Ask the Manager – Roger Russell, GM, The Metropole Cork

Roger Russell is general manager of the Metropole Hotel in Cork, which is celebrating 125 years in business, having begun as a teetotal hotel owned by the Musgrave family.

Can I have a short biography of your career?  

I started working in hotels as a summer job when I was 16 and have been working in hospitality since. My first job was in the Dingle Skelligs as a porter and when I finished school I trained in the Imperial Hotel in Cork while also studying in the Trainee Manager Development Programme.  

When I graduated, I headed off to France where I worked for 6 years before returning home in 1999 to work in The Metropole. First as Bar Manager and then held the positions of Conference & Banqueting Manager and Deputy General Manager before taking up my current role as General Manager in 2008. 

What is the history of the Metropole Hotel? 

The Metropole Hotel Cork opens in 1897 under the ownership of Musgraves, the Cash and Carry Group Merchants. It was designed by architect, Arthur Hill and built by John Delaney & Co Builders. The Metropole Hotel was built to the highest standards and opulence of the day. The hotel had the first electric elevator in Cork city. Arthur Hill was the grandfather of Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House. 

The hotel is known locally to Corkonians as the “Met”, now the name of our Bar & Restaurant, and most of the guests at that time were travelling salesmen and business men.    

Armenian immigrants Harutun Batmazian and his wife Esther chose Cork as their new home during the early years of the 20th century, and established the famous Hadji Bey Turkish Delight in a shop at the Metropole.  

 The business became a marvellous success, exporting to luxury stores like Harrods of London and Bloomingdale’s of New York, and even being supplied to Buckingham Palace. 

Down the years many more famous personalities have been guests of the Metropole, and included Gregory Peck, James Mason, Frank O’Connor, John Steinbeck, Vitoria de Sica, John Huston, Ella Fitzgerald, and Walt Disney. 

Various Dignitaries have visited over the years… Irish Taoisigh and Politician’s and even Jacques Chirac who was Lord Mayor of Paris at the time and went on to become Prime Minister of France and then President. 

In the 1930’s – early 1940’s the hotel was run by Jimmy Musgrave. Jimmy was the president of the Irish Rugby Football Union and it is because of him that the Metropole is largely associated with Rugby. The hotel changed from being teetotal in 1956, just in time for the first Cork international Film Festival. 

 How would you describe the style of the hotel? 

Located in the heart of the Victorian Quarter in Cork’s City Centre, The Metropole Hotel Cork is Cork’s most iconic hotel, world-renowned for over 125 years of hospitality and warm service. 

Famous for having welcomed stars of screen, stage, art and literature, we have a long history from sweetshop and ‘dry’ hotel to reclaimed glory. Our beautifully renovated hotel is opulent and rich in character. Stay with us to indulge in the finer things in life; impeccable service, sophisticated design, rich food and timeless elegance. 

At the Metropole Hotel, we are a proud member of Historic Hotels of Europe. You can feel the history and heritage combining with innovation and modernity to create something truly special.  

What changes have you made during and after Covid-19?  

The safety of our team and our guests have always been at the forefront of everything we do. While restrictions were in place, we followed all the Government guidelines and had protective screens, facemasks for all team members, sanitising stations throughout the hotel, floor markings for social distancing, hand sanitisers on all tables.  

Regular sanitisation of touch points, and a focus on training for our team members. We had dedicated Covid Officers who oversaw the Covid procedure and policies were strictly adhered to at all times   

How have you coped with staff shortages, if you had any? 

Yes, we have struggled with recruitment and staff shortages like so many other businesses. We work very hard on our recruitment and our onboarding programme to ensure that our new employees get the best start possible.  

At the Met we believe that proper training is crucial and so much so we have dedicated training officers to ensure that all team members are trained to the highest standard  

Where do your guests come from mainly? 

Our main guests are from the domestic leisure market but we also have a mix of corporate travellers and foreign tourists   

Are there any signs of business meetings and conferences returning? 

Yes, our meeting room business is starting to come back but I think large international conferences will take a bit more time.  

Where do you recommend guests see when they come to Cork? 

Fota Wildlife Park and Blarney are great for a day outside the city, but there is plenty to see in the City Centre too like St Annes Cathedral and the City Gaol  

How is business now?  

We have a had a strong summer with plenty of pent-up demand, there is talk around of inflation and recession at the moment. People are definitely feeling the pressure with inflation but so far, our bookings for the next couple of months are good.  

What do you feel are the challenges Cork City is facing?   

Housing is the biggest one for me, we have loads of new business opening and new office space but we will need places for all these new workers to live. We see it with our own team who struggle to find a place to live, it’s a huge problem. 

Have you any special offers to entice visitors to your hotel?   

The Met 125 offer 
Join us in celebrating our 125th birthday! We may be getting old but we are still young at heart. Experience The Metropole Hotel at its very best and enjoy a splendid break away with us this Summer. Learn about the 125 year old history of the hotel and the famous faces that have passed through our doors. Sample some of our MET 125 Cocktail menu on our terrace and enjoy a truly delectable dinner in The MET Restaurant. We are very excited to be celebrating this milestone and can not wait for you to join in the celebrations.  

Offer includes 

  • 2 Nights Bed & Breakfast with a 3-course evening meal with a bottle of wine on 1 night 
  • Signature Cocktail on arrival 
  • Celebratory welcome gift in your room on arrival.
  • From €125 per person per night based on 2 people sharing, book here.
Joan Scales
Award-winning journalist, Joan has been writing about travel and tourism for many years principally for The Irish Times and lately for travel2ireland. Joan has appeared many times on television and radio talking about the business of travel and all its component strands. She is also a public speaker and has appeared at many international conventions and conferences.

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