Red Carnation Hotels has been built with a vision of excellent service and a determination to offer generous hospitality. In this interview, RLI sits down with the Managing Director of the company, Jonathan Raggett to discuss how they have evolved as a business and what plans are being put in place today for growth tomorrow.
The President and Founder Beatrice Tollman began Red Carnation Hotels in 1995 with the first site, The Chesterfield Mayfair. The hotel collection is affectionately named after the signature flower Mrs Tollman’s husband always wore, and today this symbol of hospitality is worn by every member of the team.
Reflecting on the last couple of years and all the challenges that have been levelled against brands in the hospitality sector, Jonathan Raggett, Managing Director of Red Carnation Hotels explains that like many other companies, the pandemic gave the business the chance to reset and take a look at the way in which they did things and to see where they could improve.
“I feel that today we have to be even more adaptable and agile than ever before, and I feel this has brought the team closer together. We all have to work as a team and one single unit in order for us to offer guests the best experience possible and for Red Carnation to continue being successful.”
Today the collection has grown to 20 sites across the UK, Guernsey, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Botswana, Switzerland and the US.
Adding to the collection will be a brand new five-star site launching later this year in Edinburgh at 100 Princess Street. Scheduled to launch in late summer, their first site in Scotland is an original building and its iconic features will be respectfully renovated, transforming it into an exclusive retreat on Edinburgh’s most famous street. With uninterrupted views of Edinburgh Castle, 100 Princes Street will replicate the boutique atmosphere of its sister property, Hotel 41, the most-loved hotel in London and TripAdvisor’s number one hotel in the English capital for over 10 years.
The most recently launched property was the Xigera Safari Lodge in Botswana, where comfort and hospitality is just part of the amazing experience on offer that reinvents the way guests experience the African bush. On-site, every aspect is handcrafted to beguile their guests’ senses and stir their souls – from the evocative interiors to one-of-a-kind encounters with wild animals.
When it comes to maintaining their portfolio, Raggett explains that they have always listened to their customers and they react to what has been said. “We are not trying to re-invent the wheel; instead we are looking to offer the guest exactly what it is they want, in unique locations around the world that offer genuine hospitality. We offer boutique hotels that are very individual, that understand who people are as customers and that gives them what they would like from their hotel stay.”
In keeping with the importance of social media in the world of hospitality, the Red Carnation hotels are active across the spectrum of social media platforms including TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. They employ designated people within the individual sites and also a central team, whose job it is to create content-worthy posts highlighting the properties and their fantastic designs, architectural styles and locations.
“Sustainability is another aspect that is of utmost importance to us within the company. We have now removed single-use plastics, we measure our food waste and we have excellent green energy examples within our portfolio. For example, at our Botswana site, we have our own 400KW Tesla Solar plant and then we have solar panels in place at our South Africa sites,” Raggett explains.
As a family-owned and family-run company, the Managing Director feels this has a massive impact on what the company does and how it is operated. Internally, the business gives all employees an additional two paid days off per year, and these days are for them to go and do something that they wish for a charity of their choosing, to allow them to give back to something that matters to them and to feel they are a part of something bigger. Raggett feels it is these sorts of schemes that help build employee loyalty, which reflects within the work they do at Red Carnation and that the increased mental well-being and company loyalty it offers employees is something that far outweighs the two days of work missed.
“We are generous with our hospitality with our employees and our guests, and this is perhaps why we have the excellent retention rate that we do. We have around a 65 per cent repeat factor within our portfolio, which is just unheard of in this industry because guests enjoy and want to come back to us.”
Jonathan himself has been with the business for 24 years now, and he is just one of many who have grown within the company. For example, a colleague of his who began working for Red Carnation over 20 years ago in the linen room, is now one of the best General Managers within the business because he was given the necessary confidence and skillsets to progress and grow.
It is this culture that Raggett feels is another of the big successes that comes out of a family-orientated business. “The people at Red Carnation care, by getting our people to understand this mission, the company values and how you want the company to grow, this idea emanates down from the top and from here you can earn success and the fantastic level of customer service that we have achieved.”
As he looks to the future, Jonathan feels that the challenge he faces is to keep everybody focused day-in day-out, to keep them focused on the guests coming today and tomorrow and making sure they are continued to be looked after in the Red Carnation spirit. Raggett wants to ensure that guests are going away with their expectations exceeded and their next trip and stay with Red Carnation Hotels already in mind.