Hospitality insights: Interview with our General Manager
Interview with Sunil Machile, Hinxton Hall Conference Centre General Manager
Hinxton Hall Conference Centre partnered with Restaurant Associates over a year ago, and since then there have been several changes in how our catering, housekeeping and front of house services are delivered.
Sunil Machile became the Conference Centre General Manager in September 2023, and has led many of these developments. We caught up with him recently to find out more.
Hi Sunil, thanks for taking the time from your work to talk to us! We’d love our clients and event bookers to get to know you a bit better, so have some questions for you.
Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve worked in hospitality industry for the past 22 years in various positions, interacting directly and indirectly with guests to create a great customer experience. Previously I have worked with hotels like Taj Mahal Palace and Towers Mumbai, London Kensington Marriott, and Holiday Inn, with roles ranging from helping guests check-in to serving fine dining dinners.
Q: How long have you been working at the Conference Centre?
I started working at the Conference centre as a Deputy General Manager in November 2017. As the Deputy General Manager I was working closely with all the departments within the Conference Centre and had a number of direct reports, including the Front of House Manager, Housekeeping Manager, and Head Chef. I was – and still am! – responsible for making sure all delegates receive excellent hospitality along with a warm, friendly, and genuine smile.
Q. Please tell us a bit about your team.
One thing I love about this place is the staff I work with. I have always felt like we are a big family here at Hinxton hall. We have a very diverse team – in terms of age, nationality, and experience – who genuinely work together towards the same goal: to achieve the highest possible guest satisfaction. We all contribute to the positive culture of Restaurant Associates and the Wellcome Genome Campus.
I work most closely with Shelley, Deputy General Manager; Trace, Housekeeping Manager; Craig, front of House Manager; and Chris, Head Chef. These are all staff who have been promoted internally, just showing how talented the core team is, and how much potential talent is in the wider team.
When Restaurant Associates became the Conference Centre’s hospitality and housekeeping provider last year, we gained access to their Career Pathways initiative, designed to encourage staff to develop their careers within Hinxton Hall or another Restaurant Associates venue. Staff who enrol on this programme complete training modules online, preparing them for more senior roles. I am glad to say that I have five members of staff currently on Career Pathways, and three others joining soon.
I am very pleased with our relationship with the Hinxton Hall Conference and Events team. I think it is fairly rare for clients and contractors to be on the same page about service standards, and for there to be so few misunderstandings. I am confident this is due to the level of communication between us. We hold weekly function meetings where we run through all the events coming up the following week in detail. I then have biweekly meetings with a member of the Hinxton Hall team to go over any issues we may be experiencing (on both sides), as well as monthly and quarterly meetings with senior management to go over things like financial forecasts and general feedback.
Q. What inspired you to pursue a career in hospitality?
Hospitality businesses have one thing in common: they are all about making people happy, and enriching their lives by offering delightful and unforgettable experiences. Working in hospitality is really rewarding because I get to create wonderful experiences for people. I am a people’s person and I love to organise events, look after guests in this people-focused role.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about your role?
I like that every day is different. It gives me immense pleasure to interact with so many people from different backgrounds, and contribute to them having a pleasurable experience at Hinxton Hall. I also love to work alongside my staff on daily basis, helping them thrive, and trying my best to solve any issues.
Q: What do you find the most challenging?
The exceptional rise in prices due to inflation has been a massive challenge for us and the hospitality industry as a whole. Businesses are making the decision to cut how much they spend on food and drink, as well as travel to events, which is reducing attendee numbers.
That said, we are seeing that businesses are beginning to increase their spend on hospitality in promising numbers, although recent findings show that confidence in financial stability is still relatively low.
Q: Is there anything in particular you’d like to achieve with the Conference Centre this year?
Restaurant Associates is committed to a net zero target by 2030. As a part of this initiative, we are calculating the carbon footprint of our food. I would like to launch this in our spring–summer menu, with all the food we serve at the Conference centre being ‘carbon labelled’.
We are passionate about playing our part in reducing our venues’ environmental impact, as well as making it easier for our guests to make planet-friendly choices.
I am keen to see if having a carbon measurement attached to a dish will influence people’s choices and overall eating habits. I hope so!
Q. What do you think this year’s biggest trend or requested service in hospitality will be?
There is a growing emphasis on health and wellness in hospitality offerings, and interest in sustainability has been one of the most noticeable trends for us. Luckily we are already committed to making as many sustainability-motivated changes as possible. Restaurant Associates has many sustainability pledges that apply to all the food and drink we serve at Hinxton Hall, such as a British-first sourcing policy on all fresh produce. [Find out about all their other sustainability pledges here].
As well as the carbon labelling I’ve just mentioned, we also work hard to reduce our waste; we weigh and log all our pre- and post-production food waste and are constantly thinking about how to reduce it further. It is exciting to be part of progress towards lessening our impact on the planet, and seeing progress in real time.
Thanks so much for speaking with us, Sunil!