Interview: Giovanna Grossi, (August 2019)

[ Giovanna at The Landmark Hotel. She loves this hotel for many reasons. Giovanna went there for Champagne on her first date with husband-to-be Mario and they stayed there together on their last trip to London before he passed away 20 years later. She has also worked closely with the hotel for many years and feels it’s come on such a journey. Beautiful hotel and amazing team.]

Giovanna’s
father came over from Italy in 1962 for six months to learn English and worked in hotels, but he met her mother, who was from
Cheshire, and didn’t go back. When she was about six, a couple who her dad had
once worked for and who owned a restaurant in Southport, were selling their
business, and offer her parents first refusal. The young Giovanna absolutely
fell in love with the whole environment and would find any excuse to be in the
restaurant doing one form of little job or another, so much so that her dad
could see her enjoyment and during the summer holidays he would take her every
week to the wholesale market in Liverpool at 4am and in the old school way, he would personally
choose all his fish, fruit and veg – being a part of that was a real adventure for
a young girl.

One day a new
property came on the market and her father was able to realise his ambition of
being proprietor of his dream Italian restaurant.  From around 1978 the new restaurant became
a prime venue, for acts and customers of Southport Theatre but also the
Liverpool FC players of the day, there was a real buzz about the place.  Meantime Giovanna passed her 11 Plus and the
exam and interview for Merchant Taylor’s School in Crosby. She chose the
latter, however was unhappy and failed to settle but was fortunate to be able
to transfer to the grammar school, when someone moved from the area and
liberated a place.  The school was within
walking distance from home, situated between Royal Birkdale and Hillside Golf
Clubs and a scene of far happier times.  Taking
a year out before going to Manchester University, where she studied accountancy,
led to Giovanna spending a year working in the business and it was during this time
that she realized that her career future post university, would be in
hospitality.

In 1993, Giovanna
had some challenges with a London based supplier and a manager travelled up to
Southport from London to resolve the problems. 
This man turned out to be the love of her life, Mario, and they clicked
from day one.  Over the following years
he spent his weekends working in the restaurant so they could spend time
together to the point where he became fully integrated into the business and
customers really loved him, too. 

Giovanna had
always wanted to be a journalist when she was younger and as she loved the
restaurant trade, writing for the Good Food Guide had always been a dream.  As it happened, in early 1999, she saw an
advert in Caterer for an AA Hotel and Restaurant Inspector.  With numerous applicants for only three positions,
Giovanna didn’t anticipate success.  She
had two interviews and for the second borrowed a laptop to type a presentation.
 Sitting behind her to be interviewed
directly after her, was someone who would become a dear friend, Paul Hackett,
who is still at the AA today.  Despite some
anxiety throughout the application process, they both found themselves employed
on the AA Hotel and Restaurant inspection team.

From
1999 to 2003 Giovanna effectively worked seven days a week as she split
her time between fulfilling her hours and responsibilities at the AA, while
also covering the important shifts at her parents’ restaurant.  This proved exceptionally hard work but gave
Giovanna the best of both worlds.  Giovanna
was fortunate to cover a number of different patches in her first few years,
the North West, the Lake District (during the challenging foot and mouth
crisis), Central & East England, and then ultimately Giovanna found herself
responsible for central London, which brought with it the biggest section of
the AA Restaurant Guide to manage.  This
enabled the building of a network of chefs, restaurateurs and hoteliers in the
capital but the schedule and workload were quite punishing, travelling from her
home in Manchester every week. 

Around January 2006,
Giovanna was promoted to a role of Key Account Executive and was responsible
for liaising with approximately fifteen major Hotel Groups and whilst this more
corporate role took her out of her comfort zone, she had the opportunity to
forge some great relationships with some major figures of the hospitality
industry.  The London and South East Area
Manager role became available some 9 months later, and her experience of London
and desire to manage a team again, led her to apply for the position. She loved
the role and strived hard to support and develop her team. Towards the end of
2007, the opportunity arose to apply for the position of Group Area Manager, a
revised version of the old Chief Hotel & Restaurant Inspector role – it
involved overseeing the inspection team and also brought responsibilities for sitting
on awards panels, including a panel with the national tourist boards with
responsibility to update shared quality standards for hotel and B&B
inspections.  Giovanna was successful in
her candidacy and over the next nine years was to make the role her own.

Giovanna was responsible
for ensuring that all restaurants nominated for three, four and five Rosettes and
hotels nominated for AA Red Stars, had the relevant confirmation inspections
and that the nominations for all the AA Hotel, Restaurant and B&B Awards
were written up for the AA Hospitality Panel to discuss at their meetings twice
a year. Giovanna soon found herself sitting on a number of judging and awards
panels on top of managing four regional managers and helping build training and
the early consulting programmes that the AA were developing.  

In Spring 2012,
Giovanna broke her leg and had to take an enforced absence from work. This
coincided with a dramatic decline in her partner, Mario’s, health.  He had crippling arthritis sadly followed by
a nasty accident in early 2013. Giovanna found strength from within she didn’t
realise she had, looking after Mario while juggling battles with hospitals,
work schedules, care schedules.  Sadly,
the love of her life passed away on 3rd August 2013.

For the next
few years Giovanna threw herself into her work, partly as a coping mechanism, feeling
the emotional strain, she had moved out of the apartment they had shared for
sixteen years and had relocated down south, while also fighting an unwanted,
long, hard legal battle over the estate. 
In January 2016 her long-time manager Simon Numphud left the
business for pastures new. After
settling the legal battle finally in February that year, Giovanna felt it was the
right time to take some time for herself and to spend more time with family and
friends, do some travelling and pursue her passion for training and mentoring
hotel and restaurant teams; she made the tough decision in May 2016 to move on
from The AA. 

After handing
in her notice, there was an attempt to make her reconsider and finally a half-way
house in the form of a part time Special Projects and Ambassadorial role was
agreed.  The objective was to champion
The AA, based around a working arrangement of four to five days a month.  This proved a happy relationship for the next
two years and covered the void until Simon Numphud returned to the business in
a new permanent role and Giovanna’s own training business Giovanna Grossi
Hospitality was by then taking off and was taking up more of her time.

Giovanna
happily agreed to retain a voluntary role on the AA Hospitality Awards Panel
and indeed her reach in the industry was reflected in the number of bodies, panels
and committees she has contributed to and indeed continues to support.  These include The Golden Keys Concierge, The
Cateys judging panels including Menu of the Year and Chef of the Year panel,
The Hotel Catey Spa Professional panel as well as Hotelier of the Year, sitting
on the Hospitality Action fund raising and marketing committee and judging
Boutique Hotelier Awards.

It seems a
while ago, but back in September 2012, Maureen Mills had invited Giovanna out
to lunch with Amanda Afiya of The Caterer at The Corinthia, and whilst they
knew each other, and their paths had crossed a number of times, it was to be
her and Amanda’s first outing together and the rest is history…  Their friendship blossomed over the following
years and so when Amanda was approached by Jo Barnes and Nicky Hancock of Sauce
PR to potentially launch a Mystery Guest business, it seemed a natural next
step to involve Giovanna to take the idea further.

Giovanna
brought to the table extensive experience and knowledge of hotel and restaurant
inspecting from a professional guide perspective, as well as a proven developer
and provider of training and consulting programmes to the hospitality industry.  She could not only play a significant role in
aiding the development of a state of the art technology platform for the
bespoke report writing by mystery inspectors but also contribute to the
solutions provided thereafter.  This
remains an early but exciting entrepreneurial adventure and one that suits
Giovanna well.  After a career of
consistent success and achievement, Giovanna has established herself as a much
loved, admired and respected industry figure – the coming together of Jo, Nicky,
Amanda and Giovanna is surely one to watch and an opportunity certain to
deliver success to their clients while continuing to garner a high profile in
the industry.  Best of luck to her and
long may the future be bright…

from Fine Dining Guide