As part of our goal to champion all that is good about the wonderful industry of Hospitality, we’re conducting a series of discussions with some industry leaders that are really making a difference to see what success looks like to them and how they achieved it.
Robert Dunning – HR Director, Aqua Restaurant Group
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
I am the HR Director for Aqua Restaurant Group – looking after the full HR function for around 450 people in three different locations in London
How did you get into Hospitality?
I originally wanted to be a chef and studied for two years a BTEC in Hospitality Management – I took a part-time role to support myself through college which led to a full-time career
Why did you want to get into Human Resources?
After several years in different operation’s roles in Hotels – e.g. Executive Housekeeper, Guest Services Manager, Rooms Division Manager and Ops Manager, the common thread connecting all areas were people. I moved into HR at this was the part I enjoyed the most
What do you think are the secrets behind getting to where you are?
Hard work, effort, and common sense
What does success look like to you?
The ability to lead by example, having a great team working with you and becoming recognised as the people to “go too”
What are your success habits?
Open communication, directness, honesty and active listening
Can you give me some examples of where you’ve had success in your current role?
Developing a HR function from the ground up. Opening two high profile restaurants in The Shard and ensuring that HR is a true business partner
What motivates you?
People’s growth and development
Have you ever been on the end of a failure?
It sounds really clichéd and a bit “HR” but I think all failures become opportunities that you can learn and grow from
How do you push through your challenging times?
By always asking the question “what else can I do” and how else can I tackle this issue. Sometimes the answers don’t come straight away but ask the people around you and they may have great ideas which you can take from
What keeps you awake at night?
Brexit and the effect it will have on our industry
What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?
Moving from an operations role into HR – I have to thank Hilton for all the career opportunities I was afforded while working for them
And the worst?
Failing to research before joining a company can always prove to be unwise
What do you think we need to improve on within hospitality as whole?
Perception from the outside. Hospitality as an industry is a fantastic career choice. Yes, its hard work, but the benefits, the friends you make, the actual environment and the opportunities it can open up are fantastic – we need to be more vocal in the good
What advice would you give to someone who is just getting started in the industry?
Listen, ask and show interest, gain as much experience from each opportunity that you can – and always ask yourself – what else can I do?
How do you see Tech changing the Hospitality landscape?
I think AI will be interesting for our business. We are usually very creative with how we operate in terms of our food, drinks and design, but less so on tech. We need to embrace faster and more direct ways of connecting with different generations for our workforce. We have to move with the times in terms of apps, social media etc. We also need to view how flexible we are as an industry