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6th May 2021

BII awards Kate Nicholls OBE with the Franca Knowles Live your Life Award

The BII is delighted to announce that Kate Nicholls OBE, CEO of UK Hospitality, has been awarded with the Franca Knowles Live your Life Award, for devotion of energy, spirit and life to the hospitality sector. This honour is the pinnacle of the BII’s award programme, the National Innovation in Training Awards (NITAs), which were awarded in November 2020 after a rigorous online competition.

Awarded in person to Kate Nicholls by Franca’s husband, Keith Knowles, CEO and Founder of Beds and Bars, the award recognises the huge contribution of an individual in raising the professional standards within the hospitality sector, and is dedicated to the memory of the late Franca Knowles MBE, who herself was a leading light in supporting the development and training of people & teams.

Keith and Franca have both inspired and led innovation within the hospitality sector, and in 2009, Franca was awarded an MBE for services to hospitality training, including her tireless work to develop the Footsteps Training Programme, an invaluable tool for small, independent companies. Keith was also awarded an OBE in 2017, recognising his remarkable services within the industry, but also for his work with multiple charities and local communities, including the Team Margot Foundation and Meningitis Now.

Keith commented:

“I have known Kate from the early days of the ALMR (today the UKH). She helped us set up and run the Westminster Licensees Association with the hard task of finding reason with Westminster Council.

“I have seen her develop into the role she holds today as the CEO of UKH in the most challenging times – COVID, showing the highest professional standards and care for our people of our industry. She has been at the forefront of championing our sector and the professional standards needed to run a modern hospitality business, helping government and local authorities to appreciate this. She assisted in setting up Pub Aid, highlighting the many charities our sector supports. Along with the midnight oil burning in the Houses of Commons and Lords stating the case of good for us all.

 “Indeed she is a family friend, who has cried, laughed and celebrated, all that we are, over many years and is still here today to carry on the fight where, and when needed, with dignity and focus, whilst keeping an eye on the reality of the objective! She has even had a quiet word in my ear from time to time, ensuring that I am on the right track, and she is thoroughly deserving of this award.”

Kate joins the ranks of previous prestigious winners, Ian Payne, David Bruce, Tim Martin, Kris Gumbrell & the BII’s own Mike Clist, in recognition for their outstanding contribution to our vibrant and unique industry and the fantastic people it supports.

BII CEO, Steve Alton commented:

“The BII continues to inspire, develop and support its members through the NITAs and Licensee of the Year Awards, both of which recognise the incredible dedication and talent shown by key individuals in the licensed trade. Kate is an incredibly deserving winner of this widely recognised and respected industry award, and she epitomises the spirit and tenacity that our industry has needed, particularly over the course of the pandemic.

“We are delighted that we have finally been able to present this award to Kate in person and share our gratitude for all she has done for the hospitality sector during her career to date.”

Notes to the editor:

About the British Institute of Innkeeping: 

The BII is the leading independent licensee support organisation for individuals working in hospitality, with over 9,000 individual members running premises across the UK – predominantly tenanted, leased, managed and freehold pubs. The organisation provides expert helplines, online business support, and guidance on key industry issues, face-to-face networking opportunities and savings on a range of supply deals for its members.

Press release from BII

For further information please contact:

Molly Davis,