The Insider – Steve Miles22 September 2014
The Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester celebrated its tenth anniversary on
9 September, with a concert by the Hallé orchestra and a black-tie ball. Leading the proceedings was Steve Miles, who has been general manager of the hotel since it opened. A native Londoner and former chef, he has found his spiritual home in the north-west.
"One of the coolest things about this job is the people you get to meet, the high-profile clients who could arrive at any time and require your full attention. A highlight of my career has been a visit to the Radisson Manchester by former US President Bill Clinton.
Followed by an ex-presidential entourage of fans and secret service agents, he took half an hour to get from the lobby to the lift to go up to his room. What's fascinating is his aura, or charisma. When you meet him, you understand his success.
It's always surprising how down-to- earth high-profile guests are. Clinton didn't ask for anything crazy: he had simple needs, no big ego, or huge riders for the entourage. Tony Blair arrived at some point and they just sat down, had a few beers and watched the football, like ordinary guys.
Celebrating the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester's ten-year anniversary in September, having being with the hotel from the start, felt fantastic. Seeing all our loyal customers and partners made it a very special night and a chance to reflect on our hard work and how far we've come. The evening was quite emotional in many ways: having 200 of the company's top people saying very nice things, not just about you, personally, but also the hotel into which you've put your heart and soul, was a proud moment.
When I was just starting out, I never dreamed I'd be meeting US presidents and prime ministers while running a luxury hotel. I loved cooking as a young man, so becoming a chef seemed a logical career path. I started off as an apprentice with Trust House Forte in 1973 and worked my way up the ladder, eventually picking up management skills. From there, I joined Edwardian as food manager, moved up to general business manager, then up to deputy and after that to where I am now. It was a natural progression, really. I still cook, but only at home on the weekends.
As a native Londoner sent to Manchester by the company 11 years ago with the simple order to "build the brand and don't embarrass us", it was important to me that the hotel celebrated its city. We really wanted to do such a historic place justice, and I think we've succeeded, filling the hotel with references to its cultural and political past.
We are always aware of the heritage of the Manchester Free Trade Hall; whenever I discuss this in America, I describe this as like "someone building a hotel on the sight of the Carnegie Hall". Historic events happened here, from the Peterloo massacre, to Emily Pankhurst's campaign for women's suffrage. The bedrooms have been named after famous musicians who have performed here - Shirley Bassey, Ella Fitzgerald - and all the meeting rooms have been named after the political giants who have made speeches in the hall: Churchill, Gladstone and Disraeli, to name but a few.
After 11 years, Manchester has become my adopted hometown. I think it's a better place to do business than the capital, and I have a saying that you can have ten conversations in Manchester and eight will lead to opportunities; have the same number in London and you'll be lucky if they lead to two.
Manchester is fast becoming an exciting luxury location, for business and tourism: our rooms are just as packed on weekdays as they are at weekends. Our international airport is growing fast, too, and you can get off an international flight and be in my lobby in 40 minutes. Try that coming from Heathrow or Gatwick.
It is also a great city for culture, with the second largest concentration of theatres outside the West End, 18 museums and the second-largest arena in Europe, which seats 25,000 people. It has two of the richest football clubs in the world and your money goes a lot further than it will in London, so it's a great place to live and work.
The industry has changed a lot in the last decade or so: social media and the internet have altered so much about they ways in which we do business. TripAdvisor, in particular, has become crucial to everything: I'd say the site was the most powerful decision-making pull in world travel, bar none.
We always ensure we're on the front page of the site, and because hotels are judged on value for money, I think we're doing a pretty good job."
Interview by Oliver Hotham