This Sunday 8 March, to mark International Women's Day, we speak* to Diane Tapner-Evans about her experience as Richmond Hill’s longest serving female general manager...
“I’ve been the general manager of Richmond Hill Hotel, on and off, for more than 17 years and my journey at the hotel started nearly three decades ago. In many ways, our green corner of the capital reminds me of the home where I grew up in Kent - the garden of England. It was there that I grew to love the outdoors and horse riding as a child, and still love pursuing both of these activities in our leafy London suburb.
My career in hospitality really started when I went to Bournemouth University, to study a BSc in Hotel Management. Studying by the sea was utterly inspiring and, after a brief stint of graduate underwriting work in London I started my first job at Richmond Hill Hotel in 1991. I then worked my way through restaurant manager and operations roles before becoming general manager at the start of the millennium and heading up the team until 2007 when it was time to take on some exciting new career challenges.
So in 2007, with a husband and three children in tow, I moved to Maidenhead where I launched the opening of the Harte and Garter Hotel in Windsor. This was an extremely exciting chapter in my hospitality career and I learnt the importance effective recruitment, without the right people alongside you it is difficult to deliver your vision.
I returned to Richmond Hill Hotel 10 years ago now and have loved every moment of working here. I’ll always look at Richmond Hill Hotel as the loveliest old building in the town, steeped in history since its opening as the “Queens Hotel” back in 1723. Since returning as general manager at the property, we’ve lovingly refurbished every aspect of the original Georgian property, maintaining many of the original eighteenth century features and bringing out the period beauty which in some other locations has been lost over the years.
We’ve worked with local blacksmiths and carpenters and designers to create bespoke furniture for each of the bedrooms with a nod in design to Richmond Park’s wildlife; partnered with Heals to ensure our guests keep talking about our super mattresses, which provide the best sleep experience; and most recently we’ve been delighted to unveil 144 On The Hill, our all-day dining restaurant, bar and terrace.
We’re incredibly lucky to work in such a beautiful location which can accommodate modern business needs from central London and beyond, whilst also being the perfect getaway destination for relaxing retreats just outside of the capital. My favourite spot in Richmond is the terrace overlooking Petersham meadows - it’s just a couple of minute’s walk from the hotel and you can always spot the most incredible sunsets throughout the year.
As a landmark place to visit and conduct business in the community, I’m keen for the hotel to contribute back to the surrounding Richmond area. I’m an active board member of The Richmond Business Improvement District (BID), and work alongside a fantastic team who are passionate about making Richmond a fabulous place to live, work and play. Our ambition is to grow the town whilst protecting its unique heritage and green credentials as the largest green space in London. One of my favourite BID initiatives is the paddleboarding Thames clean-up which the hotel team takes part in every June to help clear the river of plastic pollution.
I’m also excited about how we can improve our carbon footprint here at the hotel. We’ve made great inroads in becoming greener in 2019/20: investing in a new kitchen range to reduce our CO2 emissions, changing our cooking methods to reduce our food waste; improving in room heating control to prevent energy wastage; and being stricter and more inventive with our recycling methods as a team.
I’m often asked how I juggle managing the running of a hotel alongside family life. Certainly the biggest challenge I find as a woman in business is balancing work life with family commitments - there is an overriding sense of guilt sometimes as you try to allocate your time effectively between being a mum, supporting your children and managing a busy business. I’m sure this is something many other women find, but my children and husband act as a reminder that the work I’m doing is valid and worthwhile.
What’s more, I truly believe that there’s no better job than running a hotel in such a standout location. It’s a very diverse and rewarding role. You arrive in the morning open to what the day may bring, and many of the relationships I’ve built with guests have lasted for years, as we’ve helped them to create treasured memories they’ll never forget through weddings or other special occasions.”
*As seen in Darling Magazine Spring issue 2020