Patrick L Griffin OAM

Six decades in the professional life and times of widely respected and revered hotelier, Patrick Griffin, have been detailed in a new biography now available as an e-book, audiobook and three-volume print publication.

Griffin, who worked in hotels across the UK, Europe and Australia over six decades, finished his illustrious career as General Manager of Sydney’s former Observatory Hotel, which today exists as The Langham, Sydney.

Detailing his life growing up in post-war England in the 1940s and 50s, the book fondly recounts Griffin’s encounters with sixteen royals, four US Presidents and more than a hundred more luminaries of stage, screen, studio, track, field and parliamentary chamber.

Beginning in 1963 as a Trainee Manager of The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, Griffin speaks of his passion for hospitality, his journeys through decades of political and cultural change, his move to Australia and his experiences navigating more recent economic and social turmoils that the hotel industry has withstood.

Over the next four weeks, HM will be publishing excerpts from Griffin’s book which we believe will provide copious amounts of laughter, surprise and delight at the journeys of a leading light in hospitality circles the world over.

Patrick Griffin as a young boy growing up in England in 1955.

Excerpt 1

There is a wonderful quote: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”  I can’t think of a more apt metaphor for just how different the hotel industry looks today compared to when I entered it fifty years ago. Cesar Ritz brought The Ritz to London and the world in 1906. That year may seem like the dark ages to some people, but my father was born in 1908 – only two generations ago.

Today’s hospitality students would laugh in disbelief. When I started work in England, five star hotels were only just considering the need for all rooms to have a bathroom. Bedrooms were not equipped with shampoos and other amenities. At best, you might find a small bar of Milk Soap provided, and there were certainly no dressing-gowns or slippers. If you had a room with no bathroom, you would have brought your own dressing gown to walk down the corridor to wash or go to the lavatory. No rooms had televisions. If the hotel was ‘forward thinking’ they may have offered two television rooms: one with a TV tuned to BBC One (as there were no other BBC channels) and the other with a TV tuned to the single commercial channel, ITV, both black and white. The majority of the rooms were twin bedded, with very few doubles. There were no safes in the rooms. Most bookings were made by letter, or occasionally by phone, but calls were timed and very expensive so usually this was avoided.

Dress was required to be formal, of course; not simply a suit and tie when dining in the restaurant, but a dinner jacket. Women were expected to wear skirts, and hotel staff uniforms reflected this. Even in the late 90s, Ted Wright at the Regent in Sydney (now the Four Seasons) would not allow his female staff to wear trousers as part of their uniform, feeling “that our customers are as yet not ready for this”. Back in the 60s, female staff did not work in restaurants or cocktail bars in luxury hotels, let alone in management roles. Women were confined to reception, housekeeping and serving afternoon tea in the lounge. There are many things that I am glad have changed.

The Grand Life: Confessions of an Old School Hotelier
Patrick with former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, in 2004.

Each of the three volumes of ‘The Grand Life: Confessions of an Old School Hotelier’ are available as an e-book, by print on request and will soon be available as an audiobook. For more information, CLICK HERE.