How did you find your way into hospitality management, and when did you start at Lanzerac?
I had the privilege of studying at Stellenbosch University — Law and Accounting. I decided not to do articles, as I was still not convinced it was for me. I had to find a job and was appointed as a Debtor’s Clerk at Arabella. From there on, I just fell in love with all the different aspects of hospitality and the myriad of people you interact with. I moved on to the position of Accountant and eventually Financial Manager before I got to be the General Manager at Lanzerac.
What are some of the things you’ve learned along the way in your career that are now key to your method of management?
Attitude before aptitude. I have worked with some great hoteliers with great skills, but I found that some lacked the right attitude when it came to some of the smaller things. Therefore, my team and I have the philosophy: appoint for attitude — we can teach them the rest.
What do you strive to bring to the table at Lanzerac as General Manager, and why are you so passionate about this industry?
Passion and the love of the people — both those you work with on a daily basis and those you serve… The fact that you can tangibly change lives — for some, just in a moment, for others, for the rest of their lives.
Tell us a bit about the history of Lanzerac and how it has evolved since its opening?
Lanzerac is a historic landmark and Stellenbosch icon, synonymous with old-world charm and rich Cape heritage. It is steeped in spellbinding history, having been established in 1692 — a mere thirteen years after Stellenbosch itself — and is the third-oldest farm in the area. The first owner was Isaac Schrijver, who planted the very first vineyards and, not surprisingly, named the farm Schoongezicht, meaning wonderful view. In the early 1800s, the first cellar was erected and subsequently complemented by the iconic Manor House, which exhibits an unusually high level of sophistication for Cape Dutch architecture of the period, with its main gable dating back to 1830. The Manor House and Werf, which now stands proud as a Provincial Heritage Site, underwent significant changes by one of the property’s most influential owners, Elizabeth Catherina ‘Kitty’ English, who bought Schoongezicht in 1920. Mrs English changed the estate’s name to Lanzerac, rumoured to be after General Charles Lanrezac — a French General who commanded the French Fifth Army at the outbreak of World War I. During her nine years of ownership, she also transformed it into one of the most modern wineries in the Cape, laying the foundation for Stellenbosch’s world-renowned wines. Mrs English passed away in 1929, and in 1934 the estate was bought by Jacobus Tribelhorn — the builder who had extended the Manor House for Mrs English. He continued her legacy of producing wines of exceptional quality.
The wine farm’s next owner, Angus Batts Buchanan, elevated the estate’s reputation by winning several awards for the wine, sherry and brandy that he proudly produced and, in doing so, established Lanzerac as a leading brand.
Buchanan’s nephew, ‘Lord’ David Rawdon, ushered in an exciting new era when he purchased Lanzerac in 1958 by converting the farm into an elegant hotel and landmark. The original cellar and its surrounding buildings were converted into bars, lounges, dining areas and hotel rooms. Since then, Lanzerac has become synonymous with Stellenbosch’s social agenda and has provided many local and foreign tourists a unique winelands experience.
Lanzerac wine estate has been under its current ownership since 2012. Extensive renovations started early in 2013 with a commitment to maintaining the Grande Dame’s history while bringing its infrastructure and service levels up to a modern luxury experience.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, 28 May 2017, a tragic fire severely damaged the main operational areas of the hotel, and for the first time since the Rawdon brothers converted the estate into a hotel, Lanzerac had to close its doors to the public for thirteen months. Lanzerac proudly reopened its doors to the public on 1 July 2018 with all of the same grandeur, legacy, and country-chic appeal that had previously distinguished it.
What can guests expect from a stay at the Lanzerac?
As you enter Lanzerac through its majestic oak-lined driveway, you can almost feel time slowing down and history settling around you. With 330 years behind its name, this Stellenbosch landmark boasts an old-world charm that is an unrivalled drawcard for day visitors and hotel guests alike. This elegant estate is known for offering the best of both worlds — contemporary, sophisticated facilities coupled with rich Cape heritage.
From the magnificent Manor House to the manicured gardens, rolling vineyards and the dramatic mountain backdrop, the estate is the perfect setting for the many activities and facilities on offer.
Guests can unwind and rejuvenate at the Lanzerac Spa, a sought-after wellness retreat and relaxation hideaway. They can choose from a wide array of massages, skincare and beauty treatments conducted by highly trained therapists using top-quality international and local product ranges.
At our restaurants, guests can taste the very best in fresh and artisan produce. The Deli is the perfect gourmet retreat for diners in search of homemade delights and sweet culinary creations. Famous for its cappuccinos and all-day breakfast, the Deli offers a wide selection of homemade bread, pastries, gourmet sandwiches, locally sourced cheese and charcuterie platters, all of which can be enjoyed in a cosy indoor setting or outdoors on the terrace.
The other restaurants and bars on the estate — Taphuis, Taphuis Bar, Manor Kitchen and Craven Lounge — have played host to numerous memorable gatherings. From light lunches to gourmet pairing menus, everything is prepared with creativity and originality by the resident team of chefs. Dining options are either indoors, set against an impressive, handcrafted bar and a large roaring fireplace, or outdoors on the shady terrace, complete with garden views.
The Lanzerac Tasting Room offers its patrons the opportunity to explore the estate’s range of acclaimed wines in a relaxed atmosphere whilst surrounded by the breathtaking views of the Stellenbosch valley.
What do you think is the most important thing for guests when they book accommodation, and how do you factor this into the Lanzerac experience?
Our guests are looking for a curated escape from the everyday to a place where the world can wait — where wide-open spaces call you to truly immerse yourself in the surrounding beauty. Lanzerac offers just that; one can breathe in the fresh air and drink in the crystal-clear views. Guests are looking to savour dishes with a South African twist and local ingredients, where every taste has been carefully considered, sourced, and prepared. At Lanzerac, weary souls come to rest — they get to dwell, relax, and rejuvenate in our timeless setting.
I think [what guests look for in a stay] has definitely changed, and this is something hoteliers need to keep up with and adapt their offering to. We find more and more people are looking for a personal experience, a home away from home, authenticity and true heartfelt hospitality.
Lanzerac is known for its exceptional hospitality – how do you keep these high-quality service standards consistent?
If you work with your team and for your team, they have the grace and space to focus on what we do best — guest service.
What are some of the challenges you face as a General Manager in this industry, and how do you overcome them?
I think the biggest challenge we face is finding quality team members. It is a tough industry, and I think some people enter the industry with a sense of grandeur. However, it demands long hours, and you will always be busiest while others are relaxing. As mentioned before, the principle of hiring for attitude is the most important arrow in our quiver.
What is it you enjoy most about your role?
Happy people. Happy guests with lots of compliments for everything the team achieves gives me the greatest satisfaction. And secondly, and by no means less important, is to see how team members grow into their roles — into new roles or just as people in general. These are the things that make me smile every time.