The People of Beds & Bars
Keith Knowles OBE CBII
CEO and Founder
Keith Knowles OBE is the CEO and founder of Beds & Bars.
He is celebrating 42 years being in the family business which was formed by Keith’s father in 1964 under the name RC Knowles and Sons, now known as Interpub in the U.K.
In 1977, when Keith was 17 he joined his family in the operation of three London Pubs which went on to become a group of country and city pubs and bars in London and the Home Counties.
After carrying out a complete business review with team and his late wife Franca (who was awarded an MBE for her services to the Hospitality industry) it was decided to diversify, and expand the hospitality business with a focus on backpacker hostels with the aim to channel markets abroad - and that's when Beds and Bars was born.
Today, the ever-growing company under Keith operates 21 backpacker hostels with 4 franchises across Europe spanning 13 cities and 9 countries with over 750 employees. St Christopher’s Inns, Belushi’s and The Flying Pig are just some of the award-winning brands within the company. As a result, Beds & Bars has been featured in the Sunday Times Top 100 fastest-growing companies in the UK as well achieving Investors in People status, a process which helped form today’s business. We are proud to have an association with IIP for the last 20 years holding Gold, Champion, and now back-to-back IIP Platinum. The company continues to look to expand.
In 2017, Keith was awarded an OBE recognising his remarkable services to the community and charity, an outstanding achievement. In 2019, he was made an Honorary Commander for his support and work with the Royal Navy.
Keith is a father of three, a keen skier and rugby fan, was former president of Old Emanuel RFC as well as a Fly Navy Wings Ambassador, Patron of the Dockland Scouts, a qualified commercial Yacht Master and GA IR (restricted) Pilot. He is also Chairman of the Perceptions group and former Chairman of Yummy Pubs, an organisation that supports and encourages the development of long-term career paths for young people in the industry. He also sits on the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group and is a Funder and former director of BETA and the BII.
Heavily involved in charity work, Keith is a proud supporter of the Team Margot Foundation as well as a number of youth charities across the UK such as The Discovery Sailing Project, Kids Out and Meningitis Now. Keith is also the founder of Pub Aid, a charity where pubs come together to raise money for good causes.
Keith is also an Honorary Captain Royal Navy, attached to the Fleet Air Arm, where his work has included, supporting mental health initiatives, and recognising the value of our Sailors & Marines.
Group Managing Director
Murray Roberts in the Managing Director at Beds & Bars. Having worked at the company for over 20 years, Murray has contributed massively to the birth of the Belushi’s Bars and St Christopher’s Inns whose brands have expanded to an incredible 10 countries and even more cities - London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and Barcelona, to name a few. Murray was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award for 2016.
The ultimate family man, Murray’s personal passions are his wife and two daughters, travelling, photography and of course his favourite football team, Arsenal.
Murray’s charity partnerships include the Build Africa scheme, which saw an immense amount of support given to an under resourced school in the Mwala District of Kenya. Additional partnerships include Just a Drop, helping to build wells and water pumps in developing countries.
Strategy and Development Director
Luke Knowles is the Strategy and Development Director at Beds and Bars. He heads up internal business development which involves the future growth and development of the company’s business and brands.
Luke will be putting a heavy focus on the further development and creation of a central and on-site sales team, to implement a structure to ensure the team functions at its very best.
His role also includes finding new business development opportunities such as locating new sites in existing and current territories as well as future funding opportunities.
Additionally, Luke sits on the Board where he liaises on business plans, the future of the company and strategies to ensure the company is moving forward in the right direction.
One of the biggest highlights of his career so far was joining the family business, and being promoted to Operations Director in June 2016. In 2018, he was promoted again to his current role of Strategy and Development Director.
He thrives on the work hard, play hard culture embedded in Beds and Bars and loves how the business represents a melting pot of nationalities.
Sophie Herbert oversees the Marketing for rockin’ Belushi's bars and award-winning St Christopher's party hostels across Europe.
Sophie started her career working in cocktail bars during her time at Bath University, going on to travel Asia while working in backpacker bars and hostels. She then Joined Europe's Famous Hostels co-ordinating their marketing and later came to Beds and Bars on a marketing internship in Paris. She has worked her way up to Marketing Director in 2018.
Sophie was the mastermind behind our award-winning Belushi’s Dugout Sports Bar in London Bridge, a concept that has proved a massive success over the past year. Sophie has brought innovation, modernisation and new implementations to the company’s marketing team to further increase its success.
Sophie has won several awards throughout her career including 30 Under 30, recognising thirty of the best and brightest individuals in the hospitality industry under 30 years of age. She also won the Dusk till Dawn Best Marketing Award.
Gemma Placey is the Finance Director at Beds and Bars. She began her journey with the company as the European Finance Manager in 2009 and after 11 years in the business, she was promoted to Finance Director in 2020.
Gemma now heads up the finance team based in London and additionally sits on the Board of Directors, as well as being a Chartered Certified Accountant (FCCA). Gemma has been largely involved in some of the exciting developments at Beds and Bars over the years including several new hostel openings across Europe, a new booking engine and the start of franchising and buying out minority interests in Paris and Barcelona.
She also celebrated two promotions at the company between 2012 - 2015 and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in 2016.
Before being promoted to Finance Director, Gemma was previously stationed as the Group Financial Controller at Beds and Bars, a role which provided her with vast financial experience as well as in-depth industry knowledge.
Jan Kroezen is the Technology Director at Beds and Bars where he helps steer the direction of digital technology and manages the technology team.
He started his career working in IT in the Netherlands in 2002. A year later, he relocated to England and joined the family business as a Web Developer, back when Beds and Bars was known as Interpub.
He worked for Beds and Bars between 2003-2006, where he worked full-time for a year and then part-time for two years, working remotely while also undertaking his degree in Digital Film, Animation and Multimedia. In 2006, he left the business to move to China where he learned some Mandarin and co-started a tutoring business to prepare students for their English exams.
In 2016 he returned to Beds and Bars as a full-time Front End Developer. Jan eventually moved to Full Stack development helping to maintain and build out new features on the booking engine.
In 2018, he was promoted to Head of Digital Technology, where he restructured the tech team based in London. He introduced an Agile approach to developing digital products allowing for increased productivity and collaboration. During this time, he led several exciting projects such as building a new St Christopher’s Inns website, an all new booking engine, and a customer feedback system.
In 2019, he was promoted to Technology Director and now holds a position on the Board. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife, travelling, camping, hiking, reading, gaming and a bit of cooking.