The end of an era at Emmer Hotel ten Cate. Father Hans will definitively transfer the business to his sons Niels and Jasper next week. With this step, the fourth generation takes full control of the family business dating from 1955. A chapter closes and a new one begins, say father and sons.
The transfer was actually started three years ago. In 2019, the father handed over the operation to his sons. Hans himself remained attached to the company as ‘head of technology and entertainment’. The final step now follows in the takeover of the building itself.
Is a rigorous new course now being mapped out? Not any time soon. Things are brewing with the two brothers, but initially the emphasis is on preserving what is good. “We keep the family feeling in it”, says Jasper. “The ultimate quality of our father is the hospitality.” His interaction with guests is second to none, he thinks. Because it was and is always number one. That’s how it has always been and that’s how it should stay.
The history of Hotel Ten Cate goes back to 1955, when Geert and Trijn (Hans grandparents) started their establishment in Noordbarge. “My grandfather had a good nose for opportunities”, Hans laughs. “A whole fleet of companies came to Emmen at that time.”
This industrial development contributed to the growth of Emmen, which at that time was no more than a simple farming village. “The AKU, the Honeywell and the AAF all settled here. It was a golden age for the hotel at the time.” In 1972 the parents of Hans, Ties and Mien took over the business. Ten years later, Hans joined the company and took it over completely in 1988.
Not gonna happen to me
“My parents were really old-fashioned. They buffed hard, but didn’t get much from it. They bought from local parties, such as the local greengrocer and butcher. I decided to do it through the wholesaler. So I was practically already turning a profit. .”
Unlike his father, Hans delegates more tasks. “The staff waved off at eleven o’clock in the evening, after which my father closed everything until two o’clock in the morning. I thought: that will not happen to me.”
There was some tension between him and his father about leadership style. “Especially when I sold the hotel and we left for France, because it was their life’s work.” Incidentally, these are folds that were all ironed out later, he adds. Because during their stay in France, father and mother often came to visit, says Hans. “That was a boost in our relationship at the time.”
At the time he took over the business completely, he was already married to Anita Lubbers. “She then worked as a tax specialist at KPMG and its predecessors. She did my annual reports. It was love at first sight.”
Clown in the circus
In the years that followed, Hans went all out for his hotel. The former host is always dedicated, but that came at a price. In the late 1990s, he became ‘cat overwrought’, he says. “I ran the hotel alone and was there practically day and night. At one point I noticed that I was far, far, far beyond my limits.”
The guests did not notice anything, because the jovial Ten Cate remained in his role. “You can compare it with the clown in the circus who laughs in the arena but cries in his trailer.”
Ten Cate eventually ended up at the doctor, who found that the hotelier’s right coronary artery was almost completely blocked. “I lay on that table and burst out laughing. The doctor thought I was crazy. But I thought: finally I can tell my customers that I have something.” In other words, a legitimate reason to slow down. The three months of rest that followed saved his life, he says.
When a consortium of four entrepreneurs shows an interest in his hotel, he does not hesitate for a moment. He sells the lot and the family moves to France. “An idea from Anita. She wanted to do something different with her life. I can recommend it to everyone. Because you only live once.”