Jason has had an extensive career in the hospitality industry spanning 32 years to date, managing everywhere from city centre hotels, spa retreats and luxury country house hotels, to beachside properties, and private member resorts with Michelin-starred dining. Starting out as a Chef de Partie at the Bath Spa Hotel to now serving as Managing Director of Rockliffe Hall and Director of The Pheasant at Harome, throughout his career Jason has developed a wide-ranging knowledge of the Hotel, Spa, Resort, and Golf industries at the highest international level.
Read our Q&A to learn more about life at Rockliffe Hall, luxury hospitality trends and noteworthy life mottos.
Describe a typical day for you – if such a thing exists!
There is no typical day. That’s what I love about hospitality and my role. Every day is different but typically I will arrive around 7.30 am each day, say hello to all my team who are on shift, read the handovers from the previous day, action anything that needs to be actioned, attend the daily ops meeting and discuss the day’s hotel and spa day arrivals, attend various other meetings and find out what is happening on the golf course and with events. I also like to make sure each day I spend some time with guests, for example, checking-in with those having Afternoon Tea and I also personally write welcome cards each day for guests who are with us for a special occasion. That’s it in a nutshell but of course, you never know from day to day what might come up and that’s what makes my role so dynamic.
On top of my day-to-day role at Rockliffe Hall, I am also a director of another small hotel with 16 rooms and a wonderful restaurant called the Pheasant in Harome, North Yorkshire which has the same owner. I go there once a month to oversee operations and provide other support to the business.
And what do you love most about your role?
How diverse it is! I would be so bored working in an office doing 9 – 5 so having such a diverse day keeps me motivated and passionate about what I do. My favourite part of each day is chatting to the team as I walk the floors. Without my team Rockliffe is nothing, so I need to make sure they are happy, motivated and that I am approachable enough that they know they can talk to me. They know my door is always open!
Who has been the most influential person in your career and why?
Without a doubt, Raymond Blanc. I spent six years at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons at the beginning of my career and the standards he set, his influence on so much of the hotel when he was there and just everything he did was to the absolute highest standard. He was also part of every decision, from how fruit was placed in the room, to the crockery we used to the brand itself – absolutely everything! He certainly made his mark on Le Manoir and me. I worked in various departments throughout the years and finally left as part of the guest service team under the mentorship and management of Sue Williams, now GM of Whatley Manor. I learnt to have very high standards across all departments, and this led me to land my first general manager role at the age of 24. Raymond’s influence definitely helped to make me who I am today.
What are the most prevalent trends within the luxury hospitality sector that you’ve observed and adapted to with regard to the Rockliffe Hall proposition?
We tend to shy away from trends and would rather be trendsetters! But one area that I wouldn’t necessarily call a trend, but rather an industry shift that we have really tried to observe and adapt to is the move towards running a more sustainable business. As an exec team, we are always looking at ways to make our business more sustainable, from growing our own produce on the estate to looking at reducing our waste production. At the beginning of this year, it was brought to my attention that we were throwing away over 2,000 slippers per month in the spa which was an avoidable waste. So, we decided to go barefoot for spa days, meaning we would no longer be providing slippers to guests who were with us for the day. We were one of the first spas to do this, it made an instant impact to our business from a sustainability perspective, and it has been extremely well received both by customers and others in the industry.
Rockliffe Hall is known for its stunning location. How does the hotel maximise its surroundings to enhance the guest experience?
Our estate is world class there is no doubt about it. We have a golf course in the top 30 resorts in the UK (the longest in the UK also), an amazing Walled Garden where we grow a lot of produce delivered to our kitchens daily and stunning grounds for our guests to explore, all managed by our excellent Gardens and Estates team. We maximise the surroundings by taking extremely good care of them again led by our brilliant team. When a guest is here, we want them to feel like they have entered a different world and I genuinely do think that’s how it feels when you come up our sweeping driveway. The whole estate looks effortlessly well-kept, but the reality is that it takes a huge amount of effort and dedication to keep it in such wonderful condition.
Which three words best describe Rockliffe Hall?
Exceptional. Luxurious. Approachable
What’s your insider tip for a first-time visitor to Rockliffe Hall?
You cannot visit Rockliffe Hall without indulging in a Spa Garden experience. The Spa Garden is very unique. Private and secluded, with an infinity pool, sauna, tepidarium and more and is the epitome of a luxury spa.
I would also recommend for the full experience you try the Tasting Menu with wine flight in the Orangery restaurant. It is simply sublime – rated as one of the top 10% restaurants in the UK with 3 AA rosettes, and a recent addition to the Michelin guide, it’s a must for food lovers!
And finally, not many people realise this, but we are only 2 hours and 20 minutes from London on the LNER Azuma, so very accessible for a weekend break.
Under your leadership, Rockliffe Hall has achieved many awards and accolades. Please tell us how you and your team continue to deliver such high standards. What do they mean for the hotel’s reputation and guest satisfaction? And does this add an extra level of pressure/expectation to your role?
It is all about the culture. It is my job to make sure every team member is looked after, motivated, passionate and trained to the exacting standard that my executive team and I set out. From grooming standards, to how we pour of cup of tea, to how we make a bed, it is all in the details and every area must exceed our guests and team members’ expectations though the huge amount of training we do. It is relentless but if let our guard down for one minute that’s where standards start to drop, and I simply cannot allow that to happen.
If we get everything right all of the time, the guests will be happy, and the awards will follow.
Rockliffe Hall, is the North’s only 5 AA Red Star Golf and Spa resort and with such an established brand and prestigious reputation if / how does Rockliffe Hall contribute to the broader travel and tourism industry in the region?
There is no doubt that Rockliffe Hall is in a unique position in the North East. The area we are situated in is not necessarily synonymous with luxury and so we have a huge opportunity to bring people to the area that may not otherwise have visited. We encourage our guests to explore the local area, feature the Tees Valley Visitor Guide in our rooms and public areas and partner with other local businesses such as Teesside Airport where we sponsor the airport lounge to drive awareness of Teesside as a destination for UK and international travel.
Since its transformation to a luxury hotel, with a spa and golf course, the estate continues to evolve, with new attractions and facilities regularly introduced. Can you share with us what else is in the pipeline?
We are always evolving and looking to find opportunities for “firsts” so we are really excited that next month we will be the first place in the UK to launch FACE SPAce by Comfort Zone, one of our brand partners in the spa. FACE SPAce is a brand-new treatment concept, designed for visitors who may prefer a more social spa experience rather than going into one of our treatment rooms. FACE SPAce at Rockliffe Hall will be located in the Spa Boutique and offers an area outside of the traditional treatment room that allows guests to interact with their therapist and others around them. We are delighted to be the first to market with this in the UK and we’re excited to see how our guests respond!
Rockliffe Hall is a POB (Pride of Britain) Hotel – a collection of the very best independent hotels across the British Isles. As both a hotelier and a guest what does it mean to be part of this collection?
As a board member of PoB I am immensely proud to represent Rockliffe Hall as part of this collection of the very best independent hotels in the British Isles. Each of the PoB properties are unique and they genuinely are the Pride of Britain. From a guest perspective, the PoB brand is a marker of extremely high standards. It should serve to reassure you that the hotel you are visiting has been carefully vetted, ensuring it meets the criteria required to be accepted into this exclusive group.
From a hotelier perspective, it is part of our job to talk to each other about standards and marketing initiatives as well as talking together about our challenges, and our wins! PoB gives us this opportunity and it really is a wonderful community.
Luxury is highly subjective – what does it mean to you?
Luxury to me is a state of great comfort and elegance. In a resort of Rockliffe’s calibre everything has to be luxury across the board: the bed linen, the glassware, the carpet, even down to the towels in the bathrooms, nothing can be less than the best. Our guests expect the best, as they are paying for it and their expectations quite rightly are sky high. We need to exceed them on every occasion.
Finally, what is your life motto?
I have two!
My work motto as my team will know is “come to work, do a good job, and go home, nothing more nothing less.” My expectations of the team are high of course, but all I ask is they do their best when they are at work, and then leave it at the door when they go home so that they also benefit from a positive work / life balance. We also give them all the support and training we can, so they can deliver world class hospitality.
My life motto is – don’t get stressed about it, it won’t change a thing, and in fact on most occasions it makes things worse. Be decisive, deal with the challenge, put it to bed and move on. In my role, I have to make the right decisions for the business quickly and so sitting worrying about it prolongs the problem and sometimes makes it worse. So, making prompt decisions is key.