Interview: Ed Fitzpatrick, Dep General Manager, Lygon Arms (April 2019)

Posted on: April 2nd, 2019 by Simon Carter

Ed Fitzpatrick has been on the hospitality fast track since participating in the ten out of ten programme, subsequently a recipient of the prestigious Acorn Award, Ed has consistently displayed a driven loyalty while achieving success in his field. Here he chats with Simon Carter about his experiences to date.

Ed Fitzpatrick

At the age of fifteen I was beginning to consider work options for life after school. I may not have been the strongest academically but was good at anything practical or hands on.  One day the opportunity arose to work part time at Manor House Hotel in Castle Coombe, I enjoyed the work, interacting with people and understanding a very basic level of hospitality, so when it came time to leave school, it felt like a natural next step to go full time. 

My first role was in concierge services, so taking bags, parking cars or taking guests to their rooms.  I got wrapped up in the real buzz of how a hotel works, gaining insights into experiences that would have been new to any young person just starting out in their career. In total, I worked there for three and a half years before a fresh challenge at Lucknam Park Hotel.

Lucknam Park had just opened a new spa at the time and provided an insight into a five red star hotel, one of the essential differences was the level of formality in the front of house; staff would wear lounge suits by day and come five o’clock change into black tie.  This provided a real sense of occasion every day, a level of excitement and a feel good factor in a truly beautiful property.

My family home was close to Lucknam Park so I was able to live at home and walk to work, indeed a workplace where inspirational figures such as Harry Murray MBE and Claire Randall were at the helm.  This period triggered early ideas of what a career in hospitality might look like: I could see role models in management positions and really aspire to career development from being a new team member, along a path into more senior positions.  When I was approaching five years into my career (at the ripe old age of 21), I was ready to knuckle down and think about where I wanted to be by the age of say 30.  Claire Randall was inspirational in offering encouragement to set goals and be clear on taking career steps to push forward with direction and focus. 

At the same time ten out of ten was being conceived.  Spearheaded by Sue Williams and supported from an HR perspective by Anita Bower, this early incarnation of ten out of ten, provided an extraordinary platform for the candidates with not only knowledge, learning and appreciation of the industry but also access to some incredible mentors and industry figures who willingly gave support and guidance. The principle was to see 10 otherwise competing luxury properties come together to assist the rapid development of 10 promising young hospitality professionals who displayed management potential.

The practice was that over two and half years participants would work five months in each of (at least) five different departments across five different properties.   During this investment of time you see all the workings right across a luxury hotel: housekeeping, front office, kitchen, maintenance, human resources and sales.  The emphasis was on working your way up, starting in each department at team member level and finishing each placement, where possible, working along side the head of department.  In this way you could see how each department of the hotel worked from the ground up and from every angle.

I was lucky enough to have my first placement at Chewton Glen, which was followed by five months working in the kitchen of Gidleigh Park in Chagford, Devon, where Michael Caines was Head Chef of the two Michelin star restaurant.  Next was the Fat Duck Group which worked between the Hind’s Head and The Fat Duck in Bray, this was followed by the Vineyard at Stockcross and finally to Mallory Court Hotel in Bishops Tachbrook near Leamington Spa. 

Ed Fitzpatrick (Second Left) with ten out of ten candidates

The programme finished in September 2013 but I had been having conversations toward the end of the process with Claire Randall, Andrew McKenzie (MD Vineyard Group) and Andrew Stembridge (MD Iconic Luxury Hotels) about ideas of what I might be focused on doing moving forward.  My final chat with Andrew Stembridge turned into an interview and I was offered the position of deputy reception manager at Chewton Glen. 

A short time into the role I was promoted to assistant manager and at this time Mark Bevan was promoted from Operations Manager into the newly formed General Manager position after Ashley Ely had left Chewton Glen to move to London.  In this restructure I took the role of Food and Beverage Operations Manager, which controlled bars, restaurants, conference and banqueting and room service which was a wonderful opportunity and a big role at Chewton Glen.  After eight months I was promoted to Operations Manager, so effectively the number two to Mark Bevan in the hotel and carried out this role for three years. 

Mark Bevan nominated me for an Acorn Award when the recipients’ weekend was actually hosted at Chewton Glen.  The aim of the Acorn Awards is to recognise young talented people from every sector of the hospitality industry. The Acorn’s inception was 1986, and the year I received the award coincided with the 30th Anniversary of thirty winners under the age of thirty.  Amanda Afiya and Giovanna Grossi were key figures driving the process and a panel of industry figures assessed the nominations and made the awards.  This was a great honour and something I look upon with pride. 

Andrew Stembridge has always been a strategic leader who thinks not just one or two but five years ahead.  We all have a goal today but know tomorrow and the day after we will have moved ahead into new positions as a group offering.  As an example within my three years tenure in the Operations Manager role at Chewton Glen, the hotel had built and launched another restaurant called The Kitchen, along with the James Martin cookery school.  In addition two new treehouses were delivered each equipped with their own kitchen to allow a chef to cook privately for guests.  All these concepts were operationally formulated and delivered in a short space of time.  It was sometimes hard to take in how much was operationally being delivered at Chewton Glen so quickly.  They have each proven a great success to the benefit of guests as well as to the continuous evolution of the property.

Lygon Arms, Broadway

One Friday evening Andrew (Stembridge) called me into his office and explained that there was an opportunity to stay within the group and take the Deputy General Manager role at The Lygon Arms. The Chewton Glen role had predominantly been focused on food and beverage operations, the role at Lygon Arms was to include management of all operational departments so front office, maintenance, housekeeping as well as bars and restaurants.  

Where guests are concerned my philosophy of hospitality is to keep it simple – we are Inn Keepers first and foremost – which means serving guests to an acceptable standard and exceeding their expectations while doing so.  This can lead to reliable repeat custom and effectively deliver more than analysing any amount of complex data can provide.  Where hiring staff is concerned, having the right character and attitude, giving the company two or more years of solid enthusiastic loyalty are traits sought in recruitment and will lead to the hospitality managers of tomorrow.

The hotel has a guest book that has seen King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell through to the Oscar winners of the day post WWII.  For a period of time the hotel was the countryside outpost of the London Savoy but since the turn of the century had fallen into a string of unfortunate ownerships.  L+R have done an outstanding job since 2015, providing for a sympathetic restoration, refurbishment and development phase, which was completed by the end of 2017.  The near future will see additional investment in delivering a significant wedding, conference and banqueting facility as well as the ability to provide for staff new, attractive, live-in accommodation.  Customers of Chewton Glen and Cliveden House now come to The Lygon Arms with an expectation of the product.  It has taken time to operationally build a team to match the level of refurbishment investment made by L+R (In excess of £10m) so that we now do justice to the new, invigorated, all round quality of the property. 

Broadway is nestled in this Area of Natural Beauty (The Cotswolds) and has a tremendous throughput of visitors to the village.  The road ahead is full of opportunity! The Lygon Arms will continue to grow and evolve as a quality product offering.  The journey of my career to date has been blessed with good fortune to work for some great people in some great properties and I will always look to continue personal growth while supporting those around me to achieve their goals and ambitions.