Jonathan Slater on 30 years at the Chester Grosvenor Hotel
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 January 2014 | UPDATED: 20:16 07 June 2016
Jonathan Slater, managing director of Chester's world famous Grosvenor Hotel, reveals the secrets of success
Celebrating 30 years at the helm of the five star Grosvenor Hotel and Spa in the heart of Chester, Jonathan Slater enthuses that the role of managing director that he enjoys so much has been ‘not so much a job, more a way of life’.
Yet it’s a way of life that seemed an unlikely destiny for the eldest son of a former Rolls-Royce apprentice who opened his own motor engineering company in Derby back in 1950. It was a time when the natural way of things was for sons to follow their fathers into the family business.
‘There was nothing in the family history remotely to do with hospitality,’ explained Jonathan during our interview in the Grosvenor’s Arkle Bar. ‘My younger brother didn’t join the engineering business either; he became a dental surgeon - but my parents were incredibly supportive.’
Then the Managing Director of one of the finest hotels outside London made a rather startling confession: that he really only decided to enrol in hotel school in Nottingham - the first step on the road to a remarkable career - because ‘I worked out that it would give me more time to go dinghy sailing on the River Trent’.
Jonathan was a very proficient sailor from an early age, a schoolboy champion (he still lists yachting as one of his great leisure interests) and river sailing is by no means easy. But, as it turned out, navigating a dinghy on the Trent wasn’t his only proficiency - for it was suggested by his tutors that he pursue a career in hotel management.
‘While I was at college I worked Saturdays and a couple of nights a week at the Victoria Sporting Club in Nottingham, a huge place with a casino, cabaret and a very good restaurant. I served coffee and petit fours and rode home at night on by Lambretta. It was my first job and I got to really enjoy it.’
After qualification, his career path soared via Metropole Hotels in Brighton and their massive 700-room hotel by the then newly built National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham; then at properties in Bloomsbury and Gatwick Airport. He was appointed general manager of the Chester Grosvenor at the age of 28 and within two years was created MD.
Within a short time he was supervising every aspect of a multi-million pound refurbishment which transformed the handsome Grade II listed building. Its first closure in a history spanning 140 years, in December 1987, allowed the reconfiguration of the entire ground floor and the creation of two award-winning restaurants, La Brasserie and Arkle - since renamed Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor - holder of a coveted Michelin star for 23 consecutive years.
More recently Jonathan took on the ambitious Kitchen Project. The culmination of more than two years’ work by Jonathan and his team took place over an intensive period of nine weeks at the beginning of 2012, a new state of the art kitchen featuring the latest induction hobs and the first Josper grill in Chester, was installed. The opportunity was taken during the restaurant closure for a well received reconfiguration of La Brasserie and the creation of the first Rococo Chocolates concession outside London at the front of the hotel. Jonathan has also been instrumental in the Grosvenor team taking on the management responsibility for Oddfellows, the restaurant, bar and boutique hotel in Lower Bridge Street.
A founder director of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, a marketing consortium representing more than 500 independent hotels in over 70 countries, Jonathan recently ended his third term as chairman but still remains passionate about active participation in its worldwide development. A director of Marketing Cheshire, he is also inexhaustible in his support of tourism to the UK and to Cheshire in particular, travelling across the globe promoting the Grosvenor.
He was presented with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Chester Food and Drink Festival in 2010, and proud to be named within the 50 top hospitality professionals in the North West of England in 2012 and 2013. He is a firm believer in recognising and developing the potential of every member of his team through the innovative training model, ‘Growing With Grosvenor’.
‘The Grosvenor is so special because of a combination of things - the incredible support we get from the Grosvenor estate, especially the Duke [of Westminster] and his family, and the fact that Grosvenor core values are embedded as an integral part of everything we do,’ said Jonathan.
‘What makes an iconic hotel is not the amount of marble, fine fabric or what’s spent on fixtures and fittings, but the quality of the people and the service they provide. We strive to improve today on what we did yesterday and tomorrow we will try on improve on what we did today.’
He is married to Melanie since 1977 with two daughters: Rebecca, who operates her own luxury hotel representation company on the East Coast of America and Nyree, who has a degree in Fine Art and presented them with a granddaughter, Ophelia, in January 2011.