MADE BY MEMBERS • September 2020
Fast forward from his first trainee manager role at 16 years old, Stuart Procter is now the chief operating officer at two of Britain’s finest hotels: The Stafford in London’s St James and Northcote in the heart of Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland region. Here, the industry doyen and Silver Executive Club Member tells us how he became a ‘hotel trainspotter’
In your eyes, what’s the hallmark of a great hotel?
It’s very simple – great hotels are built on people. Longevity of the team, whether it be concierges, sommeliers or housekeepers, is essential. At The Stafford we’ve got people who have been here for more than three decades. It creates an atmosphere of generosity and connection that results in the best service. It doesn’t matter how grand the chandeliers are – if the people who work there don’t have a smile on their face and that personal touch, then it’s not a great hotel.
What lessons have stuck with you for your entire career?
I was always taught that, if you service your clients better than anyone else, then the guests will come back. Back when I started in the early 1990s there were no internet databases and so it was all about remembering all the personal touches and preferences. I learned a lot through my mistakes. I once spilled a whole tray of glasses filled with kir royale over some guests and, when I came back a second time, I did it again! But what I learned was that, if you handle a mistake correctly, you can end up becoming life-long friends with a guest.
At the helm: Stuart’s tenure has seen the Stafford Collection (Northcote, The Stafford, and Sicilian-Moorish restaurant, Norma) soar in profitability and success
If you could have managed any hotel in the world, which would it be?
The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles (pictured below). I adore California and the history of that hotel is phenomenal. I love the style and the prestige of it. Over time it’s gone from having a real Hollywood film star style to an informal formality. You can walk up the steps in flip-flops and shorts and the doorman will still make you feel like a million dollars.
If time was no object, where would you go?
Alaska. I’m a keen fly fisherman and so I’d love to go there to catch salmon. I’ve tried on the River Tweed and the Ribble in my home county of Lancashire and didn’t catch a single one, so maybe it’s time to try further afield! Right now, especially, I think the sense of peace that Alaska would bring would be wonderful.
If you didn’t live in London, which city would you live in?
Paris, definitely. The restaurants, brasseries and bistros… It’s amazing. I love all the classic architecture and how much of a walking city it is – truly, there are few better cities to explore on foot. The hotels are obviously wonderful, too. I freely admit I’m a hotel and restaurant trainspotter and Paris is packed with amazing inspiration for both.
What are your three in-flight essentials?
My Beats headphones (Currys PC World; 2 Avios/£1), an iPad (Apple; 3 Avios/£1) and a copy of GQ, which is my favourite magazine. I adore clothes and that’s the title I choose to keep up with what’s going on the world of fashion.
Stuart is a regular at the sleek LAX lounge (pictured)
What’s the best thing about the Executive Club?
The lounges are just so slick. It’s wonderful for me to be in Heathrow or LA and always know there’s somewhere peaceful and quiet where I can go before a long flight. It’s an incredibly smooth operation.
Why do you choose to fly with British Airways?
It’s the service from the stewards that really makes the difference. I’ve always flown British Airways and have always found the comfort in all the classes, from economy to First, to be impressive. There’s a friendliness and a warmth to the experience that I just haven’t felt when I’ve had to fly on other airlines.