The next chapter 6 December 2019 Lexington managing director Julia Edmonds on taking the helm at the boutique caterer and her people plans for the future
In this week's issue... The next chapter Lexington managing director Julia Edmonds on taking the helm at the boutique caterer and her people plans for the future
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Independent Hotel of the Year

01 January 2000
Independent Hotel of the Year

One of the strengths of last year's winner, Gidleigh Park in Chagford, Devon, was the fact that its owners, Paul and Kay Henderson, had dedicated 20 years to building the business up.

The owners of this year's winner, the Crieff Hydro near Perth in Tayside, also deserve recognition for their staying power. Five generations of the Leckie family have dedicated themselves to making the 225-bedroom hotel what it is today.

In a place with no passing traffic the hotel achieves an average occupancy of 80% and a turnover of £6.5m per year. Repeat custom is at least 60%.

The judging panel was impressed that Crieff Hydro was one of a handful of hotels in the country that managed to keep the UK's holidaymakers at home. "It's a great family hotel and answers a massive need," was the comment from one judge.

The panel also recognised the Leckies' ability to juggle several markets successfully. Although 85% of its revenue comes from the family leisure market, the remaining 15% is from conference guests.

One member of the judging panel commented that nothing was ever too much trouble, showing that the staff and the family care for every guest.

"The warmth of the staff reflects the lovingcare and dedication of the family that owns the hotel," he added.

The hotel was built in 1868 and requires constant investment in its upkeep. Every year around £30,000 is spent on the building's slate roof and there is an additional annual renovation of 40 rooms.

Stephen Leckie, the hotel's current managing director, took over from his father, John, in June 1996, who in turn took the reins from Stephen's grandfather in the early 1960s. John now looks after the investment in the hotel and acts as adviser to Stephen who focuses his attention on future projects.

As well as the cash injection that goes into maintaining the building externally and refurbishing existing internal areas, the Leckies have spent £8m in the past four years on developing new facilities such as a cinema and a golf course. A 150-seat bar/brasserie that is scheduled for completion this month is the latest addition to the hotel and has cost about £1.2m to build.

"It's astonishing that the fifth generation of the family has as much vision as the first generation," said one judge.

The Leckie family also invests in its staff and has been awarded Investors in People in the past 12 months. Last year the hotel took on 15 people to train as part of the Modern Apprenticeship scheme with a guarantee of a job at the end of the training. A staff club was also created last year at a cost of more than £100,000. There are frequent staff days out as well as an annual party.

The judging panel felt that Crieff Hydro filled all the criteria to win Independent Hotel of the Year. It's a successful business in the three-star market and definitely an example to which others can aspire. The family's achievements in the past year or so speak for themselves. "It's a hotel of the people," concluded one judge.

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