Norman Springford, executive chairman of the family-run Apex Hotels group, was last week named Scottish Hotelier of the Year at the Scottish Hotels of the Year Awards. He talked to Emily Manson about his plans for the group
How does it feel to be named Scottish Hotelier of the Year? I feel like a fraud! There are many other proper hoteliers out there, whereas I'm from the accountancy trade originally and am new to this industry. However, I'm very grateful for the recognition.
Why do you think you won? I don't really know. It's the usual cliché, I suppose, that it's all a team effort. We have a great team of people, and it's a recognition of that more than any personal recognition.
What is Apex's USP? A friendly approach. It's embedded in our culture to treat guests and customers as friends. We are no different from any other group, but because we are a small, independent company, it is easier to instil that culture.
Do you think the hotelier's role is changing? Yes, but not necessarily for the better. The hospitality trade is going through changes, with more and more "professional" people running hotels. It's inevitable that having shareholders means profitability will always be a key issue, but it would be nice to get back to the old-fashioned values of hospitality and service again.
London's City Apex opened last year - why did you move south? We felt we could now afford it. With the downturn of the property market it became viable, and it's been a very good move for us.
We're not as successful in F&B as we had hoped, but our room sales have exceeded expectations.
What are your expansion plans? We are furiously looking for a second City of London site for a new 100- to 200-bedroom hotel but have not found anywhere with the right location and price. Our £60m bid for 10 Trinity Square was outbid by a substantial amount, apparently.
You have a strong environmental policy - why do you feel it's important? The public persona says because it's good for the world, but the real reason is that it helps cost reduction and makes financial sense. We are currently changing all our low-wattage lamps to LEDs, which will save us around £60,000 per annum. It's not just turning a light out, we need to go further and think about capital investments to install energy-saving operations. It's a major issue for the whole industry.
You are a family-run business. Would you ever change that? That's probably a question for the family when I keel over and they take charge. For now, they seem happy to keep it as a family business. It does give you immediacy and, without knocking the big guys, we do benefit from being able to act quickly.