Legendary hotelier Willy Bauer has died aged 84.

Bauer, who came to the UK from Germany in 1963 and spent 50 years working in hospitality, passed away with his wife Zdenka at his side on Thursday 31 March.

Before retiring from hospitality in 2016, Bauer was chairman of AB hotels. In a glittering career, he was general manager of London’s Hyde Park hotel and the Savoy. He was awarded an OBE in 2011.

Bauer was also credited with launching the Gold Service Scholarship in 2012, the industry award that aimed to raise standards of the front of house and to encourage young people to join the industry.

Bauer embarked on his hotel career in his home country of Germany, where he undertook management training at Hotel Rad Biberach in 1957, before continuing his on-the-job education at Lausanne and Geneva, Switzerland.

He moved to the UK in 1962 when he joined the team at the Grand Hotel Eastbourne, before moving to the Grand Metropolitan Hotel in London.

Among his many achievements was the rescue of London’s Hyde Park Hotel (now the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park) in the 1970s. Appointed general manager of the ailing hotel aged just 38, Bauer transformed the fortunes of the property in five years to become Trust House Forte’s flagship hotel.

He followed this with a similar achievement at the five-star Grosvenor House before being appointed general manager and managing director of the iconic Savoy hotel. During his eight-year tenure, he was described by the board as “having brought the Savoy back to past glory”.

In 1989, Bauer became chief executive of the Wentworth Group, which under his leadership became the blueprint for many golf and country clubs in the UK.

He was a staunch supporter of charities and among other notable efforts, he co-founded the Ark Foundation, which provides help to those in the hospitality industry who become reliant on drink or drugs. Bauer had also been a governor of the Academy of Culinary Arts, the Edge Hotel School, and was involved in the Chefs “Adopt a School” scheme.

His services to the hospitality industry were recognized with the award of an OBE in the Queen’s 2011 New Year’s Honour’s list and the Outstanding Contribution Award at the 2009 Hotel Cateys.

Harry Murray, who knew Bauer for much of his career, said: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of Willy Bauer and my thoughts are with his wife Zdenka and his family at this sad and difficult time.

“I have known Willy as a good and loyal friend for more than 50 years and will always cherish and appreciate his citation when I was awarded The Caterer Lifetime Achievement Award at the 25th Anniversary of the Cateys in 2008, in my view an award he should have received.

“Willy was a gentleman, a consummate hotelier, he was tough and worked tirelessly with a hands-on approach to try and achieve the highest possible standards. He will be sadly missed by so many.”

Edward Griffiths, who worked alongside Bauer as chair of the judges and as a trustee of the Gold Service Scholarship, said he was “very saddened to hear the news of Willy’s passing”.

He added: “Willy was a hugely successful hotelier, who gave so much of his time to help develop the young talent in front-of-house service. He believed in the pursuit of excellence, and his contribution to the industry will be much missed. My thoughts go out to his wife Zdenka and his family at this sad time.”

03 April 2022 by James Stagg

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