Checking in with... Gareth Banner FIH MI
Managing director of the highly anticipated The Ned Hotel and vice-chairman of the St. Julian Scholars Gareth Banner discusses plans for the alumni and his best career advice.
Since becoming a St. Julian Scholar in 2012 what have your career highlights been?
I’ve run three vastly different businesses since 2012 and they’ve been challenging, rewarding and ultimately I’ve learnt a lot from each of them. I was involved in selling one hotel for redevelopment and then arrived as general manager at St Pancras which is one of my favourite buildings in the world, let alone hotels. In June this year I started as managing director of The Ned which is already proving to be a career milestone.
The Ned is due to open early next year, what can guests expect from the hotel and its nine restaurants?
In short, a lot. The Ned aims to service the needs of the business community as much as creating a destination for social interaction and fun. In time, we want to change the face of the City and create one of London’s most compelling hotels, whether you’re staying overnight, holding a meeting, in need of a massage or just looking for a quick meal. The sheer scale of the building, coupled with Soho House DNA and generous hospitality should be a unique formula.
How has it been to work with recognised hotel brands such as Soho House, Sydell Group and Renaissance?
It’s amazing how differently some companies operate despite being in the same industry. You take as much from the big chains as you do from the true independents and hopefully end up with a blend of experience that allows you to identify real business opportunities and make sound commercial decisions. Similarly, there is a unique trade-off between the levels of company infrastructure, politics and ability to make things happen quickly.
How have you found the move from general manager to managing director? Was this always part of your career plan?
Ask me in a year from now! I’ve never set out to become remote from the detail of a busy operation and I don’t see this changing as managing director. The current role does come with a broader leadership responsibility but this is something I am relishing.
What have been the main challenges faced with opening a new hotel?
Where do I start? An opening becomes your life rather than just your job. I have the privilege of being able to create something very special that will impact many people’s lives in the future so you have to take it seriously. In the case of The Ned, we are attempting to incorporate so much that’s never been attempted before in a London hotel - there are many unknowns that I must navigate around. This is also what makes the whole project so exciting.
You took part in the General Managers Programme at Cornell University as a part of the Master Innholders Scholarship, in what ways has the scholarship supported your progression?
My time spent at Cornell was rich in content and I refer to different aspects of the programme at different times. Depending on market conditions, the type of business, the macro environment or the competitive landscape, I draw on all the various topics covered on the General Managers Programme at some point. Creating sustainable competitive advantage is something that is in sharp focus currently!
As vice-chairman, what’s on the agenda in 2017 for the St. Julian Scholars?
There is some great traction amongst the SJS at present. We’ve had some new members recently join the committee and have several other members hosting regional meetings/networking which we would like to further build upon next year. There is a plan for us to collectively add more value in the form of mentoring and we are going to explore how we can have a closer relationship with the Aspiring Leaders who are growing in number.
What’s the biggest lesson you have learnt throughout your career in hospitality?
Expect the unexpected and resist change at your peril.
If you were to give someone considering a career in hotels some words of wisdom, what would they be?
Be ambitious as you can do very well at a young age but don’t rush to become a ‘manager’ at any cost. Take time to learn as much about the trade as you can as it will hold you in good stead for the future. I have seen so many people chase job titles only to find themselves painfully exposed once they have been promoted.
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