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03 May 2024

Hotelier Edit: Joshua Gardener, Executive Director, Broadwick Soho

Hotelier Edit: Joshua Gardener, Executive Director, Broadwick Soho

We visited the luxury boutique hotel Broadwick Soho and spoke to Joshua Gardener, Executive Director about his varied experience within the hospitality industry, how the family run 5 star hotel is unique within the industry, what he values about the Independent Hotel Show and more. 

Can you tell us about yourself and your experience within the hospitality industry.  

Broadwick Soho 1I am the Director of the Broadwick Soho and have been involved in it since the very early stages. I helped develop the hotel alongside Noel, Joe, and Sabine. I have been in the hospitality industry my whole career, starting at the Four Seasons hotels when I was 18, straight into a management programme out of hotel school. I have worked in Front Office, Concierge, took a diversion into security and then comms and marketing. I was with Four Seasons for seven years and then moved on when the Park Lane venue closed for refurbishment and joined Caprice as Operations but quickly moved through the ranks and because Business Development Director. This was an all-encompassing role working directly with the chairman, an amazing opportunity to see all facets of hospitality.  

After five years with them, I moved to Bulgari Hotels and Resorts and opened Bulgari Hotel London in 2012 as Hotel Manager where I was for four years. I took a very interesting job as a Hotel Auditor, where I was working for a company called LQA who do hotel audits and benchmarking travel all over the world. That was a role where I would stay anonymously at the hotels, check their brand standards, and then write a very comprehensive report. This is where I really settled in the hotel business and is where I thought I was going to stay, however COVID came along and made a huge impact.  

Through a friend, I met Noel, who is the Owner of Broadwick Soho and that is how I became involved in this project. I am Executive Director, but to be honest similarly to a lot of independent hotels I do get stuck into everything.  

What made you pursue a career in Hospitality?  

Broadwick Soho 2My parents travelled a lot I always found hotels to be incredibly exciting and quite glamorous. It certainly seemed like an amazing world to be part of, and I am Australian and never appreciated Australia when I was younger, I was that kid that was like I need to get out. I always had a yearning for England and London just felt much more exciting and I have family connections to the UK. Hospitality and hotels felt like a way that I could get into travel and see the world.  

What really prompted my career just was a teacher at school who did Career Guidance, when I told her I was interested in hotels she really ran with it. She recommended Swiss hotel schools etc. and not only recommend but put in the legwork and guided me with what I should be doing. She contacted the Swiss Hotel School I ended up going to and really paved the way for me.  

How is hospitality viewed in Australia?  

It has changed a lot since I left 25 years ago. The hospitality was certainly in hotels, the quality was never there. It was only the Sydney Olympics that brought in Four Seasons, but there have never been the top brands that have now become dominant in our world. It is starting to become more prestigious; Ritz Carlton has just opened in Melbourne and although tourism is huge for Australia it was never perceived as a prestigious job.  

What’s your favourite part of your job?  

Broadwick 3The classic answer is that you get to meet all these amazing guests, which is true to a degree. I think it is most likely being with the team, I have never had an office job, but hotels are like a little soap opera. There is always something happening, something interesting and there’s always so many backstairs tales of things happening whether it is involving the team or the guests. It never stops.  

As a result, you build a close team dynamic and you do become a family, which is something I love about the industry. It is challenging and can be tough, it’s long hours but with the team spirit and attitude it makes it all worth it.  

What piece of advice would you give someone that was looking to start a career in the hotel industry?  

I think you must be prepared and accept that you need to start at the bottom. Sometimes people think because they studied Hotel Management or Hospitality, they think they are able to come in and straight away be a senior role.  

The absolute foundations of your career are built in operations, and all of us in senior roles have done it, we’ve made beds, we’ve carried suitcases and we’ve washed plates. That level of experience is an invaluable foundation that your entire career is built on, so be prepared to put up with hard graft. Hospitality is an industry where everything can change in a second, you must be able to react and respond to that and keep your guests informed but also feel happy and like you have control.  

Another bit of advice would be to not be heavily structured, be flexible and available to respond to any situations.  

What do you think sets Broadwick Soho apart from other independent hotels in London?  

Broadwick 4There are several things. We are a genuine family-owned business, with a genuine group of friends who are involved in the creation of the hotel. It is a story of love and family; Noel opened this hotel as a love letter to his parents who ran a hotel in Bournemouth in the 70s and 80s. This is a return to the family roots; we are an authentic and genuine story as we have family connection. We focus on championing family, quality and craftmanship. Nothing is mass produced, everything is considered, and everything has a story.  

The art collection is phenomenal, we have pieces from iconic artists William Turnbull, Bridget Riley, Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon. Original artwork or original lithographs, and that is quite extraordinary to see in a setting like this.  

I think it is probably the fact that we are a truly independent family owned and operated hotel. Our owner is here every day, and we are all super involved. In the five-star market in London I think this is unique.  

How important is hospitality tech to the business? And are there any investments that you think have been transformative to the hotel? 

As we focus on the guest facing point of view, we made a conscious decision not to be overly techie because the reality is this is a townhouse style hotel. We want it to feel like people are in our home and we are more traditional and not the type who love to operate the curtains by using an iPad for example.  

There is a tablet in every room which has all our information and concierge. But from behind the scenes is where the tech really comes into play. We have programs such as ALICE Technologies, which we use for our internal Coms and communications tasks. We put huge amounts into digital marketing and SEO awareness campaigns. The whole hotel functions by computer, from lifts to water movement through the building to the lock system.  

But from a guest perspective, it feels almost quite simplified, which was done intentionally. The big focus for us was always thinking from the guest’s point of view and considering what they want.  

What do you value from your visits to the Independent Hotel Show and is there anything specific you found useful when you attended?  

It is a great opportunity to see what's out there in the market. There is so much to see and especially when we were in the lead up to opening it was quite extraordinary the companies, we were able to find. Being able to walk around and visit the stands all in one place helped us realise what we needed and what was of value.  

If your hotel had a theme song, what would it be?  

La Dolce Vita by Nina Rota really embodies the hotel. It embodies our hotels classic twist on Italian glamour. Our cocktail list is actually named after Federico Fellini’s films.  

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