Business Excellence Awards

13 December 2004
Business Excellence Awards

This industry isn't known for patting itself on the back - but if a hospitality business came up with an idea that cut staff turnover by half, improved sales year-on-year or boosted levels of customer satisfaction to a record high, it's fairly certain everyone would want to hear about it.

It's this ethos of sharing innovation and ideas that lies beneath the new Business Excellence Awards, which aim to recognise outstanding business achievement in the tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors.

Launched by the Best Practice Forum earlier this year, the 2004 Awards showcase working examples of best practice in service and management. In particular, they reward those businesses that have done the most to sharpen their competitiveness and increase productivity.

Three winners and two highly commended entries were honoured for their ideas at a presentation lunch held at Claridge's, London, on 22 November. Each of the winning initiatives met the judges' criteria for clear evidence of measurable, year-on-year business improvements resulting from the entrants' ideas.

The award-winning entries included a new management system giving greater empowerment to hotel managers, a staff feedback survey to improve performance and service levels, a recruitment initiative dedicated to reducing staff turnover, a computerised learning resource for front-office staff and new customer-needs driven caravan storage area. Each entry to the awards was given a free benchmark report comparing their performance with the forum's benchmark index (for a free benchmark report on your business, see opposite).

Speaking at the presentation ceremony, British Hospitality Association chief executive Bob Cotton, commented: "If we are to build a British tourism industry worth £100b by 2010, we need to ensure visitors have a first-class experience. Investing in tourism is essential to achieving this."

Julia Sibley, chief executive of the Savoy Educational Trust, agreed, pointing out that a positive message was vital to help crack skills shortages. "We need to get across that the hospitality industry is a great place to work, that it offers a serious career with amazing opportunities and that it is hugely rewarding," she said. "Through the Best Practice Forum, industry can learn how to adopt best practice, increase productivity, produce consistent profits and be good employers."

The first prize was a £3,000 scholarship, donated by Savoy Educational Trust, to attend a business school programme at Ecole H"teliŠre de Lausanne, Switzerland, as well as an inscribed crystal trophy. Two further scholarships of £1,000 and £750 were awarded as second and third prizes.

The Business Excellence Awards are organised in conjunction with the Savoy Educational Trust, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Caterer Group.

Best Practice Forum
The Best Practice Forum was launched by the British Hospitality Association in 2001 to bring together key industry partners and businesses in the hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors. Its aim is to encourage best practice - the adoption of new ideas and techniques to improve business - so that productivity and profitability are raised to world-class levels, particularly among small businesses, which make up 85% of the 300,000 establishments in the industry.

Members include the British Holiday and Home Parks Association; the British Association of Leisure Parks Piers and Attractions; the British Beer and Pub Association; the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions; the British Hospitality Association; Business in Sport and Leisure; the Meetings Industry Association and the Restaurant Association.

Supporters include the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; the Department of Trade & Industry; Caterer & Hotelkeeper; the British Institute of Innkeeping; the HCIMA; the Savoy Educational Trust, and the Hospitality Training Foundation

For more information, visit or telephone 020 8977 4419.


  • Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge
  • Mary Chapman (Chartered Management Institute)
  • Forbes Mutch (Caterer Group)
  • David Parsons (Institute of Customer Service)
  • Miles Quest (Wordsmith & Co)
  • Ruud Reuland (Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne)
  • Julia Sibley (The Savoy Educational Trust)
  • Simon Turi (People 1st)

Overall Winner: Hand Picked Hotels

Hand Picked Hotels, a collection of 14 country-house hotels in the UK and Channel Islands, won first place for its new management system, which encouraged individual managers to run their hotel as their own business, with the support of a central team covering functions such as marketing and finance. The hotels had been through several management companies before being rebranded as Hand Picked in 2003. Financial performance was lagging, staff turnover was high and stakeholder confidence needed a boost. To overturn these problems, Hand Picked wanted to move towards a "management by initiative" culture, by encouraging more responsibility at a local level. This new style of working also freed up the central corporate team from day-to-day issues, allowing them to focus on the strategic side of the business. A series of brainstorming workshops was organised to encourage contributions from staff to ensure that all employees felt comfortable with the new system.
The results have been impressive. Over three years, Hand Picked has seen a significant increase in customer satisfaction and staff retention levels, and one hotel has seen turnover drop by nearly 50%. The group has also just been awarded AA Group of the Year. Managing director Julia Hands was delighted with the accolade. "Being recognised for our efforts in providing the best service for our guests, underpinned by our innovative management structure, is tremendous," she said. "It's no surprise that Hand Picked Hotels has been winning awards recently. Attention to detail is the secret of its success. This is a hotel group to watch for the future," commented one of the judges. Second place: Royal Garden Hotel
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Despite regularly conducting staff opinion surveys, the five-star Royal Garden Hotel, in Kensington, London, was still struggling with problems of high turnover and low motivation levels among its 350 employees. Recognising it needed to canvass realistic opinions from staff in order to tackle these issues, the management carried out an external in-depth employee satisfaction survey last year, covering areas such as job satisfaction, benefits and communication. The survey results have since been used to draw up a human resources strategy, and staff retention over two years has risen to nearly 60%. A recent guest satisfaction rate achieved a record 98%. For HR director Paula King, one of the most important points was the fact the survey was externally assessed. "We carried out feedback surveys before but we didn't get a good return," she explains. "This time, it was much more effective as the answers were more honest. It has meant we can work on our weaknesses while celebrating what we do well." Conducting the survey was well worth the investment, according to King. "It has made staff feel listened to and involved. We now run small focus groups to work on what we've learnt and continue the change process." Highly commended: Lebberston Touring Park
This small family-run park in North Yorkshire was highly commended for putting the needsof customers first by building a secure caravan storage area, meaning holiday-makers can now leave their caravans securely until their next visit rather than towing them each time. Customers can also benefit from lower insurance premiums, as the park is a recognised caravan storage provider. Directors Mark and Jane Bozeat bought the site in 1998, having had no previous experience of running a holiday park, and have seen levels of occupancy levels and repeat business rise significantly in the past year. The new storage area has resulted in a huge increase in revenue from 2002/2003. "Not only do our customers get into the holiday spirit much quicker if they don't have to tow or pitch their caravan, but by reducing fuel emissions produced by towing, the idea benefits the environment too," Bozeat explained. Highly commended: the Pomme d'Or
Part of the Jersey-based Seymour Hotel group, the 143-room Pomme d'Or hotel, in St Helier, was highly commended for its computerised learning resource - a "one stop shop" covering procedures and information - developed by the front-of-house department. The system can be easily updated, and can adapt to different learning speeds and styles of new staff. It has since been adopted by other hotels within the Seymour group, and is seen as a major contributor to higher levels of staff satisfaction and an impressive decline in staff turnover - from 93% in 2001 to 16% in 2004. "The computerised learning system has become an excellent tool for involving staff in the development of the business. While it encompasses ‘top-down' objectives, it also encourages ‘bottom-up' development," commented the judges. Third place: TLH Leisure Resort
The family-run TLH Leisure Resort is a collection of four hotels, self-catering accommodation and a leisure complex in Torquay, Devon. Employing 330 permanent staff, the resort also takes on a high number of seasonal workers. A series of meetings held with managers revealed that, although the company was recruiting lots of staff, it wasn't managing to retain them, a situation summarised by the company as "the tap was on full but the plug wasn't in". Owner Laurence Murrell realised a long-term approach to recruitment was needed, to create a happier and more stable workforce.
After conducting a staff survey to find what employees felt was important, a comprehensive People Action Plan was developed. Tactics included a new recruitment procedure for managers, one-to-one meetings with new staff to see how they are settling in, improved benefits such as discounted accommodation and gym membership and Oscar-style awards at the staff party. TLH also began working with local schools and colleges to offer work experience at a number of sites, to attract potential recruits. Gary Brenton, personnel and development manager, explained: "We've seen some real tangible business benefits since we implemented the people action plan. Staff turnover has dropped by 16% in 18 months, we've reduced recruitment expenditure and guest comments are improving. We're also starting to see more repeat business." What is Best Practice? The idea behind best practice is that ideas and techniques are all adopted in ways that measurably improve business. This can be done through learning from others who have faced similar challenges, or by communicating your successes to others. David Battersby, managing director of Hospitality and Leisure Manpower, one of the organisers of the annual Business Excellence awards, describes best practice as "trying to find out how winning companies and leading-edge businesses operate, and then sharing these ideas with others. It's about striving for continual improvement and ongoing innovation." Three steps to best practice - Measuring Up A good place to start is to find out how healthy your business is by carrying out a simple audit, looking at all the different areas of operation. You can then identify and prioritise which areas of your business need to be improved. - Business Development Once you know where you need to make improvements, decide how to do this and when. The Best Practice Forum can help you with this. - Recognising achievement Measure and celebrate your success by gaining better local recognition, industry accreditation or winning an award. For further information go to [ How healthy is your business? Do you know how your performance compares against others in your field? Would you like to see where you can improve? In conjunction with the Best Practice Forum, Caterer is introducing a new free reader service, giving readers the opportunity to access the Best Practice Forum's unique Benchmark Index. By comparing one of your key operating statistics with either similar or same-type businesses throughout the UK, you will be able to give your business its own health check every quarter. In complete confidence, this means you can keep track of how effectively you are operating compared with other businesses. As a result, you will be able to build on your strengths or address any weaknesses that the benchmark may reveal. The free Benchmark Index will be launched early next year.
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