Charles Forte, Baron Forte of Ripley (26 November 1908 – 28 February 2007) was a British-Italian hotelier and caterer who founded the conglomerate that would become the multi-billion pound Forte Group.
Charles was born in Mortale, Italy, and immigrated with his family to Scotland at the age of four, later relocating to Weston-super-Mare, where his family ran a café. At 21, Charles managed the Venetian Lounge in Brighton for a cousin, going on to set up the Strand Milk Bar on London’s Regent Street five years later. It was not long before he expanded more widely into hotels and catering, although he would spend a brief period interned on the Isle of Man at the start of the Second World War due to his Italian nationality. Following the war, he named his company Forte Holdings Ltd, and in 1954 purchased the Café Royal.
It was during the 1950s that Charles was responsible for two firsts: a catering facility at Heathrow Airport, and a motorway services on the M1 at Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire. In 1970, Forte Holdings merged with Trust Houses Group to become Trust House Forte. Subsequent mergers and expansion turned the Forte Group into a business empire including Crest, Travelodge, Forte Grand and Posthouse hotels, the Happy Eater and Little Chef roadside restaurants, the five Welcome Break motorway services, wine merchant Grierson-Blumenthal and a majority stake in the Savoy Hotel. He passed full control of the Forte Group to his son Rocco in 1993.
Charles was knighted in 1970 by The Queen Mother, and was in 1982 awarded a life peerage as Baron Forte of Ripley in the County of Surrey. He was also a knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Chales was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 1995.