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The impact of Philip Newman-Hall on the success of Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons was cited as proof of the difference a truly amazing general manager can make. It wasn't a surprise, then, that the judges' decision to name him as Manager of the Year was unanimous.
This panel of hospitality heavyweights were impressed not just by his skills in massaging the bottom line, but his flair for nurturing his staff. What's more, he has the admiration and respect of his exacting boss, world-renowned chef Raymond Blanc, who confesses that he relies on Newman-Hall's "inspiration, passion and drive".
Sean Wheeler, area director of human resources at the Dorchester Collection, hit the nail on the head when he said: "Behind every great person there's another great person making it all happen - the winner of this award has done just this with great passion and professionalism."
Newman-Hall first joined Le Manoir in 1999, having impressed Blanc with his "charisma and sense of fun". By 2004, he felt the need for a new challenge and so followed a stint as hotel consultant. But Blanc wanted him back. In 2009, after a five-year absence, he returned to Le Manoir and within a year he had boosted achieved room rate from £475.32 to £518.53 and room occupancy from 66% to 77%. Even more astonishingly, turnover increased by more than £1m despite the recession.
In fact, his views on dealing with recession might be a lesson to us all: "Never drop your standards," he has said. "In fact, increase them in those things that touch your guests. This is not the time to start taking things out of rooms, but to start looking after your guests better than ever."
Among Newman-Hall's, many innovations are his introduction of a training manager to develop senior management, who could then go on to train team members. The culture of care and commitment that he has engendered is demonstrated by his micro-management of talent. For instance, he insists on attending the monthly company inductions of new staff.
And last year, his introduction of an annual appraisal system saw 98% of staff discuss their goals and personal development objectives. He also introduced an offsite meeting for senior managers at the end of each business year where he gives clear objectives for the year ahead - usually followed by a surprise trip as a thank-you for his team's hard work.
And Newman-Hall doesn't shirk his sense of responsibility to the industry at large. He supports a vast range of academic partnerships, including taking part in the "Adopt a School" scheme.
As Harry Murray, general manager at Lucknam Park, said: Philip is a consummate hotelier, an inspirational leader and gentleman and will be a popular winner of this award. He also has that unique ability to manage his talented and passionate boss."
Xavier Rousset at Texture, pointed out that besides being "highly respected by his staff and well known for his attention to detail, he is above all hugely popular among Le Manoir's guests for being personable and approachable."
A true host, then.
CiarÁ¡n Fahy, managing director, the Cavendish London
â- Michael Magrane, general manager, the Midland Hotel, Manchester
â- Philip Newman-Hall, general manager, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton
David Morgan-Hewitt, managing director, the Goring
Harry Murray, chairman, Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa
Anne Pierce, chief executive, Springboard
Xavier Rousset, managing director, Texture restaurant
Jane Sunley, chief executive, learnpurple