The Caterer

A bit of teamwork with the ties beats stuffy dress code

17 October 2002 by
A bit of teamwork with the ties beats stuffy dress code

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," as my father used to say; and twice in the past few days I have been able to avert the onset of dullness by playing golf with hoteliers.

The first of these opportunities arose out of tragedy. As has already been reported in Caterer, the much loved and respected Josephine Barr died suddenly a few weeks ago. Consequently, the search is on for a suitable replacement to manage our information and reservations service in the USA.

One of the candidates was introduced to me by Ireland's Blue Book, a consortium of privately owned hotels in Ireland, similar in size to Pride of Britain, with whom we have a close working alliance. The meeting was arranged to coincide with their annual golf day at Rathsallagh in County Wicklow.

Once over the shock of my €100 (£63) taxi fare from Dublin airport, I started to appreciate the "no worries" approach to life that makes any visit to the Republic a pleasure. After the formal business we donned the spiked shoes and began our five-hour match, playing in fours, under a sympathetic sky.

My own performance was rather shaky, alas, but I did my best to keep up with the banter and gave the team captain plenty of chances to exert his authority. A lavish and well-lubricated dinner at Rathsallagh House finished off this delightful experience.

I shall not bore you with the unremitting slog my job entailed over the days that followed but will go straight to my next outing - the Pride of Britain golf day in Hertfordshire.

Twelve teams of three, a mixture of hoteliers and commercial partners, tore round the course in near-perfect conditions. Top prize went to the Goring hotel team but, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, there were prizes for almost everybody. Our chairman, Richard Ball, declared that he had not played for several years. No one doubted this.

What struck us both was the archaic attitude of a private golf club in 2002 towards catering and dress. In our industry, generally, we have moved with the times - customers demand fresher, better-cooked and more varied food, while venues have become more tolerant of casual dress, children and vegetarians, for example.

Not so the golf club. Jacket and tie was obligatory, even at lunchtime… in a private room! This led to the rather farcical borrowing of ties by one group who, once safely inside, passed them out through the window so the next lot could get in. And remember, these are people who spend most of their lives in expensive suits.

Perhaps clubs are about to reinvent themselves in the way that country house hotels have done, blending traditional style with modern service. Until they do, I'd better keep that spare tie in my bag.

Peter Hancock is chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels

Next diary from Peter Hancock: 28 November

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