The AHC Family: Welcome to Anthony Cox, General Manager at Great Fosters
Anthony Cox, General Manager at Great Fosters, joined the Alexander Hotels Family in April 2021. With (hopefully) the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we caught up with Anthony to delve to a little deeper into his inspirations, background and his post Covid plans for Great Fosters.
Tell us why you started working in hospitality and what you journey has been to your current position as General Manager at Great Fosters?
I grew up on the Isle of Wight and a local hotelier and restaurateur lived at the end of our street with his family. He had a regularly changing roster of two-seater sports cars and they always had the best parties so I guess you could say it was the lifestyle that first piqued my interest!
At 14, my week of work experience outside of school was in a kitchen. This led to an offer of a part time job in the school holidays, which I kept whilst studying at catering college. When I graduated, I progressed through the food and beverage route running restaurants, bars and events, then into operations and deputy general management of hotels. Since becoming a General Manager in 2003 I have spent most of my career in the south of England and have been responsible for hotels in Bath, Oxford, Marlow, the Cotswolds and now here at Great Fosters.
What are your top tips for people thinking of joining the industry?
Ours is an industry where we learn by doing. While at college doing the theory, I was working full time hours during evenings & at weekends to gain experience and earn some decent money for a teenager at the time! Despite the recent downturn the industry is vast so my top tip would be to carefully consider your starting point and the balance between the practical and the theory. Careers advice does not seem to be a priority in schools right now but there are plenty of industry led organisations out there to help, so seek them out or give me call!
Hospitality is going to change seismically in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the industry is known for being adaptable. How has the industry changed over the years that you have seen?
I started my career with some of the bigger brands, and what I have seen change is a more “experience led” appetite for hospitality, rather than “amenity led”. The big brands are now desperately trying to copy independent operators and not many can pull that off well because then, it is not genuine. I think that’s why I enjoy working with owner operators like the AHC.
What do you see being the main changes in the industry in light of the pandemic?
We are now well into a second year of disruption and some ways of working that may have been taken as de facto, pre pandemic have been binned. It is not often we have time on our hands to really think about what we do. For me, I am seeing a new spirit of making those changes stick.
What’s been your favourite industry trend that you have seen in your career so far?
My favourite trend is to see the classics come back as trends! Aside from advances in technology there is very little new in this industry.
If you could take a step back to heading a department again, which would it be and why?
As I have got older, I have gained an interest in gardening, so I wouldn’t mind being head gardener at a gorgeous hotel like Great Fosters!
Tell us about how you motivate and inspire your teams?
I have done this all my life. It’s all I know but I love what I do. Not everyone is in hospitality for the long haul and I respect that too. This industry has given me some brilliant highs and its fair share of lows. My job is to help create the conditions for everyone in the team to enjoy their time at work and if they want to make a career in hospitality, I can help them with that too.
What do you do to relax?
During the last lockdown I took up running. I now try to get out 3 times a week, and when I can’t get a run in, I will be walking our one-year-old Labrador, Milo. One of the things I have really missed is live music, and I am looking forward to that first post lockdown gig.
Where do you find inspiration?
I admire longevity.
What are you most excited about at Great Fosters?
Great Fosters is an absolute gem. I have been lucky over the years to have been custodian to some beautiful buildings on behalf of their owners in some amazing locations but the centuries upon centuries of goings on here at Great Fosters provide a rich seam of stories to tell, old and new. We have been busy during this last lockdown adding some fabulous new additions to the Estate and refurbishing some existing areas ready for a busy Summer. I can’t wait to start the reveal!
What’s your favourite meal?
Anything as long as I am on a bit of coastline, with a warm breeze and a cold drink.
Tell us about your favourite hotel experience or an occasion that a member of staff ‘wowed you’.
The Post Hotel, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. We stayed there when my children were young. After we checked in George, one of the owners, asked us to join him for a drink with his wife. We had a lovely chat, a fantastic glass of Californian chardonnay and a tour of their most amazing cellars. He asked what our plans were for dinner. As we had the kids in toe and were dressed for the Rockies, we were planning on a low-key dinner in their pub. George insisted we ate in his fine dining restaurant. It was the first time the boys had lobster and they still talk about it now. I only hope they got the crayon out of the linen!
What do you like the most about your property and about the AHC?
Some of our historic rooms here at Great Fosters are just jaw dropping when you think about who used to reside here. There is such a sense of place, history and mischief. I have now had the chance to visit all the hotels in the AHC and what really stands out to me is that you can genuinely feel the pride, care and attention given to each one.
What’s your favourite destination and hotel in the world?
We have fallen in love with the Canadian Rockies. We’ve travelled there a few times and hope to visit again soon. We have only ever popped in for a drink and a good look around, but if I had to choose a favourite hotel it would have to be the Banff Springs.
Great Fosters is our historic property near Windsor.