THE BEST OF THE BEST…
Another year of fantastic achievements for Northcote was topped off with Craig Bancroft being named UK Hotelier of the Year. Catherine Mallord finds out about the award and what it really means to the hotel, the industry and the man himself
The Caterers Hotelier of the Year is the most prestigious award in the industry and is a career pinnacle for Northcote’s Managing Director Craig Bancroft.
Voted and judged by his peers, only the very best of the best have had the title bestowed upon them – and only twice in its 33 year history has it been awarded to an establishment in the North West, with this the first time it’s come to Lancashire.
Craig told me that after he got over the initial shock and excitement of this iconic accolade he then had to keep it under wraps for two months until the official ceremony.
“I actually took the call from the Caterer when I was in a lovely little tapas bar in Marbella on a rare holiday,” explains Craig. “I told my wife, whom I was with, but was then sworn to secrecy until the presentation lunch and dinner, I didn’t even tell Nigel and the team.”
All winners are asked what will be their mission for the year ahead with their title, what they hope to do because of it and this is something for which Craig has big plans.
“For me it’s all about changing perceptions of our industry, making schools, parents, careers officers and young people themselves see that hospitality is so much more than just finding great chefs and waitresses – that it’s a diverse business and a progressive career path with amazing opportunities.
“Here at Northcote we are full of young stars, our Head Chef Lisa now 35, our Manager Craig, 28, and many more have come up through the ranks with us and cut their teeth here for a successful future elsewhere.”
The hospitality industry is booming and with recent government changes, Craig sees a skills shortage just around the corner.
“Too many people still think of hospitality as a job of low pay, long hours and no social life but that is far from the truth. It is full of vibrant varied roles and with a much faster route up the career ladder than many professions. We like to think we make great people greater.”
In Craig’s own words he was useless at school and his grades reflected that. He did however manage to succeed at running the Sixth Form bar and catering provision for a profit.
After moving to London he gained a job as a mere pot washer in one of Trusthouse Forte’s hotels and soon progressed to room service and was spotted for management training.
It was in 1983 that Craig joined Northcote, which then had only four rooms, and his journey really began working alongside Nigel Haworth to grow the boutique country house hotel to what is today, Lancashire’s only Michelin starred hotel – a title it has retained for 20 years – and a four AA Rosette property as well as being this year’s AA Hotel of the Year.
Craig added: “2016 was our busiest year yet, the award really reflected a huge team effort so it is definitely as much recognition for my wonderful team as myself.
“It is also a fantastic reward for our dedicated investors Richard and Lynda Matthewman. Since they came on board four years ago they have truly helped take mine and Nigel’s dreams and aspirations for Northcote to the next level.”
Since 2012 Northcote has gone from 14 to 26 bedrooms as well as refurbishing both front of house and behind the scenes facilities. It has also added a fabulous cookery school and luxurious private dining facility.
Looking ahead for 2017 and the next few years they are looking outside the hotel with a big focus on the grounds, the gardens and developing an exceptional provision of home grown unique produce and ingredients.
“Beyond Northcote I am working with Marketing Lancashire to really promote the county and the Ribble Valley as the hidden gem we all know it is. Closer to home I am passionate about fuelling our micro economy – we want business and individuals to use us for business, leisure, celebrations and just for fun.”
So, looking forward it’s much more of the same. Craig says that now is the time to really hone their offering and make everyone realise exactly why they are Hotel of the Year – led by the Hotelier of the Year!