Tell us about your background.\r\n\r\nFrom the age of 18 I happened to work in a Michelin-starred restaurant as a waitress and I fell in love with it. I went off to university to study modern languages and every holiday I came back to work in the restaurant. As part of my modern languages degree I spent a year abroad, where I spent some time working for an Italian private members club in Perugia.\r\n\r\nAfter I graduated I knew I didn\u2019t want to teach or translate, which in those years was what you were encouraged to go into of you studied modern languages, so I decided that I would look at building my career in the hospitality business. I asked various hospitality groups on the best way to move forward with my career and they suggested I took the HCIMA postgraduate diploma. I studied that for one year and as part of that I did an industrial placement.\r\n\r\nIt was just at the time of the birth of the country house hotel and I did my placement at Maison Talbooth in Dedham. My intention when I took the course was to go into the restaurant industry, but it opened my eyes to hotels. There is just so much more variety in hotels and it allows me to combine my love of the food and beverage sector with so many other areas. After graduating I took a job in a small country house hotel called Ockenden Manor, before moving to The Goring and then taking on my first general management role up at Hotel Felix's sister hotel in York called The Grange.\r\n\r\nHow did you move over to Hotel Felix?\r\n\r\nBoth hotels have the same owner and when I joined them they were vaguely talking about opening another hotel - but it took six years before we actually opened a second property. I was in York for those six years and then I came to open Hotel Felix in 2002.\r\n\r\nTell us about the hotel.\r\n\r\nThe four-star hotel is 52 bedrooms and it has a gold award and two rosettes for its restaurant. It\u2019s a classic-contemporary hotel, which is how we described it right from the beginning. The main part of the building was built in 1852 and it was originally a house owned by a surgeon at Addenbrooke's Hospital. He was a keen arborist so there are lots of fine specimens of trees on its grounds, which are all protected. It was owned by South Cambridgeshire County Council at the time that we took the building on, and it was run predominantly as an adult education centre.\r\n\r\nHow did you transform it into the property it is now?\r\n\r\nThe main building we preserved and renovated, as well as all the 70s breezeblock buildings around the main property, and then we just built on top of that. When looking for a hotel we hadn\u2019t really thought about doing so much new build. The Grange was an old building that had been converted in 1990 and the owners had the intention of getting another old building and then making it into a hotel. We did have an old building here, but there was only space for four bedrooms in the main building. There was a lot of new-build on either side of the old house and that also created a front courtyard.\r\n\r\nWas the process a new experience for you?\r\n\r\nIt was a completely new experience for me, and we didn\u2019t have any connections in Cambridge so it was coming to a completely unknown area and setting up from scratch. We had to establish the restaurant as well because we wanted it to be a standalone restaurant as well as somewhere our residents could dine. That took a while to take off, and obviously when you are first setting up a hotel it takes a while for weddings and large events to come through. Slowly the hotel name starts getting out there, but you have to be patient. I started getting involved in the tourism side of York, so I got involved with Cambridge in a similar vein. I was also involved with the BHA in York so they asked me to sit on the committee down here, which I eventually went on to chair. I was involved with the local Cambridge tourism organisation, which this year has become a destination management organisation (DMO) and I sit on the board for that. I sit on the board of the Cambridge BID as well. I\u2019ve very much always thought that you sell your destination first and your hotel second. I\u2019m heavily involved in what takes place in the city, whether it is transport planning or ensuring the streets are clean.\r\n\r\nYou mentioned you initially wanted to work in the restaurant industry, is that an aspect of the job you particularly enjoy? \r\n\r\nI enjoy it all really. Working in hotels, and as time has progressed, revenue management and bedroom sales have become a massive part of hotel keeping as well as working with all the outside agencies. When I first started it was very traditional, hotels didn\u2019t have websites, we were in the AA guide and the RAC guide and maybe the Good Food Guide or the Good Hotel Guide. Maybe you did a little bit of advertising, but it\u2019s a completely different world now.\r\n\r\nWhat\u2019s a typical guest?\r\n\r\nThere is no typical guest because hotel are very lucky in Cambridge to have a good mix of leisure and business visitors. Cambridge is a thriving place for business and it\u2019s growing as one of the fastest developing cities in England. We didn\u2019t know that at the time we came down here - research and development, pharmaceuticals and technology, they are all sectors that are growing very fast here. Just down from us there is a big development taking place by the university, the North West Cambridge site, which is going to have a lot of housing for students. All of that is bringing the area of the city we are in - because we are not slap bang in the middle - closer to the centre. We are very lucky in that we are sitting in the middle of a lot of greenery and grounds, but we are now very much part of the city.\r\n\r\nYou\u2019ve previously worked under the owners at The Grange, do you have a close relationship with them? \r\n\r\nAfter the length of time that I have worked for them we have a very close relationship. They are responsible for the design of the hotel. I am the one that has to put a practical spin on any design ideas because I will see it more operationally. We work together on that. We are potentially looking at expanding the hotel and expanding the bedrooms. We have had meetings with architects to look at how we can best use what we already have and build on to that to create additional space, not only for bedrooms but also leisure space. That may potentially include an inner courtyard where we would serve afternoon tea and drinks, a bigger lounge area and changing the position of reception.\r\n\r\nWhat are the biggest challenges you face?\r\n\r\nStaffing, and that\u2019s a national problem. I work with some organisations to look at that and try to encourage young adults into the industry. Cambridge is growing and there is increasing competition with a plethora of businesses all searching from the same pot of people. That\u2019s a major problem. Unemployment is very low in the city and that\u2019s fantastic, but it does mean that every sector in the city is struggling to find the right people to fill the job. One of the downsides of Cambridge\u2019s success is its expense in housing and the fact that for people who can\u2019t afford those properties they need to situate themselves on the outskirts of Cambridge - we are then facing transport issues, especially in industries that require shifts. We have staff accommodation but it\u2019s still a problem.\r\n\r\nThe hotel is dog-friendly, does that help reach a new market?\r\n\r\nAbsolutely, it has been a real growth area for the hotel. We never turned dogs away before, but we suddenly saw that we were getting more guests who didn\u2019t want to leave their dogs behind. We then paid more attention to that and we now ensure we have a note in the room for the dog as well as a gift. In 2011 we built an orangey onto the hotel, so we then made sure that area was a dog-friendly place that visitors could eat with their dogs while the main restaurant is kept dog-free.\r\n\r\nYou also host weddings and business meetings, how important is that to the business?\r\n\r\nWe were one of the first hotels in Cambridge, when the rules changed to allow a wedding outside, to apply for a licence and build a gazebo. In order to have the licence it needs to be enclosed in a certain way so we build a gazebo especially for that - we were the forerunner in that.\r\n\r\nWhat are the future plans for Hotel Felix?\r\n\r\nWe now have record occupancy and we\u2019d like to add some more bedrooms, but we don\u2019t want to become a massive hotel. We want to expand and improve the public areas and maybe extend one of our private rooms but that\u2019s stage two and first we will be focusing on the bedrooms.