-bedroom property that is part of a budget boutique hotel brand, with seven hotels in central London, two in Scotland and one in Dublin
Location Praed Street, London
Employees 30 (60% turnover in 2022)
A whopping 100% of employees who responded to the survey said that at this hotel: "All individuals are valued". Certainly, the management team have made a decisive response to the cost of living crisis, launching a raft of initiatives in December 2022 to help alleviate financial worries for its people.
Top of the list was the no-doubt welcome announcement of an average base salary uplift from 1 January 2023 of 12.7%, but other initiatives are equally valued, including access to interest-free loans through the company's internal charitable foundation to help with rent and essentials, as well as free one-to-one coaching with an external financial adviser, season ticket loans, and the opportunity to tap into salary in advance of pay day.
One comment that captures the mood is: "I feel valued here and I believe everyone is treated fairly and is welcomed to the team. I also enjoy coming to work knowing we have proper working systems in place."
In a nutshell Opened in 2018 by Robin Birley, this private members' club is the sister club of 5 Hertford Street and has a focus on wine and offers a Mediterranean restaurant, a Latin American restaurant, bar, lounges, and a terrace
Location Mayfair, London
Employees 2023: 76 (2022: 53)
Following a tumultuous year for hospitality in 2021, general manager Michele Caggianese and the management team sharpened up their approach to employee engagement and retention.
One successful tactic has been to use internalpromotion as a recruitment tool, with 30% of the workforce receiving a promotion in 2022. This has resulted in an increase in employee engagement as staff can see a clear route to progress within the business. More crucially, retention has increased from 63.01% in 2021 to 72.91% in 2022, with 41% of employees being on board for two years or more.
Another popular move in the uncertain financial climate was to give staff a 4% salary increase in 2022 with another in January 2023. Perhaps this is what has made its Recommend a Friend bonus so popular, accounting for 41% of new starters in 2022 and saving £32,500 on potential recruitment costs.
This success story is reinforced by the Korero survey, with 97% of respondents highlighting that the "company cares about its people".
"An employer that sets a very high bar for ethics, mutual respect, employee wellbeing," was how one team member put it.
9 The Ninth
In a nutshell A relaxed neighbourhood restaurant with a Michelin star, serving French Mediterranean dishes
Location Charlotte Street, London
Employees 18 (employees stay an average of 2.5-3 years)
The Ninth has overcome unexpected challenges since its last appearance in this list, having reopened in March after being closed following a fire in July 2022.
"My business partner and I agreed that our priority were the team and their welfare," says chef-owner Jun Tanaka. "We called a team meeting two days after the fire and reassured them their jobs were safe and that we will pay their salaries. This was before we knew the insurance company would cover loss of revenue."
To keep the team progressing, they organised two training sessions a week across everything from mixology to charcuterie lessons, mushroom foraging, pig butchery, mental health sessions, growth-mindset training, and dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants.
All-important have been the one-to-one personal development meetings in advance of the reopening. And as they regroup, every employee will hold a training session on a particular subject, experience or idea.
"We believe that sharing our knowledge and ideas will bring the team closer together and help us to improve," says Tanaka.
With Korero's employee net promoter score hitting 100%, it's clear he's on the right track.
10 Cycas Hospitality
In a nutshell A pan-European hospitality management company, operating all categories of hotels and serviced apartments for private and institutional investment partners, with 17 properties across the UK
Employees 119 in a central support role in the UK (up from 77 in 12 months)
Last year saw the launch of the Cycas Heart & Headquarters (H&H) initiative, a place for the company's "Cycadettes", as its team members are known, to share information and check in with the human side.
One insider says: "Fundamentally, it is the back of house notice board, but it has purpose and – with its own logo – it has identity. It is the shared headquarters of the Cycadettes".
Among the many team-building benefits of H&H is the Cycadette Pantry, which has grown organically in response to the cost of living crisis and the fact that many hospitality workers are using foodbanks. It's a place for team members to donate an extra item or two following their weekly shop and where colleagues to collect those items if they need that support at home.
Scores such as 98% for "Achieving together as a team" and 94% for "A positive and welcoming work environment" underline that this company has a well-adjusted focus on people.
11 Signature Dining
In a nutshell A privately owned, founder-led contract catering company in the care and senior living sector
Location 14 sites in the UK, from the Midlands to the South Coast
Employees 100, with a fully retained management team
The nature of this company, which provides care for often vulnerable people, means owner Paul Robottom fully understands his employees are its greatest asset. To ensure their wellbeing, he has put a robust support system in place to boost their morale as they navigate the cost of living crisis.
To make people feel valued, he has introduced small, thoughtful gestures alongside the company wellbeing programme. Special occasions are marked with treats for all, from cupcakes to Easter eggs, and everyone receives a card on their birthday. At Christmas Signature launched its advent calendar, whereby over 25 days staff were randomly selected to win prizes ranging from food hampers to a smart TV. So it's no surprise that it scores well on being a "Positive welcoming work environment" at 93%, and notches up 97% on being a "Trustworthy supportive environment".
There are many glowing comments, but this one makes you stop and think: "After having such a difficult two years, the company has helped me through it. Not only in a financial way, but also with understanding, compassion and flexibility. Please pass on my absolute thanks."
12 The Genuine Dining Company
In a nutshell A family-run and independent foodservice company specialising in the business and industry sector, including staff restaurants, coffee and deli bars, and bespoke hospitality offers and events. Part of Group Genuine, it works with more than 50 clients predominantly in the south east and across the UK
Employees 2022: 381 (2021: 352)
Like many on this list, Genuine responded to the economic crisis by undertaking a full salary review across the business. Being a foodservice company, however, this quest to enhance employee take-home pay where needed also meant it had to engage with its clients. Happily, this was achieved.
Genuine also widened its free meals at work programme to include non-site-based employees, such as head office teams. An added benefit was that it encouraged people to socialise together at lunchtimes, generating a better team spirit.
It certainly seems like a happy ship. Some 93% of respondents feel the company cares about its people and several members of the team named managers who had helped them, including this heartfelt comment: "Our HR manager helped me with a mental health issue. She is very kind. I have grown within the company much quicker than any other one. People are nice here and they really care. I changed my career and I am so glad I found Genuine Dining."
13 Houston & Hawkes
In a nutshell A socially responsible independent contract caterer that runs coffee bars, cafés, staff restaurants and delis, hospitality and events. It launched in September 2020 and to date is the only accredited B Corp contract caterer
Location London and the south east
Employees 142 (up from 125 in February 2022)
Founders Simon Houston and David Hawkes set up their company in a post-Covid world and took advantage of being able to weave cutting-edge people initiatives into its fabric. Not least, it was the first UK contract caterer to be accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.
Ahead of the pack, it has also become a B Corp-certified business, which underpins several legal commitments made to the team. These include: treating everyone with dignity and providing fair pay for all; seeking and providing access to opportunities for less privileged people; fostering innovation, leadership and personal accountability; and nurturing all team members to ensure they learn, contribute and thrive.
The company also understands the importance of supporting mental health and is committed to the Mindful Employer charter, providing everyone with free access to Hospitality Action's employee assistance programme.
There's definitely a strong feeling of being "individually valued" here, with 97% of respondents agreeing with that statement against a benchmark of 83%.
14 Dakota Hotels
In a nutshell A UK-based hotel brand with five locations, each with a brasserie-style grill and cocktail bars
Locations Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester
Employees 615 in 2022-23 (up from 540 in 2021-22)
As well as offering a robust employee assistance programme, this company is supporting its teams by putting learning and development front and foremost, developing talent from within to ensure its people have fruitful careers. In fact, it's not unusual in some locations for employees to start working in the hotel while they are at school and continue long into their careers.
Two intensive training initiatives are run each year – Rising Star and Learn More, Earn More – culminating in a graduation that celebrates the success of each and rewards the highest-achieving intern with an all-expenses-paid trip to Champagne in France. Arguably, the company's key achievements in terms of people are wrapped up in this comment left on Korero's survey: "Incredibly supportive through difficult situations, always taking the time to listen and then back up when required. Also, very forward-thinking and proactive in both paying for external qualifications and conducting internal development sessions."
15 The Royal Airforce Club
In a nutshell A private members' club founded in 1918 offering luxury accommodation, dining, meetings and events to serving and former serving RAF officers and their families
Location Mayfair, London
Employees 125 employees (labour turnover at year-end 2022: 28%)
The RAF Club makes a regular appearance on this listing, proving it acts on its promise to look after and nurture its employees. This is borne out by the 95% or more of respondents who told Korero their employer cares about its people and roughly the same again who describe the work environment as positive and welcoming.
One employee quoted in the report describes it as: "A great place to work, leadership are supportive and recognise good work. This is definitely one of the best places I have worked."
It's no surprise staff morale is buoyant as during the past three months of 2022 the club awarded all team members a £750 cost of living grant to support them during the crisis. And everyone was given a hamper packed with treats during the Christmas festivities.
The management team has also set up an employee hardship fund, which is available should a team member find themselves in need.
16 The Tawny
In a nutshell Describing itself as a deconstructed luxury hotel, it focuses on wellness and relaxation, offering accommodation in shepherd's huts, treehouses, lookouts, boathouses and cabin retreats across a 70-acre estate
Location Consall Gardens Estate, Staffordshire
Employees 100 in 2023 (up from 70 in 2022, following expansion)
General manager Josh Chadwick has prioritised the creation of an enthusiastic and engaged team and names his biggest achievement over the past two years as the moment the Tawny became the number one hotel in Staffordshire on TripAdvisor "because you can't get to that ranking unless the whole team are invested".
Understanding that the team are the beating heart of the guest experience, the business conducts annual pay reviews every spring, but in direct response to the cost of living crisis, management applied a second pay increase in 2022 to protect employees' standard of living. When considered together with the spring pay increase, this was the equivalent of a 10% pay rise over the course of 2022 on the hotel's base rate of pay.
Tellingly, one of its highest outcomes in the Korero survey was "Leaders are supportive, positive and inspiring" at 95%. Praise from the team is always a sign that management have their fingers on the pulse.
17 Season + Taste
In a nutshell An independent hospitality company that operates three separate restaurants: Bravas, Gambas and Cargo Cantina
Locations All three sites are in Bristol
In line with its ethos of serving fresh, high-quality food in a fun atmosphere, the company says it strives to create a working environment that people enjoy being a part of as well as helping them to grow through on-the-job training and development.
The team can take advantage of a range of benefits, including travel to meet suppliers both at home and abroad, funded external training to upskill team members, and various wellbeing initiatives, such as paid volunteering, yoga classes and subscriptions to the Calm and Fiit apps.
This year, the company has complemented this by bringing in YuLife, which provides incentives for healthy living, life insurance, 24/7 phone or video GP access, and also YuMatter, which provides mental health support, clinical counselling, legal or financial support and coaching.
The team clearly love it, with 96% of respondents to the Korero survey saying they benefit from a "positive and welcoming work environment".
In a nutshell A 42-cover restaurant, focused on sustainability, opened by chef-owner Chantelle Nicholson in April 2022
Location Duke Street, Mayfair, London
Employees 19 employees (opened with 21 employees). Staff turnover of 20% based on employees graduating and moving on to full-time work
Since opening her restaurant last April, award-winning chef-owner Chantelle Nicholson has put sustainability first and centre – not just on the menu, but in the community, too.
To create a fair workplace, one of the first things she did was remove service charge and pay everyone a secure wage. This means everyone knows what they will earn each month, without business fluctuations dictating their take-home pay. A popular move that enhances work-life balance has been to close the restaurant on Sundays and Mondays which has, says Nicholson, proved instrumental to staff recruitment and retention.
Her vision and values are clearly creating a wholesome workplace, as the Korero survey attests. "They have worked hard to put people before profits," says one member of her team.
This is backed up by the percentage scores, which are consistently in the 90s across "respect for work-life balance", "a positive and welcoming work environment" and "the company cares about its people".
19 Georgian House hotel
In a nutshell Located in a Grade II-listed property, this family-owned 45-bedroom hotel combines boutique chic and charm
Location Pimlico, London
Employees 42 (2022: 38)
Worries around the increased cost of living prompted management to offer the team additional help in recent months, such as distributing Sainsbury's food vouchers and offering coaching support sessions to all. This bolsters the access staff already have to Hospitality Action's employee assistance programme, and to 0% interest loans.
This is certainly a company that acts on its values. As well as working with charities to support those with learning or physical disabilities into employment, its own inclusive environment welcomes people with both visible and non-visible disabilities. This contributes to a "Positive and welcoming workplace culture" that is appreciated by 97% of those who responded to the Korero survey.
"It is the only place I know that hires people with hidden disabilities, I find this remarkable and I love working for a good cause like this," says one employee.
Others praise the development opportunities they have been given: "There is open communication between all members of the team, which is really unique and enables me to be open with my career goals. My manager and the owner have allowed me to progress and develop consistently over the past five years."
20 St Ermin's hotel
In a nutshell A 331-bedroom, independent, four-star deluxe hotel that is part of Marriott's Autograph Collection
Location Westminster, London
Employees 148 (121 in 2022)
More than 90% of respondents to the Korero survey said this employer stands out because of the "genuine care" it demonstrates to employees and its proactive approach to their wellbeing. At the first sign of the cost of living crisis, management looked at all the potential costs in an employee's day and tried to provide the necessary support. As well as paying at least the London Living Wage to all, it introduced a free breakfast in the canteen, and to ensure back of house employees were not left behind, they receive an accommodation service charge.
Among the numerous benefits offered – including retail discounts and access to a cashback card – the launch of a Wagestream financial wellbeing initiative means employees can withdraw a percentage of their earned income when needed, while a cash-plan initiative enables them to claim back expenses for prescriptions, dental check-ups and opticians. All have access to season ticket loans and an onsite staff gym.
The hotel stands as an example to all, argues one employee: "The company is exceptional when it comes to genuine care about people. It should promote this great work more to attract the best talent in the industry."
21 The Tommy Banks Group
In a nutshell A hospitality group comprising two Michelin-starred restaurants, a food box delivery and events business, a canned wine brand and a soon to launch gastropub
Location The Black Swan at Oldstead, Yorkshire, and Roots York
Employees 109 (99 last year)
The practice of always putting its people first has certainly stood the test of time for this business, which started with the Black Swan in 2006 and is still growing. As one insider says: "We're a team-led company and without them we wouldn't be the successful business we are."
To help employees feel nurtured, the group has been constantly reviewing how it can support staff. One of its most successful initiatives has been to enhance work-life balance by assessing hours, closing on Sundays and introducing mental health and health schemes.
The knock-on effect is that staff get to click the re-set button and take advantage of training and development opportunities, and it also creates a working culture that is both safe and collaborative.
This is certainly appreciated. Some 85% of staff who took the Korero survey rate the company's respect for work-life balance, which significantly outstrips the benchmark of 74%.
Employee comments include: "Leaders model a healthy approach to work-life balance. Strong focus on internal development and progression within the team", and "Very supportive and helpful advice from all staff working alongside me and the management" to complete the picture.
22 The Castle hotel
In a nutshell This 108-bedroom independent, boutique hotel and its restaurant, Leaf, is part of Sutton Hotel Collection
Location Windsor, Berkshire
Employees 99 (up from 94 this time last year and labour turnover is just under 40% against fractionally over 40% at the end of last year)
Work-life balance is encouraged here, with the introduction of several family-friendly benefits in the past year, including leisure passes. But it's the cost of living crisis that has been a more recent focus. In December, every member of the team, regardless of contract type, hours worked or length of service, received a £500 cost of living payment.
And to help with household bills, employees are offered food bundles, with a stash of storecupboard essentials, seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables and a few special treats.
The focus is on fun, and when the bundles are delivered, roughly every two months, there's no stigma attached because everyone, including the directors, takes one. Then, in an added bit of competitive fun, the team post pictures of the dishes they have produced with the ingredients.
All the comments in the Korero survey draw attention to the company's generosity: "Of all the companies I have worked, this one treats people very well with £500 Christmas gift, food bundles, good rate of pay and activities."
23 Coworth Park
In a nutshell The Dorchester Collection's 71-room luxury country house hotel and spa set is in 240 acres of parkland and polo fields. Its destination restaurant, Woven by Adam Smith, launched in September 2022, with relaxed dining in the Barn and afternoon tea in the Drawing Room
Location Ascot, Berkshire
Employees 240 (turnover last year: 39%)
To get an idea of how committed this hotel is to ensuring salaries are fair and its people are motivated, every year HR conducts a competitor salary review, benchmarking themselves against not just local country house hotel competitors, but also luxury London hotels.
More recently, with wellbeing even more important than ever, the hotel has launched Peppy Health, offering confidential well-being support 24/7, which complements access to an employee assistance programme where staff can get, for instance, free financial or legal advice.
Other helpful initiatives include a benefits platform with discounts and cashback benefits across entertainment venues and retailers, which also allows team leaders to reward colleagues. Plus, assistance with loans for big upfront payments, such as rental deposits and season tickets, is also available.
Employees are made to feel special, too. Last Christmas, for instance, everyone received a £50 bonus on top of their Christmas gifts.
It's an uplifting workplace too, with some 84% of respondents saying they were "proud to work here" against a benchmark of 63%.
24 The Real Food Cafe
In a nutshell A family-run business founded in 2005 on the A82 road in the site of a former Little Chef. The café serves food from 7.30am-9pm for 361 days a year to a passing trade of locals, holidaymakers and outdoor enthusiasts
Location Tyndrum, Perthshire
Employees 27, with two or three likely to be recruited in coming months (28 last year)
The vision when this family-run business was founded in 2004 was to run a restaurant that was accessible to all and served sustainably sourced food. Happily, this vision has become a reality.
Today, travellers through Scotland find comfort and sustenance at this welcoming pitstop. As well as cooking handmade food and supporting local and Scottish producers, this business is also a real living wage employer, as set by the Living Wage Scotland, and has been for years. The owners invest significantly in the development of their small team, offering them a great place to work, additional training and a wage that reflects the real cost of living.
This has resulted in a high staff retention rate, with more than half having worked there for at least five years, which certainly sets them apart from many other employers. Notably, some 90% of survey respondents against a benchmark of 81% said this company cares about its people.
25 Genuine Restaurants (Sam's Riverside and Sam's Larder)
In a nutshell Sam's Riverside brasserie and its offshoot deli Sam's Larder are owned and operated by Sam Harrison
Location Hammersmith, Chiswick and Brentford, London
Employees 72 (up from 50 as two more shops have opened)
Alongside excellent training and staff discounts in the restaurant and deli, Sam Harrison and his business partner Fanny Stocker have upped their game by offering the team mental health support and advice services. More specifically, they always make themselves available to the team to talk through any personal financial circumstances if required.
It's obviously contributing to a good working atmosphere. Comments from the team in the Korero survey include: "Very healthy work environment. There has always been a strong friend/colleague balance between the team", and: "In my 12 years hospitality experience, this is the most organised, work-life balance-oriented place I have worked for."
Scores from respondents reflect these sentiments, hovering at 92% in terms of being a "Positive and healthy work environment" and "Feeling part of a team that works well and supports each other".
In a nutshell A 125-cover, modern Italian restaurant with two private dining rooms, a bar and terrace, owned by the people behind the Clove Club
Location Clerkenwell, London
Employees 53, up from 38 last year
This company understands the value of recognising talent and hard work in a fun, inclusive way so "employee of the month" awards and work anniversaries are acknowledged with a round of applause and a gift at staff briefings. And everyone is treated as an individual, so birthdays are marked with a card and a treat, or if they are off that day they receive a video of the whole team singing to them.
"It's really beautiful to see how the whole team cheers each other on," says one insider.
On a more serious level the company works with the Changing Horizons charity to offer mental health first aid training. As one manager says: "It's important to give our team the tools to support not only their wellbeing, but that of the team."
No wonder 95% of respondents to the survey single out that Luca is "A trustworthy and supportive environment to work". Feedback such as: "I'm so happy and satisfied to work here and learn more," shows they have nailed it.
27 Rosewood London
In a nutshell A 308-bedroom luxury London hotel, the European flagship of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts
Location Holborn, London
Employees 430 (29% labour turnover in 2022, the lowest in the history of the hotel)
The unprecedented competition for talent in the sector last year inspired the HR team to introduce ground-breaking recruitment and retention ideas that resulted in the hotel recording its lowest-ever employee turnover, at 29%, alongside the highest-ever recorded engagement scores.
Top of their list was internal workforce planning, which saw more than 25% of employees move into a new role in 2022. Similarly, a job-quality review process ensures talented staff can be fast-tracked and that roles are flexible, enabling people to gain experience across the business.
In addition, contracts have been modernised to allow more flexible working and promote work-life balance. Wellbeing and financial support has been strengthened with access to an employee assistance helpline, a cash-advance app and shopping discounts.
And last but not least, the HR team has conducted pay reviews and adjusted base salaries more than once.
The general vibe among respondents to the survey echo this one: "One of the most transparent and motivated companies I have ever worked for, driving equality and diversity across all levels".
28 Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch
In a nutshell Combining industrial chic and Japanese simplicity, this luxurious 164-bedroom hotel offers the Nobu restaurant, event spaces, a luxury spa and a new sixth floor, having reopened in June 2022
Location Shoreditch, London
Employees 141 (employee turnover for period 1 July 2022-31 January 2023 was 36%)
Conscious of the importance of mental health and wellbeing, the HR team created a comprehensive winter programme to help everyone through this financially challenging time. Highlights include a 5% retention bonus, which was paid to the entire team for their hard work and loyalty since reopening in July. To further ease the financial burden, it was paid at the end of January rather than the end of the financial year.
Unsurprisingly, 97% of respondents said they were "paid accurately and on time", against a benchmark of 86%.
In a similar vein, Wagestream was introduced to give employees more autonomy over their money and ease any reliance on credit cards, payday loans or accruing debt. And the LifeWorks employee assistance platform (now Telus) was launched to further support their wellbeing along with the issue of "a little black book" of phone numbers, websites, government schemes and tips on how to save, make and claim monies.
Also up for grabs were flu vouchers so that staff and their family could stay well without the burden of cost, and weekly meditation and wellness sessions were set up to ease anxiety.
29 Millennium & Copthorne Hotels at Chelsea Football Club
In a nutshell This 231-bedroom hotel is split across two sites next to Stamford Bridge and includes the 55 Restaurant and Frankie's Sports Bar and Diner
Location Within the grounds of Chelsea Football Club in London SW6
Employees 50 (average labour turnover 20%)
One thing this hotel is good at is celebrating diversity and inclusion, and for general manager Mark Gregory-White this means encouraging employees to have open conversations: "This helps you to understand what it's like to walk in other people's shoes. If we can understand that we can take a better interest in each other and make the world a happier place," he says.
To that end, "show and tell" diversity and inclusion trust forums are held every six weeks covering topics ranging from veganism and religious celebrations to having children in special education. As well as building confidence as a team, Gregory-White believes this helps employees to in turn build stronger emotional connections with customers.
The success of this vision has earned the hotel a chance to win two Springboard awards this year, but more importantly there is clearly a lot of engagement from the team, with some 84% of respondents to the Korero survey agreeing there was "fairness for all" against a benchmark of 74%.
30 Glaziers Hall
In a nutshell A Livery building offering seven events spaces with capacity for up to 450 guests and views across the River Thames to the City
Location South Bank, London
Employees 12 (In the past year there has been one leaver and two new starters, including general manager Will Simmonds)
As with other cutting-edge employers, Glaziers Hall has set out to alleviate the cost of living crisis by supporting team members with their financial situation and health and wellbeing. These include a pay rise for the whole team; a non-performance-related payment before Christmas to support with additional costs during the festive period; a 50% contribution to gym subscriptions; and season ticket loans to reduce travel costs.
On a more quirky note, the team were treated to a day out at the Big Cat Sanctuary, as a way of spending time away from work and getting back to nature. This gave them time to relax, to enjoy an experience they may never have considered before and contribute to a worthy cause.
The mood here is upbeat, with 95% of respondents praising the "positive and welcoming" work environment, and crucially there is also a real sense of recognition for a "job well done", with nearly 90% in agreement.
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