Hotel GB, or Hotel Britannia as it was labelled pre Olympics, is the latest ‘reality’ TV show from Channel 4. The basic premise is that a group of celebrities take over the running of The Bermondsey Square hotel for a week with a bunch of trainees, most of which have no hospitality experience. When I say ‘most of which have no hospitality experience’ I’m talking about the celebrities as much as the trainees, which Channel 4 have rolled out. The idea being that, as co-General Manager & retail guru Mary Portas put it:
One years work experience in one week
and thus giving the trainees a boost in confidence, a few skills and a little bit of media exposure to help them on their way. The very idea that Hotel GB or any other intensive training programme can give you one years experience in one week is farcical to say the very least. An average chef will spend about 2,400 hours in work per year, were as there only 168 hours in a week. Already it was looking like a little bit of style over very little substance.
So to the celebrities, to add an edge to the proceedings there are two teams with responsibilities for various aspects of the hotels operations, as you’d expect Gordon Ramsay is food & beverage orientated & Mary Portas is rooms, spa & general non food related departments. All tips & revenue throughout the 5 days of operation will be divided between The Prince’s Trust & Springboard, two charities which are working on solving youth unemployment (which currently stands at 1 in5 being out of work).
Mr Ramsay’s Team – Hotel GB
Gordon Ramsay (co GM): Multi – Michelin starred chef & Hospitality Entrepreneur.
Gok Wan (Bar Manager): Fashion expert & award-winning TV presenter.
Dr Christian Jessen (Gym Manager): British Doctor and Sexual Health Campaigner.
Phil Spencer (Restaurant Manager): Property guru & one half of Phil & Kirstie from Location, Location, Location
Jimmy Carr (One off Events Manager): Comedian & one time tax avoider.
Ms Portas’s Team – Hotel GB
Mary Portas (co GM): Retail & customer service guru.
Kirstie Allsop (Concierge): Home thrift expert & other half of Phil & Kirstie from Location, Location, Location.
Katie Piper (Spa Manager): Former model, Author & Charity founder.
Hillary Devey (on site boutique shop manager): Entrepreneur & star of Dragons den.
Kim Woodburn (Head of Housekeeping): Former cleaner & now TV personality
Part of the flaw in the programme is that only two of the managers in the above teams seem to have any hospitality experience; Gordon Ramsay and Katie Piper, who trained as a beauty therapist and worked in a spa for a time. So already the trainees are being led by individuals who are well meaning but just as inexperienced. In the celebs defence, what they do demonstrate is the ‘can do’ attitude and in return the trainees aren’t getting too carried away. The point in case was trainee Emily’s enquiry to comedian Jimmy Carr when welcoming him aboard:
Sorry what’s your name?
Absolute genius! It couldn’t have been a better put down line if she’d have thought about it.
Channel 4 seem keen to jump aboard the social media band wagon by generating their own hashtag (#HotelGB) for twitter. I suppose as they’d be keen to see the live reaction to the daily goings on, unfortunately I witnessed a constant flood of negative comments of the first nights show. Surely if you’re going to engage social media like this you’ve got to have a contingency plan? I decided to blog about Hotel GB after the second episode was aired, and I have to say last nights programme was nowhere as near the car crash Monday night’s episode was.
There are several different management styles on show, Mr Ramsay shows his typical flair with kitchen language and the technique of knock em down then rebuild them the way I want them. At least his trainees know where they stand, but I’m at a loss as to what structure & who is responsible for what in the kitchen. Gok Wan has clearly found his niche behind the bar, his trainees respond to his every word and so far there hasn’t been any harsh words. Jimmy Carr popped in for a day as events manager & brought his usual style to a one off doggy fashion show, which impressed the hosts so much they over paid by 100%. Mr Ramsay ask Mr Carr for feedback on his two trainees, which Carr enthused that he’d hire both of them. Ironically only the previous day Ade had managed to pour two glasses of champagne over a guest, now seems to have redeemed himself having worked with Mr Carr.
Sadly, so far Hotel GB seems to be show hospitality in a jovial, relaxed light. Let me tell you, it is far from that & Kim Woodburn would fail to make the grade in any hotel I’ve ever worked in. So far she has sexually harassed Dr Christian in the gym, joined guests in a hotel suite for a party & shown a less than helpful training and management attitude to her trainees. Sadly the z-list celeb seems only there to get her face in the papers again & maybe a commission from Channel 4.
Even after two days in there are clearly some good candidates coming to the fore, yes there was the initial casualty of graduate Natasha who lasted five hours. But as Ms Portas pointed out that she (Natasha) ‘just crumbled’, that fact that Portas took no ownership of the problem was just laughable. The trainee crumbled because she was ill equipped & probably not trained properly.
My tips as to who will be in line for a job with either Mr Ramsay or Ms Portas, which is the eventual prize at the end of the programme:
Emily: Keen, helpful, pleasant to guests and really trying her best. Would really benefit for working for an organisation who could invest in her.
David: The recovering alcoholic was painfully unlucky not to be chosen in the original intake, he has now joined the group after Natasha dropped out. He realises this is a golden opportunity and from what little he’s appeared on the screen so far he is eager & willing to please, and it’s this ‘can do’ attitude which will push him to the fore.
Gun: Has really impressed Mr Ramsay in the kitchen: keen; vocal; organised and having a real team spirited mentality, which is setting her apart.
So while Hotel GB is far from perfect, I think it’s harsh to judge it as some promotion video for the hospitality industry, because lets face it it’s far from that. The upside to it is two, potentially more, young people will get jobs from five days of media scrutiny, along with an original way of raising the issue & funds for two deserving charities.
Many in the media have derided the wealthy for giving less back than they take.For the first time in a long time I’m glad to see the likes of Mr Ramsay using his talents to so publicly help others & charities, rather than lining his own pockets.
Should you wish to seek more information on either of the two charities which benefit from Hotel GB, please see their details below:
Springboard UK Ltd, Westminster Kingsway College, Regents Park Centre, Longford Street, London, NW1 3HB
T: 020 752 986 10
F :020 123 456 78
The Prince’s Trust
The Prince’s Trust, 18 Park Square East, London NW1 4LH
T: 020 7543 1234
F: 020 7543 1200
minicom: 0207 543 1374