Fresh hope

01 January 2000
Fresh hope

Staff will get triple pay for working on 31 December and 1 January at Fowey Hall in Fowey, Cornwall. In fact, all staff at Luxury Family Hotels (LFH) will receive triple pay and LFH directors Nigel Chapman and Nicholas Dickinson are offering holiday vouchers to anyone working more than three hours between 6pm on 31 December and noon on 1 January. "The reasoning is that the staff's own celebrations will be affected [working at these times] so we will enable them to have their own at a later date," Dickinson explains.

LFH staff get double pay for bank holidays, which means because Christmas falls at the weekend LFH will be paying over the odds on 25-28 December and on 2 January.

Dickinson is fairly confident that most staff are happy with this package, although he acknowledges there may be disgruntled staff who want to "let us down". Equally clear are the consequences. "People know that if they do not come in, they will lose their job," he says.

More of a worry are those people who do not necessarily have any loyalty to the hotel. Fowey has booked a three-piece band for 31 December, costing £3,500. The same band played last year for £900. "I am worried that if someone offers them £6,000 they could ask us for more money, even though we have paid a deposit," he says.

As far as the guests go, the four-day package over New Year will cost £3,000-£4,000 per family. This is all-inclusive, though, covering everything from food and drink to entertainment and accommodation.

As Dickinson points out, having everything all-in means fewer staff will be needed - the atmosphere will be one of a house party and guests can help themselves to drinks.

Priority booking across the LFH group has gone to those guests who have spent previous New Year's Eves with them. Fowey is the exception: as a new place with no loyal following, Dickinson and Chapman have agreed to let it out to one guest wanting to take over the whole hotel. Guests at Fowey this New Year were told they would be unable to book for the Millennium Eve, although the front office still gets calls from guests insisting they have a reservation for 31 December at Fowey.

Heading up Fowey Hall now is Hazel Brocklebank, who opened Brocks, a 40-seat restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall, with her husband Tim last March. The couple's background is in townhouse hotels, but following their marriage they decided to move to Cornwall where both sets of parents live.

With the restaurant up and running, Brocklebank did some consultancy work for St Enodoc hotel in Rock, Cornwall, and was looking for a new challenge when Dickinson approached her. The couple had acted as relief managers for LFH at Moonfleet Manor in Dorset, and Dickinson felt Brocklebank had what Fowey Hall needed.

"I have told the staff that last year was getting to know about guests' needs and what they expected. This year it is about learning to make money. And the way you make money is you hone your efficiency," he says.

And that is exactly what Brocklebank intends to do. She has already identified three key challenges for the coming year at Fowey Hall. The first is improving communication between departments, starting when a booking is taken. "We have to get the ages of the children so we know exactly what beds should be in the room," says Brocklebank. Knowing which guests are arriving late is also helpful, as housekeeping can make up the sofa beds in advance to save the receptionist doing it late at night when he or she is trying to attend to other guests' needs, she says.

Next on the agenda is yield management - or ensuring that staff taking reservations maximise the hotel's takings, especially during the summer. "I'm teaching them how to read bookings. For example, booking a Wednesday in August takes that room out of circulation for a family which might want a whole week," says Brocklebank. "We need to steer guests into the periods that will maximise our occupancy. That comes with practice as staff get more confident selling."

Finally, Brocklebank is planning her autumn marketing with the director of marketing for LFH, Ruth Gallop. Brocklebank has already revamped the in-room guest information with details of what is happening later in the year, asking guests to notify the hotel if they are interested in receiving details. Several people have requested information, so Brocklebank has made a start.

In addition, the local corporate market is beginning to use Fowey Hall - six rooms in early March returned a corporate rate of £75 per night, and a 10-day conference has booked for April.

Further afield, Brocklebank wants to target the European market - especially areas such as Brittany which can be linked by ferry - and couples without children, to encourage them to use the hotel when families are less likely to be around. n

Next visit to Fowey Hall: 22 April

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