Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Jury's service

Peter Malone has been to more weddings than a proverbial lucky charm. In

linked to liberal dashings of confetti.

linked to liberal dashings of confetti.

Today, however, it is Mr Malone rather than the bride who is more likely to be toasted when he walks into a hotel.

FRANCESS McDONNELL discovered how one man's ambition married one of the Republic's most eligible hotel groups and produced a handsome offspring.

IF Peter Malone had listened to his father 35 years ago there is a good chance he might not be sitting today in one of Jury's comfortable chairs celebrating the offical launch of the group's new Belfast Inn.

On the other hand, if Mr Malone had been successful in his application to a certain bank then the man - who is credited with turning around the fortunes of Jury's Hotel Group - might never even have considered a career in the hotel industry.

But you get the impression that fate must have stepped in somewhere along the way, because the man who initially joined the Jury's group 23 years ago as a food and beverage manager is now the managing director of one of the Republic's leading hotel chains.

Mr Malone is in Belfast today to toast what is just the latest in a long line of personal achievements since he joined the Jury's group in 1974.

He is living proof of his motto that anyone with the determination to succeed in the hotel business can come in at the bottom and work their way up to the top.

Today, as he attends the opening of the new £9.4m Jury's Belfast Inn, he looked back on his career and said: 'I have to say I am very happy with the way it has all turned out, although it has not been without its ups and downs.

'My father died when I was just 18, around about the time I had been talking about going into the hotel business.

'He had advised me not to go into it and, although I have had a few ups - I lost my job at one stage and I was out of work for three months - I still love the job. It has changed such a great deal since I first started working in the industry and it continues to change rapidly, but that is what makes so enjoyable,' Mr Malone said.

Born in Dundalk, he studied at the Shannon Collge of Hotel Management before leaving for the bright lights of London and Lyon's Tea Shops.

'I liked the idea of travel back in the early 1960s, and I also really enjoyed working with people, so the hotel business appealled to me. At the time I joined there were not that many men in the business.'Mr Malone returned home to take up the job of manager at the Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan in 1970 - the venue for literally hundreds of wedding receptions every year.

He said: 'When I was a young boy hotels were for the very wealthy or for weddings. Now hotels are for everyone, but when I was manager of the Hillgrove in the early 70s we had an amazing number of weddings every week - some weeks we could have had up to 10, on some Saturdays we could have had up to three weddings a day and then a dance for 2,000 people in the evening.

'In the early days I was at every function and every wedding I booked, I cannot remember how many weddings I attended when I was at the Hillgrove - now I am still very hands on, but I see myself as captain of a great team. I am still genuinely interested in what's going on a day to day basis, but I am a great believer in delegation.'Mr Malone added: 'I don't believe in having people around and not letting them make decisions for themselves - I get a great buzz out of letting them make their own decisions.

'The secret of any successful business is picking the right people and delegating to them. I have a great team around me and I couldn't do it without them.'He left the Hillgrove to work as catering manager for the Shelbourne Hotel and was then appointed manager of the Pat Quinn Club - a sports club which Mr Malone said was 'ahead of its time'.

He was manager for six months before the it went into receivership. It is an experience which has stayed with him.

'I lost my job and was out of work for three months, so I know what it's like to be unemployed. That is why I like to try and help people who are out of work by recruiting them.

'For instance, in Belfast we have taken 20 off the live register and trained them for jobs in the new Jury's Belfast Inn - they are working for us now and I am glad we could help them,' Mr Malone said.

The Jury's Inn concept is one he has pioneered with vigour - the new Belfast Inn offers a fixed rate of £55 per room which can accomodate two adults and two children.

The first Inn opened four years ago and the group now has five - two in Dublin, one in Cork and one in Galway. Another will open in Limerick next month and the first London Inn will open next year.

He said people were quick to predict his downfall when the Inns concept was first launched.

'People said at the time Peter Malone is a five star professional. He is a hotelier not a businessman, but that is exactly where they got it wrong - you have got to be a businessman. Today it is not just a hotel, it is a business.

'Years ago you might have just stood at the door and shook hands with people, but now it is much, much more. Jury's is a public company which means a great deal more pressure as we go to the Stock Market every six months.'When he first started out in the hotel industry Mr Malone said he was constantly 'selling' the business, for instance to wedding parties and various other functions.

He says he is still selling it today, but now it is a different product.

'I am selling Jury's to fund managers now and my job is to get the results which the brokers forecast for us, but I enjoy that - I am a competitive son of a gun.

'The hotel business is a bit like being in showbusiness. Every new day is a whole new play and you just have to to get on and forget about yesterday.'He is overwhelmingly enthusiastic about all of the group's hotels whether they are Jury's, Towers or Inns and, although he also worked for a time in Switzerland and America, he does admit that one hotel remains his personal favourite - Jury's Cork.

'I worked there for nine years and I saw it grow from a 96-bedroom hotel to 180 bedrooms. I was involved in a series of extensive programmes which have made the hotel what it is today.

'The other thing is that my family grew up there too and I don't think my three daughters have ever forgiven me for leaving Cork.

'Jury's Cork may be my favourite hotel but I got the most satisfaction from buying the London hotel. It cost us around £10m and today it is worth £22m. It is great to think about an Irish hotel in the centre of London,' he added.

He has recently been elected on to the board of the Hibernian Insurance Company, but the 52-year-old managing director is already planning his next moves.

'There are a great many more things I want to do - we think our biggest area of expansion in the future will be mainland Britain, places like Manchester, Edinburgh, Coventry and perhaps London again.'

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