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Spotlighting Innovation: Launch Campaign

Our judges looked for employers who demonstrate a creative, well crafted, expertly delivered launch campaign.

Launch Campaign

In a crowded and competitive market, a well-executed launch campaign is crucial to the success of any new opening. In the Launch Campaign category, our judges looked for employers who demonstrate a creative, well crafted, expertly delivered launch campaign that engaged applicants with their brand and delivered the talent they needed for opening.

Our Judges for the Launch Campaign category for the 2018 People Awards were:

Dawn Turner, Area Director of HR – UK & Ireland – Hyatt

Dawn is currently Area Director of Human Resources – UK & Ireland, overseeing over 1000 colleagues. She first joined Hyatt as an F&B intern at Hyatt Regency Bellevue in Seattle in 1990 and then worked for a couple of national hotel brands in the UK before rejoining Hyatt in 1994 as HR Officer. Dawn has held various roles in Human Resources, gaining experience in generalist HR and Training.

She has over 30 years’ experience in hospitality, with more than 25 in Human Resources across a number of hotels worldwide.

Dawn is a graduate member of the CIPD and also a BSc graduate in Hospitality Management from New Hampshire University in the US. She is skilled in Generalist Human Resources, Employee Relations, Balancing Strategy with practical implementation, Change Management, Team Building, Motivation, Recruitment and Retention, Coaching, Employee Engagement, Talent and Project Management and Pre-openings.

Debbie Vickers, Area Director of Human Resources – UK & Ireland – Marriott Hotels International

Commencing her career in hotel operations, Debbie joined The Savoy Group of hotels as a Management Trainee on their 5-year programme.

She subsequently joined Forte Hotels and Le Meridien hotels in various Training and Human Resources roles and has been in her current role of Area Director of Human Resources for UK&I for 5 years, supporting 60 hotels and approx. 12,000 associates. Her role enables her to be both a strategic and pragmatic business partner, who strongly believes in team work, employee engagement and development to drive positive business results.

Debbie is a Fellow member of the CIPD and strongly supports youth employment strategies and driving closer links between education and employers.

Gemma Boulding, Head of Recruitment & Attraction – Las Iguanas

Gemma started her career journey with Las Iguanas in 2010 when she was just 21 years old. Initially taken on as the company’s first ever Incentives Coordinator, Gemma’s role saw her solely dedicated to motivating and rewarding their people. Interestingly, Las Iguanas was one of the first brands in the hospitality sector to create such a position.

In 2014, looking for her next big challenge within a vibrant brand she felt passionate about, Gemma went on to create and head up the Las Iguanas recruitment team.

Responsible for overseeing the recruitment department, creating and implementing a successful attraction strategy, and recruiting industry leading managers, Gemma has successfully cut agency spend by 70%, driven employer brand, and provided exceptional candidate experience.

James Ellis-Smith, Director – One Avenue Recruitment Limited

James’ passion and expertise for this industry it has culminated with him holding senior positions in high profile companies. With 15 years of Operational experience within the Hospitality Industry at all levels prior to starting One Avenue Recruitment, James has an appreciation of the pressure and prerequisites needed to succeed. James had been Directing Operations, Consulting, Recruiting, Developing and Training across a spectrum of disciplines during this time, thus earning him high respect and admiration within the industry.

James, with Michael Rawlings founded One Avenue Recruitment & Consultancy ten years ago. They had spent considerable time researching, developing and planning their strategy to create a new, fresh and innovative approach to Hospitality Recruitment.

The company has now evolved into a business that has one of the best reputations in the country for understanding the needs of clients and candidates alike, and to deliver for them an unrivalled service.

Jose Ruiz, Director of Employee Experience – The London EDITION

Jose started his career in hotel operations spending three years in F&B and three years in Front Office where he worked his way up to management.

Having discovered a passion for developing talent, Jose moved into Human Resources, and over the following 10 years, Jose held leadership HR roles at The Montcalm, Park Plaza, The Berkeley and Shangri-La.

After opening Shangri-La hotel in the Shard, Jose spent 2 years at Apple as Talent & Development Manager before returning to hospitality in 2017 joining the team at the London EDITION, where Jose is currently Director of Employee Engagement.

Louise Phelps, Group Talent Manager – Splendid Hospitality Group

Louise is a fresh face to the Hospitality industry having been with SHG 18 months and is one to watch. She heads up Talent Acquisition within Splendid, focussing on SHG’s unique recruitment process.

Louise has implemented an award winning Careers Website and Applicant Tracking System for SHG and has a huge passion for hospitality, diversity and inclusion and building lasting relationships and partnerships.

Rachel Rojas, Head of Recruitment – Gaucho & Cau Restaurants

Rachel has worked in hospitality since her teen years and worked her way up in management over an 8 year period for Gaucho before coming into Head Office. She now heads up national recruitment for both the Gaucho and CAU brands.

With a passion for food, restaurants and all things hospitality, she most enjoys finding candidates a home in either of the two brands and watching them thrive.

Particular highlights for her are having the opportunity to share the company values and finding people who are similarly passionate about the same standards and principles of hospitality that are alive in the company

The shortlisted employers in this category are:

  • Beaverbrook
  • Boparan Restaurant Group – Slim Chickens
  • Dishoom
  • Hilton UK & Ireland
  • LEON
  • Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London
  • Radisson RED Glasgow
  • The Doyle Collection

Let’s take a closer look….


The initial challenge Beaverbrook faced as a brand-new company was establishing exactly who Beaverbrook are and why they’re different to other country hotels and private members golf clubs based in Surrey. The sheer magnitude of the project was an ongoing challenge. As with many new developments, resistance from the local residents was difficult to initially overcome. Planning permission for the site was difficult to obtain initially and there was a general negative attitude towards the new development in town. The increase in traffic was also a major concern for the local community. In order to establish Beaverbrook as a brand in the luxury hospitality market, as well as winning over the hearts of the local residents, HR attended lots of different recruitment and networking events, and liaised very closely with the job centre and local colleges and universities. The team team always recruited locally if possible and teamed up with local initiatives, such as ‘What’s On In My Town’ in Leatherhead and Epsom to promote opportunities at the Estate. They also created a fabulous recruitment video that captured the heart of what they were hoping to achieve, in order to inspire candidates to join the business. Well over 10,000 applications were received by Beaverbrook from August 2016, which was the beginning of our recruitment drive for the Estate. Weekly recruitment events were held from October 2016, with an average of 50 candidates attending each time. There is currently an average headcount of 250 employees from varied nationalities.

Boparan Restaurant Group – Slim Chickens

Boparan Restaurant Group was looking for a new brand that they could introduce to the UK and one that would complement the existing group portfolio. An opportunity came about to partner with a popular brand in the U.S.A called Slim Chickens and to take responsibility for driving the brand’s growth in the UK. In terms of plans and actions, from a social media point of view Boparan began to plant seeds of the launch prior to the opening in March 2018. Initially teaser posts were made hinting at the arrival of the brand, before providing more detail on the product and the opening. The company successfully hired 29 people pre-opening, some of which had no previous experience in the hospitality industry. The restaurant opened on Friday 16th March 2018 and continued to recruit post-opening to account for the natural churn that comes with a new site opening, due to attendance and performance, and saw a retention rate to the end of the first month of opening of 67.4%. Boparan wanted to create a dynamic and diverse team, and in terms of age range the current team is made up of 16x 19 to 25 year olds, and 9x 26 to 49 year olds.


Hiring, onboarding and inducting for a opening is never easy, and for Dishoom, their Kensington launch campaign was the most challenging yet. They needed to recruit a team who would make the launch their most innovative, ambitious, successful and exciting, and turn the excitement into lasting success. Recruitment for 100+ positions began two months before training. To find out if applicants understood Dishoom’s culture, open days were held at Dishoom King’s Cross. It gave the company a chance to meet the applicants face-to-face, and see how they performed in activities designed to test how they worked in a team and coped under pressure. Once hired, new starters found their feet in one of Dishoom’s existing cafés by completing a two-week induction period during which they became familiar with their departments’ steps of service, and were immersed first hand into the culture. This was followed by 10 days of hands-on training onsite at the new café, ensuring they were fully integrated into Dishoom’s world. After 10 days of onsite training, in house survey results showed an average score of 9.2 out of 10. Dishoom’s employee net promoter score was 74, just as they went into hard launch.

Hilton UK & Ireland

As part of a £3,000,000 refurbishment and rebranding project, the Hilton Talent Acquisition team was assigned the task of managing the entire pre-opening recruitment process for Savage Garden, the newest rooftop destination bar to be based at the Doubletree by Hilton Tower of London. The brief was clear: come up with a catchy marketing and advertising campaign and hire 32 new team members ranging from junior to senior positions, including the General Manager, within 2 months. Hilton created a bespoke advert template, which didn’t reveal an official name. The bar was already present on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube and had its own intriguing e-mail address (rooftopbarwithatwist@hilton com), and a minute and a half video with the Head Mixologist boasting his cocktail-making skills in what was still a construction site. Within a few days, Hilton were advertising in the most popular hospitality pages in London, starting to accumulate followers and pushing the new concept through the London hospitality scene. The biggest accomplishment for the Talent Acquisition Team was to have successfully recruited 32 new members of the team including a Bar General Manager within the stipulated time line without the usage of any external agency that would have incurred a significant extra cost for the hotel. The campaign also attracted more than 600 applications, and finally securing a role in Savage Garden.


Launching LEON in different territories around the world created new challenges for the company. This particular challenge was to launch LEON with third parties in multiple territories, outside of the UK, in a short period of time. They had to tackle questions around menu, dynamic, people, language, culture and attitude. One of the biggest launches was to be on Oslo. As LEON was set to be a brand-new concept in Norway, an eye catching and quirky advertising campaign was needed in order to attract the numbers and quality of team required. Their design team put together a recruitment campaign on snapchat, which was hugely successful, and the LEON recruitment team went over to Oslo and ran three audition sessions alongside Norwegian company, Umoe and recruited a superb opening team of 25. As a result of their hard work and planning, Leon Oslo opened two sites on 7th May this year. Projected sales were 25k but they have consistently taken 45k across both sites on a weekly basis, meaning initial projections have been doubled.

Mandarin Oriental London Hyde Park

In 2016, Mandarin Oriental London Hyde Park (MOLON) embarked upon the biggest renovation in its 115-year history; investing £100 million to help regain its reputation as the number one luxury hotel in London, while increasing financial turnover, average room rate and guest satisfaction. To do so, MOLON identified several specific challenges which would need to be addressed: 211 people would need to be recruited within a six month period, there were additional pressures of running a fully operational hotel due to a reduced team and having rooms coming back from refurbishment at different times. They also needed to create a revolutionised approach to talent which would align with the new vision of the hotel; to be relevant and different. Of the total 265 hires in 2018 (YTD), 71 were acquired through the platform with 11,000 applications so far this year. The campaign and additional work on MOLON branding templates guaranteed more applications in the first six months of 2018 than they had for the whole of 2017.

Radisson RED Glasgow

For the launch of the new Radisson RED in Glasgow, 60 people were recruited over two months. The company created a targeted recruitment campaign to attract ‘Hotel Superstars’, whose values closely reflected those of the brand. Radisson RED is a brand built on personality and it was imperative that the selection of the team was right. They held a ‘Casting Day’ for their launch which allowed the culture of the company to be showcased and the personalities of candidates to shine. It is well known that the hospitality industry can be sometimes seen as a ’revolving door’ for talent with high turnover rates. The strong launch campaign has built loyalty within Radisson RED, with the team feeling like extended family who have all been through the same rigorous, but fun, application process. So far the turnover rate is just 8%.

The Doyle Collection

The Doyle Collection launched The Coral Room in October 2017, the latest bar to be unveiled at The Bloomsbury. The Coral Room was in a different league for the group, representing the biggest restaurant or bar opening the company had attempted. In order to open the Coral Room, we needed to hire 31 new team members in a peak recruiting month, with little brand awareness, no space to show and in an area of town becoming saturated with new openings. The Doyle Collection launched a series of three recruitment Open Days and these were hosted in the Bloomsbury Club Bar. This allowed the bar still open as normal at 5pm and business to not be impacted. It also allowed the company to showcase the hotel and permit those in work to attend. The HR Team wanted there to be no barriers. On arrival candidates were welcomed with tea, coffee, juice and canapés on arrival as well as live music to set the scene. The canapés showcased the menu offering for the Coral Room. There was a photo booth with Coral Room branded images and dress ups. The photo booth was also used to create a family tree that greeted new team on their first day. In one of the most competitive recruitment markets seen, The Coral Room opened in October 2017, short just three members of the team, over 80% of whom were hired through the Open Days. Feedback from the team has been incredibly positive, with many citing it as the deciding factor for them to move from an established restaurant or bar to a venue they hadn’t been able to see.

Who will win the Launch Campaign Award?

Be there at the 2018 People Awards at the Park Plaza, Westminster Bridge, October 1st to find out.

For table bookings

Closing date for tickets: 17th September 2018