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Elizabeth Gadsby MBE 1928-2022 Obituary by Julian Demetriadi

Elizabeth Gadsby MBE 1928-2022 Obituary by Julian Demetriadi

October 2022

Elizabeth Gadsby MBE – one of UK Hospitality Industry’s most respected leaders has died

Aged 94, Elizabeth Gadsby MBE FIH, Director of the Hotel and Catering International Management Association (HCIMA) from 1976 to 1991, died peacefully at her home in Kew at the end of July.

In a 1970s male-dominated profession, Elizabeth became one of the UK hospitality industry’s most influential and respected leaders.

While at the helm of the HCIMA, now known as the Institute of Hospitality, she boosted the Association’s influence at UK Government level and overseas. She introduced regular lobbying dinners with MPs in the House of Lords, and initiated significant growth in international recognition of the HCIMA with the creation of Overseas Chapters in countries ranging from Cyprus and Malta to Nigeria and Hong Kong. Under her leadership, the HCIMA’s membership increased from 23,000 to well over 30,000.

She was also responsible for a major development of the HCIMA’s library and information services. She introduced expert industry-specific committees such as the highly successful Technical Advisory Group (TAG), which published free information fact sheets for members on key issues of the day, ranging from food safety to the environment.

Professor John Forte OBE FIH, a former Chairman and founder member of TAG, says: “I was so sorry to receive the sad news of Elizabeth’s passing. It was Elizabeth who persuaded me to become a member of the HCIMA. Later in my career, having seen my work for the Forte Company in producing the Health and Hygiene Operations Manual, Elizabeth asked our Chairman, Lord Forte, if the manual could be used by the HCIMA for membership guidance. Lord Forte agreed and Elizabeth convened a meeting of leading academics and notable caterers, including myself, to a meeting at Trinity Road, to discuss the subject of producing guidance information on new and relevant technical and legal matters affecting the Industry. The conclusion of the meeting was agreement to form The Technical Advisory Group – or TAG as it became known.

“It was thanks to Elizabeth’s great enthusiasm, drive and support given at those early meetings that the TAG committee became established and went on to produce so much badly-needed technical information for our Industry. The information was free of jargon and in language readily understood by our profession.”

Such initiatives underpinned Elizabeth’s determination to extend the HCIMA’s education remit, ensuring that the Association’s membership services were relevant to members at every stage of their careers. The growth in the provision of lifetime learning through CPD (Continuing Professional Development) is one of her many lasting legacies.

Another was her role in the creation of the Master Innholders, a standard bearer for the industry offering career-changing training and support.  

World-renowned hotelier and consultant Harry Murray MBE MI FIH, President of HOSPA, takes up the story. In 1977, Derek Balls and David Lockett FIH – both liveryman with the Worshipful Company of Innholders (WCI) – met with Elizabeth to discuss the HCIMA becoming a partner with the WCI.

“The Master Innholders was launched in 1978 and Douglas Barrington OBE FIH, the highly-respected doyen of the hotel world, was asked to set up the new organisation. Douglas and David had further meetings with Elizabeth, who continued to support the Master Innholders until she retired in 1991. 

“During my time at The Imperial Torquay, I met Elizabeth on numerous occasions. She was very supportive to me when I became Chairman of the Master Innholders in 1986. Her passion for hospitality was contagious and she made an enormous contribution to the UK hospitality industry. She was also a trustee for industry charity Hospitality Action.”

The then HCIMA PR Manager Stephanie Marshall, née Riddy, cites the Master Innholders as an example of “Elizabeth’s ability to recognise and progress initiatives to advance recognition of the HCIMA and its members. It provided a platform for The Worshipful Company of Innholders to reconnect with its roots. Over the past 44 years, the Master Innholder Award has become a leading force within the hotel sector.”

The annual Master Innholder Awards are open to practising hoteliers from both the independent and group sectors by application. Today, there are over 150 Master Innholders.

Stephanie’s first memory of Elizabeth was being interviewed by her over lunch at La Poule au Pot restaurant in London. “Having been recommended for the post of HCIMA Public Relations (PR) Manager by Miles Quest FIH, then Editor of Catering Times,” she says, “Elizabeth was happy to forgo conventional recruitment and employ her astute understanding of people to assess whether we could work together. And, we did, from 1977 to 1982.

“I recall this as a period of significant achievement for the HCIMA and for those of us fortunate to work alongside a remarkable lady. While the term ‘hospitality’ now is accepted worldwide, in the late 70s it was considered a very ‘American’ way to describe the UK hotel and catering industry. Yet Elizabeth had the vision to recommend to the HCIMA Council my proposal – I think in 1980 – to rename the Association’s member magazine. The HCIMA Journal became Hospitality. The rest, as they say, is history.

“For me, other exciting projects during Elizabeth’s tenure were the launch of a national conference and exhibition – FASE 79 (to represent Food Accommodation Service Education); recognition events in the House of Lords; and the growth of overseas Chapters. As well as an inspirational work colleague with a great sense of fun, Elizabeth became a good friend. She leaves many amazing memories.” 

Under Elizabeth’s leadership, the HCIMA also played an important supportive role in the development of BAHA (British Association of Hotel Accountants, now known as HOSPA). Founding member of BAHA Howard Field FIH described Elizabeth “as a warm, approachable and professional friend of BAHA during its formative years”.

Indeed, the HCIMA secretariat – under the direction of Elizabeth’s deputy Ann Share – managed BAHA’s meetings and events.

HCIMA’s Honorary Officers, Heads of Department, and staff alike share their admiration for Elizabeth. Paul Foulger FIH has fond memories of her from his 1990 to 1991 HCIMA Presidency. “I recognised how valuable Elizabeth was to the Association,” he states. “In addition to the Presidency, my daytime job was Head of Catering and Employee Services for Sainsbury’s, so time was extremely limited.  Elizabeth always ensured I had the right, up-to-date information to convey to the Association’s membership and industry at large. This included speeches and briefings for the many various functions I attended on behalf of the HCIMA.

“She knew so much about our profession and the key players in it. Elizabeth will never be forgotten for her industry knowledge and foresight.  My condolences go to her family at this sad time.”

Elizabeth’s former HCIMA Head of Library and Information Services, Rosemary Morrison FIH, who went on in 2002 to become joint acting HCIMA Chief Executive, recalls: “Elizabeth, or Miss Gadsby as I always knew her, was a major industry figure who commanded great respect and affection amongst her colleagues and staff. Elizabeth shone as a redoubtable female in a man’s world, as the industry was in those early days. She never gave any ground to those who tried to patronise or undermine her.

“It was a privilege to be part of her organisation. When I joined the team in the 1989, I had never met anyone like her before for her great industry focus and knowledge; and her determination that the HCIMA and its members would be viewed as a professional body promoting excellence in the worldwide hospitality industry. I am so sad to hear of her death.”

Following a similar route to the HCIMA from Catering Times as Stephanie Marshall, Julian Demetriadi FIH, a former PR Manager for the Association and editor of its then monthly Hospitality magazine (successfully upgraded under Elizabeth’s direction and Miles Quest’s management), loved working for her. He says “Elizabeth’s enthusiasm was infectious, her industry knowledge second to none, and her management skills were outstanding. She cared deeply about people. I feel honoured that she was not only my amazing boss, but went on to become a much-valued friend and role model. I will miss her greatly.

“In 1984, I was very fortunate to be the first editor of the Association’s glossy, new-look Hospitality magazine. The publication was well-received by the membership and it was a wonderful experience working with Elizabeth, Ann Share, and Miles Quest – a formidable team! Miles and I were also responsible for putting together the HCIMA’s Year Book – another highly successful innovation under Elizabeth’s direction, as was the first UK HCIMA College Restaurant Directory, sponsored by British Gas.”

The latter, published in 1990, was not a critical guide but a listing of all colleges that responded to a questionnaire, mailed out by the HCIMA, about their hospitality training restaurants that were then open to the public. In the introduction to the Directory, Elizabeth wrote: “We are proud of our strong links with the colleges and students and this publication is a very happy means of promoting all their good work.”

Promoting ‘good work’ and best management practice were hallmarks of Elizabeth’s time at the HCIMA.

Nobody knows more about Elizabeth’s career than her lifelong friend and colleague Ann Share, who was Elizabeth’s deputy at the HCIMA, and worked closely with her before that at the Dairy Trade Federation (DTF).

“Working with Elizabeth and the team at HCIMA was a joy and I have hugely happy memories of the Association and the industry it served,” she says. “Elizabeth had the rare ability to build a team of diverse personalities, skills and experiences and blend them into a cohesive whole.  She inspired, encouraged and developed each of us and filled us with enthusiasm for, and pride in, what the HCIMA represented.  I loved working with her and with my colleagues. I miss her as a challenging boss and will miss her as a dear friend.”

According to Ann, Elizabeth started her working life as a sales girl for Griffin and Spalding, a well-known department store in Nottingham. After a while, she began studying in her free time for company secretary professional qualifications, qualifying in due course as a Chartered Secretary and becoming a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries (ICS).  She became Company Secretary for Griffin and Spalding.  She also began teaching the ICS’s examination course at evening classes.

Elizabeth then moved to London to take up the position of Assistant Secretary for the Creamery Proprietors Association (CPA) and was catapulted into prominence when the Secretary died suddenly and Elizabeth had to take over negotiating the price of milk on behalf of the CPA members with the then Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food.  Her next move was to become Director/Secretary to the trade association, the Dairy Trade Federation, which negotiated with and lobbied government and promoted the whole of the dairy industry from the major companies to small independent bottle milk buyer businesses.

“In 1976,” Ann says, “the HCIMA was looking to recruit a Director/CEO to head up the professional association in succession to Michael Nightingale, who moved to Canada. Elizabeth was headhunted and took up the post. The rest is history!

“Our thoughts are with Elizabeth’s family at this sad time. Her wise counsel, immense warmth, generosity, sense of humour, and friendship will be sorely missed.”


For further information:

Julian Demetriadi FIH

Director, CommunicationsPoint

M: 07585 505309

T: 01988 500 369





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