Peter Banks Managing Director at Rudding Park is our spotlight interviewee for July. He speaks to us about where his career started, his personal ambitions and what he feels the upcoming threats are to the industry. Read below to see what he had to say:
1. How did you come into the events industry?
Interestingly my career master at school said to me “I tell you what banks you do something with your mouth not your brain, try hotels” I don’t think he liked me very much. I then went to look round the savoy when I was 17 and I walked into the savoy kitchen and there were chefs with massive big white hats, shouting over microphones and in those days, it was all in French “SAVOY, OUI CHIEF SAVOY”. It was like going on an ocean liner, incredibly glamourous. In the mid 80’s majority of all the waiters in the top hotels were Italian and they had sweeping black hair and dark flashing eyes and long tailcoats; they didn’t seem to walk they seemed to glide. I was just bowled over by the absolute glamour of a top hotel. To sum this up I was pushed into this industry by my careers master and then seduced by the glamour.
2. What was the best advice you received in your earlier career?
Don’t give up. Keep going keep going, doesn’t matter how hard it is keep going.
3. In your current role, what have been the highlights and where have the biggest challenges come from?
A highlight would be last Wednesday when we won Independent Hotel of the year at the annual Catey Awards. In my game it’s the Oscar of hotels. I was delighted, I have been chasing it for 5 years and it was great to finally bag it. This was certainly a highlight. The reason this was a highlight is because the hotel of the year is for the whole team rather than just one specific person. Challenges, well there has been a few but it has always got to be staff. Staff is the perennial most difficult, getting the right people in this country. How many British people say I want a job in hospitality, getting quality staff and motivating them to do what we need them to do, to care and to work hard. Brexit is obviously not helping matters at all, in the past 15 years we have had plenty of keen foreign staff Portuguese, French, Spanish whatever. But of course, that has dried up so that is a real struggle.
4. Your top 3 key tips for succeeding in the industry?
And even then, you won’t get it all right, you have to except that our game isn’t like accountancy (2+2=4) there is always something you can do better, always! It doesn’t matter how good a hotel you are there is always something that can be done, every minute of every day. If you’re not willing to except that then, you’re in the wrong game.
5. What are your personal ambitions outside of work?
I want to do the Mongol Rally which is where you drive from somewhere in Europe to Ulaanbaatar. I would like to canoe from the southern most extent of the English water ways systems, which is close to Arundel where I was brought up. Up to the northern most by canal and river which is Ripon – Canal Basin. I would also like to do Camino de Santiago. To do all these things would be nice.
6. How do you see the future of the industry in the UK?
Tough. The cost of staffing is going up. Virtually exponentially. The government don’t actually give a monkeys about hospitality, I was speaking to a very senior conservative politician (Brexiter) and saying to him that I would assume that once we have left, we would be able to employ people from around the world. I don’t mind who gets up and comes to work on a Sunday morning, they can be Portuguese, French, Indian it can be anyone. Our problem with brits is that we are located in a very middle classed area and so young brits out of Harrogate will use this as a job to bridge the gap until they get a ‘proper job’. Certainly, we are seeing that the young middle class brit does not need the hassle of getting out of bed on a Sunday morning to come into work, after getting in at 4am. The biggest challenge is the government, we are not allowed to employ cheap foreign labour and they have quite clearly stated from the chat I had with the conservative politician, he basically said in a nice charming politician way “Unlucky chum, you better get used to paying £10 an hour”. Now the issue with that is I am paying £8.50 an hour for minimum wage for anybody now and they are saying it has to go up to £10 over the next couple of years. That’s close to a 20% increase from where I am now, where is that cash coming from? I am already at the top of the market price; I am already 85% full on bedrooms and I have 126 weddings next year and so on. There is not much more room to go any further, so my concern will be where will we get the money from to pay that wage. We have to find it, and the only way to find it is through efficiencies, without affecting quality. So that is a really tough thing for managers in our industry, now we must earn our money. We have to really really think, what are our staff doing, how can they be more efficient, how can they be more productive, how can I train them better and have I got the right people in place in specific areas.
7. If you had could have a superpower, what would this be?
I would like a superpower that would make people treat people decently. I am fed up after 34 years behind the vale like I have had in this industry. I think generally in the country people don’t think of other people as much. There is a lack of tolerance I suppose, (god I’m sounding old) I would like to force people to be empathetic. So, my superpower would be to force empathy on people so that they actually understand how people are feeling and don’t act how they do at the moment.
8. If you just won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
Keep quiet and tell nobody! It depends on the size of my win, but I would start making a list of everybody I would give something to. I wouldn’t dish out millions to people I would make a bloody great big long list of everybody that £20,000 would make a big difference to. Oh, and I would pay the bloody mortgage off! Get rid of the mortgage and tell the bank to get off my back.