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Five Minutes With... Nicola Fewster, General Manager of the Royal Albion Hotel, Broadstairs

Posted: 4th October 2019

Lives: Broadstairs

Age: 37

Favourite Shepherd Neame beer: Bear Island Triple Hopped Lager

Favourite non-Shepherd Neame tipple: I really enjoy a gin and tonic. My favourite is Anno Gin which we stock at the hotel, sourced locally from Marden.

Career: I was born in Surrey, and grew up in Kent after our family moved to Thanet when I was three. I was always really musical, playing the recorder, clarinet, flute and saxophone from a young age, and planned to be a music teacher. After completing my A Levels I went to study Music at the University of Hull. I really enjoyed the course, but ended up deciding that it wasn’t the career for me. During the student holidays I had worked at a restaurant in Margate as a waitress and member of bar staff. When I finished my degree I wasn’t sure what to do, so I returned there and after a few months was delighted to be offered the role of assistant manager. After a couple of years there, I went on to work at a number of pubs, restaurants and hotels around Kent, before joining the Royal Albion in 2013 as Deputy Manager. I then moved to another Shepherd Neame hotel The Bell in Sandwich before returning to the Royal Albion as General Manager 18 months ago. 

Why did you decide to pursue a career in hospitality?
I have worked in hospitality since I was 17, and always enjoyed it, but never considered it as a career until I realised that teaching music weren’t going to make me happy. When I returned to the hospitality industry after university, I realised that I loved the variety and pace of the work, and wanted to pursue it as a career. No day is the same, there is always a new face to speak to and a new situation to deal with, or new product to promote. I can’t imagine doing anything else. 

What attracted you to the Royal Albion?
I grew up in Thanet, so when I saw there was an opportunity to become Deputy Manager at the Royal Albion, I was really excited. It is a large, historic hotel boasting a breathtaking location overlooking Viking Bay. It is also in the centre of Broadstairs so it still has a community feel. I was also keen to work for Shepherd Neame, as it is a family firm and has a reputation for being family-oriented. My daughter Ashley is 13, and I wanted to work for a company that offered flexibility and a support network. I haven’t been disappointed, as Shepherd Neame has provided me with extensive training and support. It is also great to be part of a large company, as you can ask for support from other managers around the business. We meet up regularly and phone each other to share experiences and talk situations through. 

What does a typical day involve?
The Royal Albion has 21 bedrooms and during the summer we have a team of 60 staff working across the business, and my role is primarily to oversee operations and ensure things run smoothly. It is a very varied, fast-paced role. We have a wide range of shifts, so I can required to work any day of the week, any time from 6.30am to 11pm. Lots of our team have family, and I also want to spend time with my daughter, so I try to ensure that rotas are prepared well in advance to allow for planning. It is important to have family time, as in order to perform effectively and be happy in your role, you need a good work life balance.

How has the industry changed? 
The use of social media has really changed the industry, as everything is online now so there is an additional level of scrutiny. It’s great as it allows guests to share their experiences to a much wider audience, so you just have to try and ensure that you offer the highest standards and use the social media promotion to your advantage. During my time at the Royal Albion I have also noticed that the hotel’s clientele has changed as we are getting a lot more holiday makers visiting Thanet. It is great to see the traditional British seaside holiday having a comeback!

What personal characteristics help you in your role? 
Determination and hard work. Regardless of your experience and qualifications, if you possess those qualities, a company like Shepherd Neame will give you the training and experience to succeed. As a manager, I also feel it is essential to be friendly and approachable. To ensure your team remain happy and productive, they have to feel that your door is always open and they can raise any concerns with you.

What do you consider your biggest success at the company so far?
Being appointed General Manager at the Royal Albion. I know the hotel is one of Shepherd Neame’s flagship sites and it was a real honour to be given the opportunity. I felt so proud that all my years of hard work in the industry, including juggling child care after having my daughter, had paid off. Shepherd Neame also recently completed a £270,000 refurbishment of the hotel, and I was really pleased that the team were open to my ideas and took note of my suggestions to ensure that operations continued smoothly. I definitely feel like a valued member of the team.

What is your advice for anyone interested in this type of role?
Work hard and try to gain as much experience as possible across the whole industry. During my last two decades in the industry, I have done it all, from bar staff and waitress to housekeeper and receptionist. That experience set me in good stead to achieve my current position, as I am able to draw upon a wealth of skills and knowledge. 

What are your hobbies and interests outside work?
Lots of outdoor activities. My partner and I just bought an inflatable kayak and try to get out on the water as much as possible. I’m also a keen runner. I took it up in January and now run three times a week. I will be completing a 10 mile run in December.

Find out more about General Manager roles, and view current vacancies on our website: GENERAL MANAGERS