Peter was presented with the award at the Westbury Mayfair hotel, London, after fighting off stiff competition from his three rivals. They each had to compete across a customer service scenario, a staff management task and a Dragons’ Den style presentation, where they pitched business plans for a new restaurant concept to the panel.
McAlister, 31, has made the final of the competition twice before and said he was “delighted and absolutely shocked” at picking up the award at the third attempt. “I have loved every minute of the competition, it has been so exciting,” he added.
The Belfast restaurateur has been in the industry for 15 years, working at the Culloden Estate & Spa for 18 months – having previously worked for Malmaison Hotels – and wanted to congratulate his team for their contributions: “It has been a big team effort. I’ve had a lot of support from my colleagues and my general manager. Without them I wouldn’t have been here and I couldn’t have won.”
As part of his prize, McAlister receives a stage in some of Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group of restaurants in New York, staying at the trendy, boutique MAve Hotel in the FlatIron district, gaining an insight into the running of various departments.
The Culloden Estate & Spa, part of Hastings Hotels, receives a year’s subscription to the Livebookings reservation system as part of the prize.
Chairman of the judges, former winner Peter Avis, who is also restaurant manager at Babylon, Roof Gardens, and chairman of the Academy of Food & Wine Guild of Restaurant Service, which organised the event, said McAlister was a clear winner.
“He didn’t put a foot wrong. In the Dragons’ Den he presented well and with a real passion, conveying the information in an interesting and informed way. He sold us with the concept verbally and impressed us with his research and attention to detail.”
Runner-up Paul Taylor of TGI Friday’s, Wembley, receives a place at the renowned business summer school run by the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, sponsored by the Savoy Educational Trust.
Fellow finalists also picked up invaluable contacts and prizes. Babylon’s Peter Avis offered to act as a mentor for finalist Tobias Barfoot, restaurant manager of the Ambrette Restaurant in Margate; and Stephen Mannock of the Edge Hotel School, Wivenhoe House, offered finalist Paul Shanahan, operations manager of Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, mentoring at the hotel school.
Image: (L-R) Peter Avis, chairman of the judges, and winner of Restaurant Manager of the Year 2012 Peter McAlister.