The Best Places to Work in Hospitality 2019

17 May 2019 by
The Best Places to Work in Hospitality 2019

*It's time to reveal The Caterer's 30 Best Places to Work in Hospitality 2019, run in partnership with Purple Cubed and sponsored by Umbrella Training. These are employers who recognise and nurture their people and thereby create a healthy, thriving business. Rosalind Mullen rounds up the contenders**

Five years ago, The Caterer and people retention specialist Purple Cubed joined forces to find and showcase the 30 Best Places to Work in Hospitality. This annual celebration of employment best practice in companies large and small, established or entrepreneurial, never fails to be inspirational, and this year it is better than ever, with 53% of staff saying they would recommend their company as a best place to work – up 5% on last year.

Brexit fever, skills shortages and other factors mean it is particularly crucial that employers strive to attract and retain staff through providing good working conditions and engagement strategies. The good news is that many operators are doing it brilliantly.

This year's people engagement survey shows the industry's engagement score has increased by 4%, with the average being 81%. What's significant is that the list is not drawn up by managers or operators. The companies featured in the following pages have been recommended by the majority of their staff, who filled out an anonymous survey compiled by Purple Cubed. This survey rates the performance of their employer in a number of categories, with "being part of a team that respects each other", "respect for work-life balance", "positive working environment", "working as a team to produce results", "being paid on time" and "communication" emerging as the top six concerns for staff.

While the top 30 spans independents and groups across the hotel, restaurant, pub and foodservice sectors, they all share an understanding of how to treat their staff to get the best out of them. They recognise the needs and ambitions of the individual and exceed the minimum requirements of an employer by introducing initiatives ranging from team-building socials to flexible working and tangible rewards. Most importantly, people are given the tools to progress in their careers.

What follows are the five shortlisted employers who are vying for a Catey award, followed by the rest of the 30 Best Places to Work in Hospitality in the UK. We asked them to share a glimpse of one or two of their favourite initiatives that might inspire others.

Umbrella Training

Umbrella Training is an Elite Hospitality Apprenticeship provider, which offers more than 100 years' hospitality experience, work-based learning and tailored assessment for your organisation.

We aim to provide the highest quality training and development and, in turn, create a world-class workforce. We want to serve and support communities who want to thrive in the hospitality sector.

As the experts, we understand how important it is for employers to maximise return on investment while implementing new and exciting apprenticeship programmes. So we work collaboratively with our learner and employer partners to deliver quality and consistent training to our apprentices.

When you join us, you #ComeUnderOurUmbrella. Using our wealth of knowledge, and our involvement in the apprenticeship reforms, we'll support you through every stage of your apprenticeship journey to ensure you get results. Nine out of 10 learners achieve lifelong learning, sustainable employment and complete their apprenticeship.

We look forward to working with you #ComeUnderOurUmbrella




In a nutshell A foodservice provider in sites such as workplaces, venues, visitor attractions, education and healthcare
Location More than 750 sites
Employees More than 6,450
Average staff turnover 1.95% (2019)
Annual sales turnover More than £300m

CHCO-Staff-Restaurant 560
CHCO-Staff-Restaurant 560

CH&Co has grown significantly over the past three years and throughout that time it has used digital communications platforms to bring its thousands of employees across the country together as one team.

Take Unlock, for instance, which is already being used by 3,500 employees and has proved particularly effective in improving engagement.

From blogs and vlogs to document storage, it keeps everyone across the business up to speed with the latest news, views and inspiration. Senior managers can use it to speak directly with teams around the country, bringing the "one team" culture to life. Crucially, the two-way tool also gives employees the opportunity to ask senior managers questions.

Another benefit is that Unlock encourages peer-to-peer recognition with e-cards that allow people to thank, praise and congratulate each other. Plus, they can access employee benefits, such as discounts and cashback offers from retailers - one team member saved 23% on the cost of a holiday.

Meanwhile, internal social media platform Yammer is proving to be a great way for teams nationwide to share what they're doing, showcase best practice, and to receive instant feedback. The chief executive regularly flags up employee achievements, for example, while lively polls, such as "to toast or not to toast a hot cross bun?" create a team spirit.

Personal development has been made easier, too. The PeopleBank e-recruitment platform helps managers to identify talent and make sure people are in the right roles or can gain experience in other sites. To illustrate the company's commitment to growing talent, it has 300 apprentices and has added leadership apprenticeship level three and level five qualifications.

Inclusivity is taken seriously, too, underlined by the establishment of an LGBTQ+ which is aiming for Stonewall accreditation. To support this, managers are undergoing mental health awareness training and in 2018 the company achieved Disability Confident Leader accreditation from the government.
And with the gender pay gap a hot topic in the news, it's worth noting that CH&Co has a 67% lower pay gap than the national average - and it is committed to closing this gap further.

This is a company that has worked hard to turn its engagement strategy around, as one comment in particular in the Purple Cubed employee engagement survey illustrates: "I'm near 10 years within the company… I left twice and returned. Both times I wasn't feeling appreciated or couldn't see any support from the heads of departments. This has changed a lot. The questions are responded to and the people are reachable."

The facts are there, with roughly 76% of respondents saying CH&Co treats its employees well either all or most of the time and nearly 80% saying they are happy all or most of the time.


In a nutshell An independent, 201-bedroom hotel in an iconic Victorian building
Location Brighton seafront
Employees 300
Average staff turnover - 0%-46% depending on the department (labour retention breakdown: 9% of employees with 10 years or more service; 25% with five years; 37% with three years and 70% with more than one year's service - an increase from 47% in 2014)
Annual sales turnover £16m


Private owners bought the hotel from De Vere Group in 2014 and set about revitalising the employee engagement initiatives to create a progressive business fit for the future. Their aim has been to create a pipeline of talent, drawn locally, developed and "retained but not held back or restricted". And as the retention rates above show, they are doing something right. In short, they've created an inclusive culture.

Senior managers, for instance, are equipped to lead their teams with emotional
intelligence and to manage people as individuals. Employee ideas are shared in the Think Grand team, comprised of employee representatives from each department - a recent project was an overhaul of staff dining.

The business is also focusing on providing its people with good career development, with 57 promotions in 2018, a rise of 24%. Career conversations take place on a continual basis to ensure individuals learn and develop at their own pace. This is supported by a bite-size learning system, MicroLearn, which allows managers to recommend the right route and for team members to map their own journey.

Training platforms include a supervisory development programme, which identifies and fast-tracks those with talent. Some 55 employees have so far graduated, 95% of whom were promoted within six months, with another 15 graduating in 2019.

There is also a management academy for assistant managers/supervisors, which offers a 12-month programme of workshops. As well as being assigned a mentor, they take part in business projects that allow them to work across different functions on a common goal. So far, the academy has produced 22 future managers and, of the first cohort, 40% grew their career internally, with two rising to head of department roles. Its success has led to the launch of
a nine-month F&B academy.

Underpinning the whole business is a culture of thanks and recognition, reinforced through a recently introduced app called Mo (for great "mo"ments). Employees are recognised with "Grands" for delivering exceptional hospitality, which can be exchanged for rewards such as cash, cinema tickets or spa experiences.

Responses in the employee engagement survey are impressive, with more than 95% of respondents saying they work well with the team to produce good results and the same again saying that they have a good relationship with their manager. And just about all of them would recommend it as being a good company to work for "all" or "most of the time".

And here's a comment that says it all: "There is a real entrepreneurial spirit. No idea is a bad one. All opinions and ideas are listened to and implemented where appropriate and viable. I am given the freedom and flexibility to really make a difference. We are looked after, enabling us to do our best every day and to look after our guests."


In a nutshell Tim and Kit Kemp's collection of luxuriously designed hotels
Locations Five hotels and three townhouse hotels in London; two hotels in New York
Employees 1,300
Average staff turnover 28%
Annual sales turnover £157.3m


For the fourth year running, Firmdale has featured on the Best Employer Catey shortlist, having been a high achiever in the Best Places awards. Time and again, this company demonstrates that good business results can be had from listening to employees, respecting worklife balance, offering career development, promoting from within and celebrating successes.

Over the past 12 months, the HR team says its people strategy has contributed to a 10.35% increase in revenue, a 1.3% lift in occupancy to 88.6%, an average customer satisfaction level of 91%, consistent levels of employee engagement at 80.7% and a labour retention of 72%.

The company is currently building on the success of its Firmdale Live staff interactive days, which showcase opportunities and company culture. As operational constraints meant not all employees could attend, the concept now tours each hotel under the 'Love What You Do' banner, making it easy for staff to nip into a designated room during their working day.

Activities include 'spin the wheel', which lets staff discover the financial and wellbeing benefits on offer, as well as a prize for the best photo uploaded on Yapster - a lively exercise that helps promote the company's internal social channel Firmdale Life.

Eight fully-funded English courses boost skills and improve retention. There are six levels, with the top two working towards a B1 GESE exam. The weekly courses run for six months, so employees tend to stay until completion and then often apply for the next level, meaning the company has turned some people from six-month employees into two-year employees.

To ensure their international staff have peace of mind around Brexit, Firmdale also arranged drop-in clinics to help EU nationals negotiate the EU Settlement Scheme applications.

All of this doesn't go unnoticed. "My workplace has the best environment, with
people from different backgrounds, where everyone respects each other and does the best they can. I truly enjoy working here as I feel home," said one.

Another commented: "Firmdale in the five years I have been here has always felt like working as part of a family. Like any family you have ups and downs, but you feel supported and encouraged."

The survey also reveals that 81% believe it is a good environment in which to work. The HR team also highlight the fact that a quarter of employees have worked in the company for five years or more.


In a nutshell Opened in April 2018, the five-gold-AA-star, restored Georgian manor has 11 rooms and five F&B outlets, a gym and an events space
Location Lindley, near Huddersfield
Employees 49
Average staff turnover 10% (May 2018 - March 2019)
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed


Sara Presley set out to attract top talent to Manor House way before she actually opened the doors to the hotel in April 2018, reinforcing her intention to create a successful first-class business by setting salaries above the competition.

Since then, the hotel's people culture has clearly worked its magic, attracting applications from staff at leading hotels in North Yorkshire, Chester, London and Glasgow, with a waiting list of 20 candidates for general assistant positions.

Indeed, the tone is set before employees join. Job offers, for instance, are sent in black envelopes with gold foil and a handwritten message from the general manager to build excitement. The induction process spans several days and includes being assigned a peer mentor and a bespoke training plan.

The strategy has been to recruit talented people who can be trained into leadership roles and, within a year, that is already happening. For example, the restaurant manager is now assistant F&B manager and a housekeeping supervisor is now head housekeeper.

As the team is as new as the hotel, building communication and bonds has been key. As well as instigating morning and evening meetings where staff discuss goals for the day, raise concerns or offer feedback, Manor House has also invested in communications system Planday.

This platform enables senior managers to incentivise staff by showcasing those who go above and beyond. The employee of the month, for instance, receives a £150 prize, and the employee of the year is awarded a bonus.

Feedback indicates staff are sharpening their work ethic to win recognition from management and peers - as well as the financial perk.

If you doubt the business benefits of creating a happy team, take note that at Manor House, 95% of respondents to the employee engagement survey say they feel they are part of a team that respects each other - and 95% also crucially say they want to do a good job.

There's also an embarrassment of positive comments. Here's one that is typical: "I absolutely love it here! Everyone is amazing and the respect for each other is excellent, like no other job I've had before - the fact that the Manor House team cares about me is enough for me to stay."

When asked for ideas to make it a better place to work, you won't be surprised to hear that most comments reflect the sentiment: "None at the moment".


In a nutshell A privately owned, family-run luxury hotel company
Location 20 properties across the UK, Ireland, Guernsey, South Africa, Switzerland and Botswana
Employees 4,000 globally
Average staff turnover 19% globally
Annual sales turnover £145m


No stranger to the shortlist in our annual Best Places to Work listing, this family-run company proves time and again that it values its staff - from its Gold Standard award from Investors in People, right down to personal touches, such as individually selected Christmas presents for each employee and an annual staff appreciation party.

But over the past year the group has seized the opportunity presented by the apprenticeship levy and become the first hospitality company to introduce and fund a degree apprenticeship programme. Six post-A-level students have been given the opportunity to earn while they learn, working four days a week with the company and attending lectures at Pearson College London on the fifth day.

Throughout the three-year course they will be mentored by a senior manager and have regular catch-ups with the managing director. And if that isn't enough, the group has employed its first graduate recruitment and development officer to bolster support.

All six degree apprentices have already brought energy and value to the company. They gave an inspirational presentation at the global management conference in March and have become social media champions in the hotels, as well as attending apprenticeship fairs to attract like-minded people into the industry. Due to the success of the first cohort, Red Carnation is continuing the scheme.

To strengthen support for all trainees - including work experience youngsters,
interns and apprentices - the company has also launched a Managing Your Learners training programme to ensure managers have effective tools to engage, support, manage and safeguard young learners.

What perennially stands out about this company, however, is the excellent culture of communication, driven by founder and president Bea Tollman. Managers take feedback from their teams seriously and take action where necessary, which has resulted in 97% of respondents to the survey saying communication with their manager is good and 98% saying they trust them.
Comments range from: "It's a beautiful company to work for," to "We are very lucky to have an owner who really, genuinely cares and senior managers who work hard and are role models. We are willing to try new things which makes us brave, too, and for me, this means a lot."

In a nutshell Aloft is a Starwood brand for tech-savvy urbane travellers. The
Liverpool hotel has 116 rooms and a restaurant
Location On Liverpool's North John Street - the first Aloft outside London
Employees 55
Average staff turnover Reduced to 30% from 36% in 2017
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed

Aloft Liverpool
Aloft Liverpool

ft Liverpool has spent the past year focusing on its employees, but what stands out among the many initiatives is the investment in a staff chill-out area dubbed the Gaff. Designed by the staff, for the staff, it is kitted out with a Smart TV, Playstation, bean bags and a kitchen, and has notched up 500 likes on LinkedIn.

As for employee vibe, respondents to the Purple Cubed survey highlight the lack of hierarchy in the hotel, which they say creates an atmosphere of mutual respect and communication.

This is strengthened by annual reviews and regular coffee chats, which give everyone a chance to air issues and discuss personal development. Last year, these talks prompted Aloft Liverpool's biggest succession planning drive since it opened in 2014, leading to nine promotions. These included a kitchen porter becoming a commis chef, a restaurant team member becoming a supervisor and the restaurant manager being promoted to deputy general manager.

With all these engagement initiatives, it's no wonder the hotel's employee survey average increased to 90% in November from 70% in 2017, while the Purple Cubed report notes an impressive 100% rating of trust in managers against a benchmark of 82%.

Praise from the team is summed up nicely by this comment: "There is no 'hierarchy' and the managers have all the time in the world to listen to, train and coach their teams. Listening to the team's suggestions has enabled the hotel to do better than expected."

In a nutshell A 382-bedroom hotel with three restaurants, health club and indoor pool
Location Slough, four miles from Heathrow airport
Employees 136
Average staff turnover 21.8%
Annual sales turnover £12.7m

What's impressive about this hotel is that it listens to its employees, as shown by the launch of its "You said; we did" strategy, in response to feedback from an engagement survey.

Twice a year, the general manager and HR director gather together employees from each department for an open, honest discussion. To ensure frank feedback, heads of department and supervisors are not invited and the general manager leaves the room for the final 10 minutes of the session, allowing staff to open up to the HR director.

The first session focuses on "You said", asking staff for suggestions on how to make their department and the hotel in general a better place to work. The second session focuses on "We did", where the managers explain what they have been able to implement and why certain suggestions could not be followed through.

Through these meetings, a number of operational and wellbeing suggestions have been raised and implemented. These include bike racks for guests, more comfortable uniforms for staff, improvements to the staff canteen and to the food, and the sourcing of a new taxi company for both guests and staff.

The unsurprising result is that 92.2% of respondents to the survey say they find their leaders inspirational and 87.8% say they have good communication with their manager.

This is reflected in comments such as this: "The hotel is like a work family, people work together, respect each other. The leadership team is inspirational, supportive and always seeks to drive results … for growth and success."

In a nutshell This three-AA-rosette restaurant serves modern British food and is run as a family business by executive chef Phil Fanning and wife Claire
Location The Duke of Bedford's estate, Woburn, Bedfordshire
Employees 24, of whom 14 are full-time
Average staff turnover 50% in total (21% for full-timers)
Annual sales turnover £1.1m


Recognising hospitality is a tough industry with long hours, the owners have put work-life balance at the top of the agenda here. Staff have two days and two evenings off a week, and since last year the restaurant has also been closed on
Wednesdays so the kitchen brigade can spend the day training, preparing and engaging in R&D, which has led to more innovative menus.

Staff use the day to learn about new dishes and wines. To improve service, they make adjustments based on observations made the previous week, and share knowledge on the preferences of guests booked in for the week ahead.

Indeed, communication between front and back of house teams and reservations is encouraged to ensure that all guest feedback is acted on. Special requests are passed from reservations to the other teams, including dietary requirements and special occasions, and the teams liaise to suggest what might make a regular customer feel special - from remembering their favourite table to asking about recent holidays.

It's clear that staff feel appreciated and want to be part of this restaurant's success, with 92% saying they are proud to work there all the time. Some 88% really want to do a good job, while, unsurprisingly with the civilised rotas, 96% say there is a great work-life balance.

Here's what they say: "I love working here as I have gained so much knowledge and developed my career so much further in just a year. It's a great environment to work in… everybody is happy and friendly. The team will always help each other if there is a problem and the company always keep their promises."

In a nutshell This 239-bedroom hotel opened in 2014, the first GLH property to open in London under the Amba brand
Location Charing Cross station, London
Employees 110
Average staff turnover 37%
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed


Diversity is the backbone of this hotel's 110-strong workforce, with 26 nationalities under one roof, speaking numerous languages and representing a wide range of years of service and experience. As with any London hotel, this gives it the edge in communicating with cosmopolitan customers. More of a challenge, however, was the task of engaging such a vibrant, varied workforce.
Their solution has been to recognise and communicate everyone's differences, and to regularly emphasise how advantageous these differences are for the team.

For instance, the HR department has created a diversity calendar to celebrate cultural milestones throughout the year and to nurture collective pride in being part of such a diverse team.

On a more personal level, each employee's work anniversary date is celebrated with a handwritten note from general manager Pedro da Silva, acknowledging their achievements. They also receive a personalised gift, as well as their favourite foodie treat.

And if all that doesn't show staff are valued, once a month the senior leadership team arrives at work at 6.30am to greet their teams at a "welcome to work" station stocked with homemade healthy snacks and beverages. And don't worry, the afternoon shift gets the same treatment.

The commitment is clearly paying off, according to the employee engagement survey, with 90.7% saying they feel part of a team that respects one another and 89% saying they work well as a team to produce great results.

This heartfelt comment sums it up: "We love our GM, our company and owners as well as we love each other. We are like a big family. We all respect each other."

In a nutshell Ireland's largest hotel operator, with 40 hotels, including the Maldron and Clayton brands
Location The UK and Ireland
Employees 4,923
Average staff turnover 45%
Annual sales turnover £340m


The next few years look busy for Dalata, having just opened a new property in Newcastle, and with 11 further openings planned by 2021. To create the new management teams it needs, the company is focusing on developing its own staff. To this end, it has introduced and fine-tuned structured programmes across all levels to create a talent pipeline.

The Altitude programme, for instance, nurtures future general managers. Now in its fourth year, some 30% of current general managers have completed it so far. Meanwhile, the Ascend Graduate Programme, which draws graduates from different disciplines, was expanded last year to include training in hotel operations, finance, sales and marketing, human resources and revenue management. The 2018 programme has seen its highest intake to date, with 27 employees starting last September and 1,000 applicants for 2019.

Dalata's learning and development push is certainly getting results. As well as the
54 Ascend graduates across the business, during 2018 some 305 employees were promoted internally, of which 45 were managerial. Overall, 2,600 employees participated in training during the year.

Here's a comment that indicates how well this development strategy is being received: "It's proven that I can progress in this company. I'm engaged and looking forward to the future."

The employee engagement survey confirms this, with 95% of respondents feeling they have access to personal development - no doubt contributing to the fact that more than 90% are happy to work there most or all the time.

In a nutshell A privately owned, 60-bedroom luxury B&B hotel
Location Pimlico, London
Employees 52
Average staff turnover 18%
Annual sales turnover £2.8m


Since taking over in 1987, Serena von der Heyde has transformed what was then a two-star 28-bedroom guest house into a 60-bedroom boutique B&B with a five-star guest accommodation award from VisitEngland.

To do that as successfully as she has, von der Heyde has constantly invested in new ideas to motivate her team. One initiative worth singling out is the employee wellbeing programme. This gives the team access to yoga and pilates classes, mindfulness workshops and mental health awareness training, with the aim of making people feel more supported, healthier and happier. The hotel has also signed up to Hospitality Action's Employee Assistance Programme, providing the team with further support and advice on health, wellbeing and personal challenges.

The results are there to see, with general manager Adam Rowledge reporting reduced stress scores on an internal wellbeing survey and the Purple Cubed survey recording that 95% of respondents feel there is respect for work-life balance and, of that, an impressive 79% say the company is "brilliant" at it.

The overall impression is that morale and communication are good, oiled by access to a staff committee. "Our motto is 'One Team, One Vision'," says one respondent. "Everyone understands this and works towards this each day. Everyone respects each other and has empathy towards one another."

In a nutshell This prestigious RAF club was founded in 1922 and now has 110 bedrooms, restaurants, a bar, pub and gym
Location Piccadilly, London
Employees 141
Average staff turnover 25% at year-end 2018
Annual sales turnover £8.75m (2018)


It may be a historic institution, but the RAF Club is also a sharp hospitality operator. To celebrate its centenary last autumn, the club unveiled 17 additional bedrooms, a fitness centre and a business suite.

And it didn't forget to upgrade its employees' facilities. The £7.5m project - the biggest in the club's history - also included modern staff offices, to ensure the team have a comfortable working space, and a purpose-built staff dining area, the Crew Clubhouse. While menus tend to be devised by the club's executive chef Michael Dutnall, one engagement initiative includes themed lunch menus whereby staff, who hail from more than 25 countries, cook specialities from their native country for colleagues to enjoy.

This commitment to staff engagement has led to a professional and harmonious working environment, which is reflected in high service standards and the fact it took 15th place in The Sunday Times Best 100 Not for Profit Organisations to Work for 2019 - a leap of 15 places on 2018.

The survey reflects this accolade, with some 87% of respondents recognising it as a good working environment. Recruitment methods are also good, as 86% say the company has similar values to themselves.

And there is also good news for retention. One staff member said: "Having worked at the club for 33 years I respect the business, I appreciate the development other members of staff and I have been given, and what we do, we do well. We care for all the staff and pride ourselves on the service we deliver. We are a force to be reckoned with."

In a nutshell Operator of luxury serviced apartments and residences
Location Some 512 apartment across eight sites in London (with plans to open in Doha, Qatar, in 2020)
Employees 230
Average staff turnover 19% (23% in 2017)
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed


Cheval's high-flying customers seek out luxurious surroundings and expect service to match. So, with eight prime sites across London and bold plans to grow, the company is investing in the talents of its people to ensure consistent standards and a happy team.

In fact, the company triggers the culture of learning and development from the moment a job offer is made. Recognising that the first day experience can often be a daunting one, with a flurry of new names, faces and situations, Cheval has introduced a pre-onboarding programme.

New employees now receive a link to a pre-induction welcome video recorded by their manager, introducing the team and giving the employee a feel for where they will be working. As well as easing their entry into the new role, this increases the likelihood that they will complete their probation period.

Once embedded, their learning and development journey kicks in, ranging from weekly learning targets and monthly customer service topics to the Cheval Management and Supervisory Academies.

To continuously enhance service levels, the company provides every employee with 30 minutes of learning every week, supported by an online portal featuring more than 700 courses.

All this training is certainly acknowledged by the team, with 89% happy with the access to personal development and 74 % (way up on a 53% benchmark) saying they would recommend their company to others "all the time".

And check out this comment: "I've been working within the hospitality industry for more than 27 years and without a doubt [this is] the best company I have worked for. It's not just [that] they are passionate about the brand, but are even more passionate about their team members - their training and recognition programmes [are] outstanding."

In a nutshell A five-red-AA-star, 181-bedroom hotel with a number of celebrated restaurants, including Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Employees 500
Average staff turnover 40% last year versus 51% in 2017 (YTD 9.5% versus 13.5% in 2018)
Annual sales turnover No available figures as hotel has only recently reopened


Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London has fought its way out of a setback that would give any hotelier nightmares. In June 2018, two weeks after unveiling the results of a £100m refurbishment and a huge recruitment drive to bring the total employee count to 500 in readiness for relaunch, a fire put the hotel out of action.
Rather than lay off staff, the hotel turned disaster into opportunity, creating a plan that would save jobs and donate 40,000 hours to charities, public services and good causes in London. It also offered employees the chance to work at sister Mandarin Oriental hotels abroad, with some 77 employees seconded to hotels in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taipei and Milan.

Others opted to do volunteer work closer to home, with charities such as Oxfam, Felix, the Passage and Age UK under the strapline 'FANtastic London'. Employees working in engineering, security, IT, HR and finance continued at the hotel to oversee the restoration.

The result was a high level of colleague retention during the closure and a substantial increase in external and internal applications from the publicity that came about from the 40,000 hours of community service. Most importantly, it has created a highly motivated, united and engaged team which reopened the F&B and spa facilities last December and launched the hotel in full on 15 April.

The way the company handled the disaster and retained staff has earned it loyalty, with 71% of employees saying they would recommend the company as a good place to work "all the time" against a benchmark of 53%.

This employee comment says it all: "Thank you for the way that the hotel and Mandarin Orientaltook care of all the colleagues after the fire.

In a nutshell A steakhouse chain founded by Will Beckett and Huw Gott in 2006 Location Nine restaurants across London, Manchester and Edinburgh
Employees 663 in nine sites
Average staff turnover 56% (post-probation turnover rate)
Annual sales turnover £45m


Dubbed the Hawksmoor "welfare state", the company's strategy is all about income insurance, compassionate leave, pensions, life assurance - you name it. But some of the more unexpected benefits include paid taxis after closing up and self-defence classes.

The other big news is that Hawksmoor has pushed 2019 as the "Year of Development", which is open to everyone in every department. This steak-centric company has been focusing on developing its kitchen leaders so that they, in turn, develop and inspire the brigades,who cook from scratch at high volume.

In the past 12 months an ex-Special Forces soldier has been drafted in to provide leadership training for senior chefs, helping them to train and maintain a disciplined, motivated kitchen team. Recognising that chefs are typically kinaesthetic learners, a lot of this training was outdoors.

They have also trained their senior chefs to train, so they've all been on the "Make it Stick for Chefs" programme, which helps them to train in an engaging and effective way. To keep the kitchens vibrant and motivated, a "banging briefing" initiative has been introduced to give senior chefs more confidence about public speaking. The result is that daily briefings are livelier, interactive and include daily nuggets of bite-sized training.

The overall impact is a stronger pipeline of chefs ready to be promoted into more senior roles and a robust head chef team. Average tenure at Hawksmoor is more than two years for the team and more than four years for managers, while the post-probation turnover has fallen to 56% (January-December 2018). Last year, more than 90% of promotions were internal.

There's a lot of positive stuff going on at this company. Some 54% of senior managers are female, while 49% of all front of house managers are women. And there is no gender pay gap.

They achieve this by training for confidence, training the individual, monitoring working hours and offering flexible working.

At Hawksmoor Manchester, the Purple Cubed survey reveals that an astonishing 100% of respondents feel it is a good environment in which to be. And you can't argue with that.

In a nutshell This chic 161-bedroom hotel is part of Marriott's Autograph Collection, but is independently owned
Location London's South Bank
Employees 101
Average staff turnover 10% year-to-date 2019 (as it only opened last year, it was not on full capacity staffing until September 2018)
Annual sales turnover Around £12m


As it's only been open a little over six months, Bankside's priority has been to attract and hire the right people. It's done this by creating a company culture where people "love to work and can be themselves".

The hotel, which is located in an edgy, arty part of London SE1, set about connecting with the local community to draw recruits. Using the tagline 'Where you belong', it has brought on board a team of interesting, talented, urban-savvy people who connect the hotel with the area and give guests a genuine, cultured SE1 stay rather than a generic London experience. Guest feedback highlights that staff have great local knowledge and provide information and stories that aren't formal or prescriptive.

In fact, 'Where you belong' as a recruitment tool has worked so well, the company has taken it further by encouraging staff to just "Be you" and engage with guests in their own way.

To keep the local connection alive, the hotel has introduced a number of initiatives, including monthly meetings with locals, the Weekly Bankside Gazette, activities, charity work and a quarterly "Are you loving it?" survey.

This is a happy ship. The employee engagement survey reveals it is hitting 80% and more across many touchpoints, including good access to personal development and good communication with a manager, with 93% saying they are part of a team that respects each other.

This team member is certainly a fan: "I have worked for a few hotel brands now over the last 12 years, and I can honestly say this hotel stands out for me in every way. Our vision is a bold one, but one where the whole team is dedicated to ensure its success and continuation - with a smile and love."

In a nutshell A 46-bedroom hotel in the Dorchester Collection's portfolio
Location 45 Park Lane, London, down the road from big sister the Dorchester
Employees 180
Average staff turnover A huge drop, averaging 7.26% for 2019 (in 2018 turnover was 57.71%)
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed

45 park lane
45 park lane

With a remit to offer its employees a meaningful engagement tool, this swish hotel has implemented an online employee recognition and reward platform called "Dor45" with Reward Gateway.

This mobile app gives staff easy access to rewards, recognitions and special moments all in one place. For instance, employees can access discounts across restaurants and mobile phone providers to days out. In March 2019 alone, the teams from both UK hotels spent £10,000 through the app.

Teams can also share comments on its message board to congratulate hard work,
showcase company values and mark birthdays and life celebrations - or even post photos of events in the staff room around the hotel, such as Red Nose Day celebrations.

While all sections of Dor45 have an impressive level of engagement, the most-visited is Wellness, which provides articles, videos and top tips for staff on how to live a healthier and happier life, both mentally and physically.

But it's not just the app creating strong engagement, as one comment on the survey shows: "Procedures are put in place to ensure all associates are given the opportunity to be developed and to provide feedback to the managers. A recognition programme is also in place to ensure that many associates are recognised for their hard work and passion for the company."

More than 81% of survey respondents say they feel they have a good communication with their manager, and more than 90% say they are happy at work most or all of the time.

In a nutshell A four-star, 60-bedroom hotel and spa with a two-AA-rosette restaurant, owned by the Pette family
Location Set in 12 acres of landscaped grounds near Walsall, West Midlands
Employees 130
Average staff turnover 3%
Annual sales turnover £5m


Employees at this independent hotel can expect lots of little surprises, such as Easter eggs or a Christmas advent calendar, to make them feel part of the family.
Team building is top of the agenda. One successful strategy has been to get each team to come up with fun ways to support a chosen charity, devising events that drive donations.

In a recent rally to support Children in Need, for instance, the maintenance team made cupcakes, the administration teams hosted a quiz night, the leisure club team held a week-long activity programme that included charity swims, and the spa team provided charity facials - all of which raised nearly £2,500.

To encourage knowledge of other departments - as well as being a lovely perk - staff or their friends are eligible for discounted rates in the restaurant or spa, including spa days, afternoon teas and health club passes.

No wonder some 86.8% of respondents say they work well as a team to produce good results, and 85.9% say it is a good environment in which to work.

Comments include: "The Pette family are always available to talk to and are extremely friendly. They know exactly who we all are and what role we play in the company. They are great employers." And: "This is by far the best company I have worked for. They show staff a lot of respect, and this is reflected in how hard the staff work for the company in return."

In a nutshell An employee-owned resort comprising two hotels with 85 rooms, 30 self-catering luxury lodges, three restaurants, six couples' retreats, a shop, two leisure clubs with pools, a destination spa, an outdoor adventure centre and a children's playbarn
Location Isle of Arran
Employees 170
Average staff turnover 56% (30% improvement since 2017)
Annual sales turnover £8.1m


Auchrannie used to be owned by the Johnstons, who worked hard to retain and engage staff in this remote location. Then, in 2017, the family went one step further and the resort became the first Scottish hospitality business to become employee-owned, giving the whole team a stake in its future.

"The team are proud that we became the first Scottish hotel-resort to become employeeowned," says HR and people development manager Claire Johnston. "We work together to ensure that Auchrannie remains a premier destination of choice and an exemplar in being a great place to work."

In another milestone, in April 2018 the business became a Real Living Wage (RLW) accredited employer. "We are the first resort to pay RLW in Scotland and one of only three RLW-accredited Scottish hospitality businesses," says Johnston.
Staff morale is already on the up. The average length of service has risen from 3.61 to 3.89 years, for instance, and 67% of the team have notched up one year's service against 56% in 2017. As for the impact on service, guest satisfaction scores are more than 91% year-on-year.

A quick check of the Purple Cubed survey backs this up, with some 90% of staff against a benchmark of 77% saying they work well together to get results.
Here's a view from the inside: "There has been a big investment in people over the past few years and it is now starting to get positive results. You can tell by the atmosphere when people are enjoying their jobs and are committed to the business."

In a nutshell An independent company with two restaurant brands, Fazenda Bar & Grill and Picanha by Fazenda, serving South American cuisine
Location Fazenda is in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham; Picanha is in Chester
Employees 375
Average staff turnover 87.8%
Annual sales turnover £17m

City District
City District

The privately owned, South American-inspired restaurant group launched its first Fazenda in Leeds in 2010 and has been steadily expanding since then. With further expansion on the cards, the founders are training managers to sharpen up their recruitment and selection methods. It has also introduced a four-month structured management development programme to up-skill managers and supervisors, enabling them to step up to the next level.

As for engagement, once new recruits areon board, the company is using simple but effective methods. For instance, staff, plus a guest, are offered a complimentary meal at one of the restaurants within their first two to four weeks of joining. This not only helps the new employee to understand what level of service a guest should experience; it engages them with the culture of the business at an early stage in their career.

An impressive 74% are happy to work here "all the time". And it is interesting to note in these inclusive times that 90% appreciated the fact that the company takes a zero-tolerance attitude to bullying.

Comments from the floor include: "The structure is amazing and we are given the right tools to provide a great atmosphere and an amazing workplace for everyone and therefore our guests."

Another simply says: "It's a successful company because it values employees."

In a nutshell A contract caterer focused on providing fresh, healthy workplace food, which rebranded last year from Just Hospitality
Employees 109
Average staff turnover 40%
Annual sales turnover £8m


Until 2018, you'd have known Fooditude as Just Hospitality. Some 13 years after its launch, however, it was clear the style and scope of services offered by the business had evolved beyond "just" hospitality, so it was rebranded as Fooditude.
As a growing company, it has also needed to look at new ways to train and develop people.

Cue the introduction last year of Flow, a learning and development system tailored to the business to provide accredited and certificated training for all levels of staff, including a mix of knowledge and soft skills.

This year, it is working towards the London Healthy Workplace Award, co-ordinated by the Mayor of London's office. As well as being a template for good practice, this award recognises employers who invest in the health and wellbeing of their employees.

The contract caterer has also just become a member of Heart of the City, a non-profit organisation that helps SMEs develop responsible business strategies through mentorship, workshops and networking. In addition to looking at how to improve the health and wellbeing of staff, the management team are exploring ways to ensure diversity and raise the profile of hospitality careers, and have formed a committee to discuss and act on these issues.

No wonder being part of a team that respects each other at 91%, and respect for work-life balance at 90%, come out considerably higher than the benchmarks (78% and 71% respectively) in the Purple Cubed survey.

"It's a family business but with a co-operative, collaborative and open dialogue from office to shop floor. Everyone counts here at Fooditude," is the summary from one team member.

In a nutshell A five-red-AA-star, 300-bedroom grande dame of a hotel, which opened in 1899 and is now owned by Lancaster Landmark Hotel Company Location Marylebone, London
Employees 450 (including full-time and casual team members)
Average staff turnover 38% in 2018
Annual sales turnover £34m


This may well be a historic hotel, but when it comes to recruitment, the HR team operates a cutting-edge strategy to ensure all new employees have a happy welcome and feel looked after. Once past their probation period, for instance, new joiners are invited to give feedback on their first 12 weeks and get a Golden Ticket to experience the hotel as a guest for 24 hours.

While "wowing" guests is key, this is an employer that also wants to make sure its team members are wowed, too. Cue a dedicated Pride taskforce, which doles out treats such as Easter eggs, mugs of hot chocolate and ice-creams to colleagues.

And to unite the teams and inject some fun, the hotel organises cinema nights, annual award celebrations, payday pub nights, Halloween parties and charity fun runs.

In fact, there are celebrations for nearly everything. With 55 different nationalities on the workforce, departments take turns to organise monthly national themed lunches to embrace diversity. There's also a Star event for Trip-Advisor stars, social media stars, and those completing training courses, having a birthday or notching up length of service. It's attended by executive managers and the general manager so they can all get to know each other better. This is taken to a more personal level with invitations to the general manager's Getting to Know You breakfast, where staff can share ideas on how to improve employment conditions further.

Other initiatives to improve employee engagement include a buddy system, a choir and an increased focus on giving back through fundraising for the industry.

As for training, the hotel has an academy to develop managers, assistants and supervisors as well as a Dale Carnegie training course and Train the Trainer - alongside English classes and Excel training.

No stranger to accolades, the hotel has Investors in People - Platinum, and has just been listed sixth in The Times Top 100 Companies to Work for in the UK, based on its strong wellbeing strategy (weekly boot camps, yoga, pilates and zumba), a stress and worry workshop, a stop smoking workshop, a sleeping workshop (in collaboration with the NHS) and drug and alcohol awareness training.

A quick look at the employee engagement survey shows that more than 93% of respondents feel the company treats its people well "all" or "most" of the time.
And here's a typical comment: "The general manager and hotel manager truly care about the team members. Their attention to detail is exemplary, also their understanding of operations. The HR team works really hard to provide
great benefits, organising plenty of events."

In a nutshell The Palomar family of eateries has grown over the last few years to include the Barbary, Jacob the Angel, Evelyn's Table and the Blue Posts
Location Covent Garden and Soho, London
Employees 108 across all sites (varying from eight at the smallest to 38 at the largest)
Average staff turnover Not available
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed


To get an idea of what calibre of employee this vibrant company looks to recruit and retain, check out reviews such as: "…run by people whose passion is evident with every interaction" (The Londonist) and "There is a two-month waiting list for dinner, but it's still fun to sit at the bar and watch London's most characterful chefs do what they do best" (Vogue).

After meeting with a number of industry HR leaders at the beginning of last year,
the business opted to bring in Hospitality Action's Employee Assistance Programme.

The company has only been working with the programme for less than a year, but HR and recruitment manager Josh Blinston Jones says: "The way in which they work with us to ensure that we can provide the best staff wellbeing possible was an invaluable first step in improving how we treat our body of staff as a whole."

The staff have certainly noticed. One respondent to the survey says there is, "a huge amount of empathy and emotional intelligence from managing directors [which] filters down to the rest of the team; understanding of mental health issues and support and provision for this in my case has been exceptional."

Another respondent remarks: "It is the one workplace I've ever worked in that puts that amount of effort in getting to know each and every employee, taking their background into consideration and, as a result, has a good in-house promotion record and a very high retention average."

It follows, then, that some 91% of respondents to the survey say it is a good environment in which to work.

In a nutshell Owned by the Sorensen family, the estate has in recent years been transformed to include three award-winning hotels: 38-bedroom Dormy House; eight-bedroom Foxhill Manor; and the 63-bedroom Fish hotel
Location 400 acres in the heart of the Cotswolds, overlooking the village of Broadway
Employees 250
Average staff turnover 48%
Annual sales turnover 44%


Two new HR roles - people resourcing manager and people engagement manager - were introduced in 2018 and - thanks to the estate's Danish owners - they have been reinforcing their take on the spirit of Hygge: "sharing good times as a hard-working team".

There's certainly a lot of joy in the company, ranging from birthday lunches to Christmas Hygge bags of prosecco, popcorn and cinema tickets, Blue Monday doughnuts and free ice-cream for staff on hot summer days. Or take Wow Cards, which are given to team members who go above and beyond. Ten Wows can be
swapped for a mini-break, with 10 employees having been sent to places such as Australia, Bali, New York and Paris in the past year.

But the serious stuff gets attention, too. Everyone gets a say, despite the size of the estate, thanks to the HR Surgery Days held in each hotel. And with the increased focus on wellbeing, the people engagement manager set up mental health awareness training for managers to help them spot and support any issues in their teams, as well as a "tea and talk" day to allow team members to take time out to share experiences.

There has already been a reduction in welfare cases, while overall the engagement initiatives helped to reduce sickness absence by 232 days in six months, which in turn has saved the company more than £20,000 in sick pay and lost productivity. And this can only improve further when the HR team introduce their physical wellbeing events for staff later this year, with a health check, flu jabs, laughter yoga, massage and chiropody sessions.

In a recruitment campaign, the people resourcing manager has been driving around in a 'jellybean' Fiat 500, or cycling in a 'jellybean' jersey to catch the attention of jobseekers.

This, along with a newly branded careers website, means 83% of all recruits now apply direct, up 21% on last year, clawing back £30,000 on the recruitment budget.

Best of all, employee turnover rates have reduced significantly - by 8% at Dormy House, by 7% at the Fish, and by 17% at Foxhill Manor. Finally, according to the survey, some 87% of staff feel they work well as a team to produce good results. "It's a good fun place to work with many perks," says one insider.

In a nutshell An 89-bedroom hotel, owned by the Seddon family
Location Queens Promenade, Blackpool
Employees 60
Average staff turnover Less than 15%
Annual sales turnover £3.2m


Here's a staff initiative that goes beyond what many glitzier hotels have on offer and illustrates why empathetic managers get good engagement results.

At the Elgin, managing director Nigel Seddon was frustrated by the number of hardworking staff who were having to rent property. Recognising the difficulties that many people face in being able to save for a deposit and yet still pay rent and bills, he introduced an interest-free loan scheme to help staff to get a deposit on their own home.

This perk is available for staff who have been employed by the Elgin for five years or more, and so far three staff have taken advantage of the loans to enable them to buy their own homes.

It's worth noting that the Elgin also has Investor in People status and has recently
introduced Train to Gain to make the team even more customer-focused, as well as giving them the chance to get NVQ qualifications in their particular areas of expertise.

This is a hotel where 81% are happy to work there "all the time" and 78% say they are treated well "all the time".

But Seddon's success at engaging his staff is most powerfully demonstrated by
the employee comments that come from the heart. Here are a few: "You are not just a number, you are a valued employee"; "Lovely, friendly place to work and a boss that more than looks after his staff" and "Been here 18 years - think that says a lot!"

In a nutshell With 12 bedrooms, this hotel is the smallest Pig and owned by Home Grown Hotels
Location Southampton
Employees 18
Average staff turnover 25% for last year
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed


The six-strong Pig hotels will have two new properties in Cornwall and West Sussex by the end of 2020. So with the perennial skills shortages and uncertainty over Brexit, the company has been thinking smart to get the right teams in place.

Company-wide initiatives include generating awareness of the industry, promoting careers and attracting a local workforce. Notable successes include the company's industry-leading apprenticeships in back of house, and more recently, front of house too. So far, 32 apprentices have undertaken training within the hotels, achieving an above-average success rate of 84%.

Through its commitment to apprentices, including an enhanced salary, the group has been recognised as regional apprentice programme winners as well as being named one of the top 100 Apprentice Employers in the UK at the National Apprenticeship Awards.

Employees are benefiting from these initiatives, with 93% recorded in the engagement survey as saying they feel well-treated by the company most or all of the time, and more than 85% saying they would recommend it as a best place to work most or all of the time.

In a nutshell The three UK hotels are part of a collection of 29 hotels owned by the Fabri family
Location Italy, New York, Paris and London
Employees 160
Average staff turnover 51%
Annual sales turnover Undisclosed


This is a company that has consistently nurtured an open, empowering, inclusive and engaging culture - and that philosophy comes straight from the top. Throughout last year and this year, Starhotels focused on its on-boarding strategy and employee benefits, as well as further improving its engagement and inclusivity people initiatives.

To foster team spirit, for instance, employees rotate between the three properties. In addition, there are fun initiatives to bring people together, such as a cookie-baking class for all staff who celebrate their work anniversary in the same month.

Unsurprisingly, at the heart of this family-owned company are strong family values, so there are regular staff parties, including a summer picnic in Hyde Park to which employees across the London properties can invite friends and family.

Fimilarly, while there's always a Christmas lunch, this year staff were given a surprise festive afternoon tea, too, which brought all the teams together to celebrate. It's initiatives like these that the HR team feel have helped boost the employee satisfaction survey scores and the level of engagement. A great example of this is the high scores they achieved for good communication from managers at 90% and respect for work-life balance at 80% in this year's Best Places survey.

In a nutshell This four-AA-star, 49-bedroom hotel in a converted 13th-century tithe barn is part of the luxury Vineyard Group
Location Bedford
Employees 60
Annual staff turnover Undisclosed
Annual sales turnover £2.7m in 2018


The Vineyard Group understands only too well that small, provincial hotels such as the Barns have to work hard to recruit experienced skilled professionals. Its strategy has been to attract and employ local people and then to "inject them with passion" and "mould them into professionals".

To create bonds and build a culture of one team working together, the HR team has broken down department barriers and encouraged everyone to focus on the same end-goals.

This strategy has been supported by a handson management style, with the whole team pulling together. Hard work is rewarded with team social
events held every quarter, such as parties, outdoor activities, meals and also through random acts of recognition.

Staff are responding well to this working environment, as reflected in the record-breaking sales turnover achieved last year, up £250,000 on 2017. One respondent in the survey explains: "The Barns hotel is a fantastic place to work. The GM look after his employees and knows how to get the best results for the hotel. We are a team at the Barns and this shows with the business we do."

This sentiment is supported by the fact some 94% of respondents feel they are
working well with a team to produce results and 89% say it is a good environment in which to work.

In a nutshell A hotel and extended-stay management company with
23 sites under five brands, founded in 2008 by John Wagner and Eduard Elias
Location The UK and the Netherlands (with expansion plans for France, Germany
and Belgium)
Employees 60 in a central support role, with about 720 team members, or 'Cycadettes'
Average staff retention 95% for last year
Annual sales turnover £57m in 2018


Cycas Hospitality's entrenched culture of making sure employees feel empowered, recognised and valued helped it scoop last year's Best Employer Catey. What's crucial is that Cycas is not resting on its laurels. It may have doubled its hotel portfolio and consolidated its expansion plans across Europe, but it has also continued to build on initiatives that sustain the health, happiness and productivity of the team - or the 'Cycadettes', as they are fondly known.

Last June, for instance, the company introduced quarterly Cycas Wellness Weeks tomake sure staff take advantage of the tools on offer to help them achieve a good work-life balance. As well as a free healthcare plan and financial advice, the initiative, which has seen 100% engagement, also addresses mental and emotional health.

Earlier this year, the company invited the Samaritans to train hotel managers in usingactive listening skills, as well as how to look after their own emotional health and recognise signs in team members who are struggling before the situation reaches crisis point.

The teams are clearly feeling the love, as revealed by comments in the engagement survey. "Cycas truly values the wellbeing of employees by promoting holidays, work-life balance and fitness," says one happy Cycadette.

This chimes with the fact that 89% of staff in the Purple Cubed survey say the leaders are inspirational and 75% are proud to work for the company "all the time".

In a nutshell The first Rosewood Hotels & Resorts property in London, a five-red-AA-star, 306-bedroom hotel in a beautifully restored Grade II-listed building
Location In High Holborn, London, straddling the West End and City
Employees 500
Average staff turnover 35%
Annual sales turnover £50m


Rosewood London opened in 2013 after an £85m refurbishment. With the operations side now fully bedded in, the business has in recent years been able to devote even more attention to engaging its employees. Last year was a particularly busy period. The HR team strengthened its strategy to improve recognition and appreciation of employees across the workplace - from the unsung heroes in the heart of the hotel to the talented leadership team of more than 80 assistant managers, and right up the ladder.

Employees have been rewarded in a number of ways, including instant recognition gifts and by drawing attention to those who show consistent examples of the company's values. This has resulted in the creation of more than 250 brand ambassadors within the business who help to build teams that work well together to produce good results and enhance the guest experience.

More than 38% of the leadership team were nominated for a quarterly award -
partly through peer-to-peer feedback - with perks including the chance to get involved in projects. Leaders who are particularly impressive are singled out to inspire others.

In fact, the engagement survey shows that 86% of respondents reckon their leaders are inspirational and almost the same percentage feel they belong to a team that respects each other. This, in turn, leads to an impressive 63% of respondents saying they would recommend the hotel as a best place to work "all the time", with a further 28% saying they would recommend it "most of the time".

One employee says: "Rosewood is a growing company with many opportunities
to progress. It is inclusive and diverse and it is exciting to be part of the future growth ofthe company."

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