Jonathan Raggett: Managing Director of Red Carnation Hotels

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Jonathan Raggett has worked in hotels since leaving Westminster College with a Higher National Diploma in Hotel Management. Jonathan joined RCH in 1998 as General Manager of The Rubens Hotel. In 2000 he was promoted to Managing Director, overseeing the rapid expansion to the 17 award-winning luxury boutique hotels and a country inn which RCH now operates. In November 2009, Jonathan Raggett was delighted to be named Hotelier of the Year at the world-renowned Hotel Catey Annual Industry Awards organised by the Caterer & Hotelkeeper.

(Hotel 41, London)

How did you get into the Hospitality industry?

When I left school I studied for a degree in hospitality and was bitten by the bug, I’ve been involved with hotels ever since.

Tell us about Red Carnation Hotels. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?

Red Carnation Hotels is a family-owned business, when I joined the company in 1998 the collection was made up of three hotels in London and one in Palm Beach.  Over the last eighteen years, the Tollman family have found hotels in great locations which were in need of some TLC.  There are now seventeen hotels in the collection, all of them 5 or 4-star, offering outstanding levels of personal service and great comfort.  Each hotel is unique, with bedrooms being individually decorated, but all have the same DNA at their heart – meticulous attention to detail, where guests experience the hotels as their ‘home away from home.'

(Ashford Castle, Ireland)

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have contributed to Red Carnation's success?

One of our greatest successes has been our ethos on training, and the culture of developing our own people.  This has led to great staff retention, which impacts on the service we are able to provide.  Staff are knowledgeable and confident in their roles and returning guests appreciate the fact that they see familiar faces.  This in turn leads to some fantastic user generated content with all of our hotels enjoying a high ranking on TripAdvisor, particularly in London where three of our hotels are listed in the Top 3.

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

While there are a number of trends that impact on our business, people will always value service, comfort and being recognized and that is something that we do well and will continue to do well.

Life Motto?

When talking about staff we always talk about talent, but there are 10 things that require zero talent:
·         Being on time
·         Work ethic
·         Effort
·         Body language
·         Energy
·         Attitude
·         Passion
·         Being coachable
·         Doing extra
·         Being prepared

(The Chesterfield, Palm Beach)

Your greatest success as Managing Director of Red Carnation Hotels? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

Eighteen years ago when we used to visit 21 Club in New York to participate in a showcase for US travel agents, no-one knew of Red Carnation Hotels, now the collection is well-known among luxury US travel agents who know, like and trust us.

Your advice to an aspiring hotelier?

I’m a great admirer of award-winning restaurateur Danny Meyer, and agree with him that to be successful in the hospitality business you need to have five core emotional skills:

·         Optimistic warmth

·         An insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning

·         Work ethic

·         Empathy

·         Self-awareness and integrity

Describe the ideal experience at a Red Carnation Property.

The ideal experience at a Red Carnation Hotel results in the guest leaving the property and recommending it to friends, family and colleagues.

(The Milestone Hotel, London)

How do you motivate your employees?

Motivating the Red Carnation Hotels employees is a combination of providing them with training and development opportunities and understanding their needs.  Working in hospitality can be demanding and there’s a lot of hard work involved but we try to create a sense of fun and camaraderie.  I make sure I regularly thank my direct reports and that they in turn cascade thanks down to their teams.

What's next for Red Carnation?

We’ll be focusing on maintaining customer loyalty, developing out people to create managers of the future and working hard to stay ahead of our competitors.

(The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, Cape Town) Photo Credit: The Red Carnation Hotel Collection