A Friday Chat With Vintners’ Hall Sales and Events Manager Robert Mitchell28 May 2021
The spiritual home of the international wine trade, Vintners’ Hall in the heart of London is steeped in history. A grand banquet was held for the Kings of Europe in the 1300s, and the Court Room is the oldest continuously used room in the City of London. Nevertheless, the venue is just as stunning in the 21st century, with a rooftop terrace overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral, the river Thames and the Cheese Grater skyscraper.
We talk to Sales and Events Manager Robert Mitchell, whose passion and dedication to this historic landmark helps him create memorable experiences for all his guests. Having worked in hospitality all his life, Robert takes great pride in his work here and tells us all about his favourite part of the job. Robert is involved in arranging conferences, seminars, wine tastings, exhibitions, weddings and receptions, culminating in the annual Swan Feast each year.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Robert.
I have been working at Vintners’ Hall for 2 years as the sales & events manager, and I am excited and motivated to be a part of the Livery world and represent Searcys and the Worshipful Company of Vintners’ Hall.
I started working in events 8 years ago for Searcys’ sister company and always knew I would make the move and join the Searcys family. I love the fast-paced environment of events and the comradery that comes along with working together to ensure our clients and guests have unforgettable experiences while being looked after at Vintners’ Hall.
Please tell us why you chose to work in the hospitality and events industry. What do you enjoy most?
I have always had jobs where I am customer-facing, and I enjoy meeting new people. I’ve found a lot of value in helping people and making them happy. Events were a natural progression in my career, and it allowed me to put all my experience and skills into a role and make it successful. I have a little bit of OCD and like it when things are organised, which helps in events! I most enjoy the people I get to meet and work with, from my wonderful clients and suppliers to team members and guests. They all really make the job.
What is your advice for people looking to go into hospitality?
The hospitality industry to me is more than service and food and beverage. It is about passion for people, making a difference and working hard. You, as an individual, can make a difference. My advice for anyone looking to go into hospitality would be that communication is key. Understanding what it takes to make an event successful and what your colleagues’ day involves. Find 5 minutes to talk to the security guard, the cleaners, the facilities help desk, the chefs… and get to know what they do. This has helped me see the bigger picture clearly, and I can respond quickly to any issues that could arise and support the team when needed.
What do you enjoy most when selling events?
I really enjoy understanding a customer’s vision for their event and getting to know what is important to them. I like the client knowing there is a safe pair of hands – guiding and advising them when needed and contributing to the whole process being as smooth as possible. I learnt early on in my career that what makes the difference to any venue or company is the people. I work with this in mind, and I believe this is what sets me apart from my competitors and why our clients come back.
I also enjoy being part of Searcys and can see the reputation the company has, which allows customers to trust us at our venues.
How did you keep going in 2020?
Well, 2020 was a year like no other. It presented a lot of unique challenges, and the events and hospitality industry was massively affected, of course. It was sad to see events not able to take place and a lot of hard work stopped. I am very fortunate to have kept my role. We worked hard to keep our event clients updated and to let them know that once we can safely host their events, we will do so. We kept in contact with our event bookers and hosted virtual tours, which was a lot of fun.
A lot of our clients opted to postpone rather than cancel their events, and this shows the trust they have in Searcys and Vintners’ Hall.
Tell us about Vintners’ Hall and your top three favourite things?
Vintners’ Hall is a beautiful, unique Livery Hall and one of the great 12 Livery Companies of the City of London.
Firstly, every time I enter the venue, I feel like I have been transported to another world, and you can feel you are in a historic place. I love the history and provenance Vintners’ Hall has, and how we showcase the best of British in our food and drink.
Then, I like how the venue is very versatile and can host many different types of events from black-tie dinners, conferences, wine tasting events, private dinners, breakfast mornings and more.
And last but not least, the boardroom and terrace offer amazing views of the City and blends traditional and modernity extremely well.
What is your favourite room at the Hall and why?
My favourite room at Vintners Hall is The Livery Hall. It is beautiful! It is spacious, bright, has stunning chandeliers and is full of history and amazing stories. The hall is very versatile and I enjoy seeing it transformed for conferences to dinners to wine tasting events. It has the ‘wow factor.
What is the most memorable event you have been involved?
It would have to be the annual Swan Feast for the Worshipful Company of Vintners’ Hall. The traditions, the ceremony, our head chef presenting the cygnet to the Master of the Vintners’ Company and the ceremonial gowns all made for a very memorable and stand-out event. I know this is a key event in our clients’ calendar, and it is incredible to see it take place first-hand. The Vintners’ Company’s ancient right to own swans dates back over 900 years and the annual event of ‘Swan Upping’ takes place in the third week of July. Originally this was a way of allocating ownership of swans, a prized bird eaten at many feasts.
What are you looking forward to in 2021? What is new at Vintners’ Hall?
I am looking forward to welcoming our wonderful clients back to Vintners’ hall in 2021 and the “new normal” and making that work for us and our customers.
After the year, the industry has had us more motivated than ever to get back to doing what we do best. It will be a challenge but a challenge we will rise to. We have a new General Manager at Vintners’ Hall, Ed Boiling, and we have been working closely on our new wedding brochure and updating the AV capabilities at the venue to offer hybrid events and making the venue COVID-19 secure.