Name: Nick Ings-Kemsley
Career: I grew up in Dorset and always wanted to be a teacher. After school I studied biology and educational studies at Keele University, then moved to Canterbury for teacher training, working behind the bar at the Beefeater in Whitstable in my spare time. After completing my course I taught Science at Herne Bay High School for a year and a half but discovered that teaching wasn’t for me. I phoned my former manager at the Beefeater and they took me on in a full-time role, which ended up being the start of a 12 year career with the company. I progressed to assistant manager at the Whitstable restaurant before moving around Kent to work at a number of the company’s other sites including as general manager at the Premier Inn in Dover. I then returned to the Whitstable Beefeater as general manager, working there for three years before moving to the Marine Hotel in December 2017.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in hospitality? I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after teaching, but returning to work at the Beefeater helped me discover that I was good at the job and enjoyed it, and it was what I was meant to be doing all along. As a teacher you can be interacting with students who don’t want to be there, but in this industry the majority of people come in wanting to have a good time. You get to help put smiles on people’s faces, and you do it while having fun with your colleagues, as the nature of the job inspires fantastic team camaraderie. My manager at the Beefeater also encouraged me by helping me to understand that hospitality was an exciting industry with many opportunities to progress.
What attracted you to Shepherd Neame? As I have been living in Whitstable for several years I knew the Marine Hotel well. It is a beautiful venue with amazing sea views, in a quiet location yet just 15 minutes’ walk from Whitstable town centre. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to apply for the role of manager. I was also interested in working for a much smaller, family-run company. With Whitbread, everything is prescriptive and generic, but with Shepherd Neame I have a real say in how my individual business runs, and feel much more invested in the company.
What qualifications are needed for your role? I wasn’t qualified when I started in the industry, but you learn on the job and I was provided with the necessary training and qualifications by my managers as I progressed.
What does a typical day involve? The Marine Hotel is a big business as it has 30 rooms and 50 staff, and my role is to look after its overall development, including overseeing the sales and marketing strategy. I spend as much time front of house as I can to be visible, but my departmental managers drive the business on a day to day basis. I liaise with them every day to make sure we have the team and tools to run smoothly. I try to ensure that my team’s schedule is planned two to three weeks in advance as work-life balance is important to me. I believe that in order to perform well you have to be able to step away and enjoy down time, and you need to be able to plan that time. Someone working 60 hours a week isn’t working at their best.
How has the industry changed? The rise of social media has had a real impact on the industry, as everything is photographed and shared, so standards have to be really high. It has also resulted in more reviews and communication from customers, which can pose challenges but also offers a significant benefit in that we are able to respond quickly.
What personal characteristics help you in your role? I would describe myself as calm and patient, which is essential as this job involves dealing with a wide range of people in sometimes challenging situations. In a busy, big business like this, it is also essential to be organised and to be able to multi-task. I would also say that if you’re into drama then this industry is likely to suit you, as I see our role as a performance, putting on a show for our guests.
What do you enjoy about the job? I have a real passion for food and drink and accommodation, and I enjoy the excitement and challenge of working with our team to deliver the best standard of service possible every day. When people take the time to come to me and say that they have enjoyed their time with us at the Marine, it is an amazing feeling. That is what we are here for; to make memories for people by providing a special experience. I also find it very rewarding to see members of our team developing their skills and progressing in the industry.
What is tough about the job? It can be difficult to recruit people, as there is still a general misconception that hospitality is an easy job or that it isn’t something to be considered as a career. It can also be tough to react to the speed of changing trends and fashions in food and drink. The hotel has a really broad audience, so we have the additional challenge of trying to appeal to as many people as possible without becoming bland.
What do you consider your biggest success at the company so far? I am very proud of my team’s evolution, with significantly higher retention levels and more training completed. It was also a real honour for The Marine to be chosen for the £500,000 refurbishment that began in January. Such a significant level of investment indicates that Shepherd Neame is happy with the way in which I am managing the hotel.
What is your advice for anyone interested in this type of role? Start at the bottom, work hard and embrace any form of training and development on offer to you. It is a viable career with a path of progression open to anyone with determination and a passion to provide great service. You can travel the world working in hospitality. It really is one of the most interesting and exciting careers out there.
What are your hobbies and interests outside work? I am a fair weather golfer, and my husband Sam and I enjoy travelling. Normally the places that we choose are influenced by their food and drink, so I can gain inspiration for my work! As we live in Whitstable, we also enjoy long walks along the seafront and around the local countryside.
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