May Day bank holiday was the busiest day yet for the hotel, with covers creeping towards the 400 mark over the day in the bistro and bar. An inspection visit from the Wales Tourist Board gave the hotel an impressive 89% rating – ensuring the hotel retains its four crowns.
“This time last year we set ourselves our third turnover target – £600,000,” says Daniel Ronson. With more than a hint of satisfaction in his voice he can now report that by year-end, on 30 April, the team had achieved £605,000.
No mean feat. Since taking over the hotel in 1992, the Ronsons have managed to increase turnover by about £100,000 each year. And there’s no letting up: £700,000 is the target figure for this financial year.
Lesley Reynolds, of recruitment consultancy Portfolio, visited the Nant Ddu at the end of last year, and an advert for a house manager appeared in Caterer on 1 February. Potential candidates were interviewed in early March.
The result is that the hotel has benefited more than expected. Instead of one new member of staff, three started at the end of April.
“Portfolio found three excellent candidates for us,” says Daniel, “and we felt we could absorb them all within the business quite happily.”
Susan Walsh trained with Resort hotels before joining a smaller, privately owned group, managing 16 people at Rudloe Hall Hotel near Corsham, Wiltshire.
As the new house manager, Daniel regards her as the family’s immediate deputy. After a couple of weeks in the job her specific areas of responsibility were discussed and agreed. These will encompass the bedrooms, reservations and special projects, as well as a duty management role when called for.
Adam and Lynne Martin also had qualities that impressed the Ronsons. Previously working as an assistant manager couple for the Campanile chain, five moves in 15 months was beginning to get them down. The advert in Caterer particularly appealed to Lynne as she is Welsh, and was keen to settle in the area.
“They are a personable, friendly young couple, who immediately fitted in with the set-up here,” says Daniel.
As live-in staff, the family can now rely on Adam to lock up at night, a job that had always kept at least one of them tied to the hotel. Areas of responsibility for Adam build on his back of house experience. He will liase with chef, order food and control activities behind the scenes. Lynne will work primarily front of house, handling group bookings and food and beverage, and running conferences and functions.
“We have been delighted with the way all three have fitted in. We have the strongest team we have ever had,” says Daniel.
His aim is to start stepping back within the next four to five weeks – moving away from being “hands on” to spend more time marketing the business.
Everyone on the team feels that the refurbishment programme has been a triumph – despite the upheaval.
All the bedrooms bar one, have now received a facelift and are proving a hit with the guests. “I used to be almost embarrassed about showing guests beyond the bedroom door,” says Jill Ronson. “Now it is a pleasure.”
The new distressed-painted chairs have finally arrived for the bistro, which completes that area. The bar-lounge has received a new fireplace and fresh wallpaper. Consequently, customers are keen to eat there, which has taken some of the pressure for space off the new bistro. A new £1,300 kitchen extraction system is on order for back of house.
Tenders are out for the drive and the parking area around the hotel to be laid with Tarmac, and new signage for the roadside has been ordered. Only the bar and the toilets are being ignored at present. “We will get round to them but, to be honest, we can’t face the upheaval until after the summer rush,” says Daniel.
And the future? A conservatory to extend front-of-house space and landscaping the grounds are on the agenda.
The hotel brochure is due to go to print at any time – Daniel and Jill just have to sign off the final artwork. Designer Tim Parker has come up trumps with his map of the area, which will form the main part of the brochure. Jill has decided to leave writing the descriptive copy about Nant Ddu to a professional, so a local copywriter who has worked for the Welsh Rarebits consortium has been called in.
Most of the photographs were taken by Sam Bailey, a freelance photographer used by Caterer, who has visited the hotel.
Total cost for the brochure, including paper, printing 5,000 copies, original artwork, copywriting and photography, will come to £2,125.
So, a year down the track, have any benefits accrued from having Caterer track the business’s progress?
“The feature following our recruitment process with Portfolio certainly attracted excellent potential candidates,” says Daniel. “Also, suppliers took us and our business more seriously as a result of the series.”
The last word, perhaps characteristically, goes to Daniel. “It has been a great year. We have now got a hotel that we all feel very proud of.”