"Many hotel operations cut their marketing and training during a recession," says owner Louis Naudi, "but my view is that you never cut it. We do an informal exit interview by handing out questionnaires to the guests to get feedback and ideas on where we can improve. Now suggestions are few and far between, but I'm sure to follow up each of the suggestions with a thank-you e-mail. I used to employ a receptionist to do that, but now I do everything personally.
"We're also involved with a few third-party sites such as Tripadvisor and if I see a negative comment, I try to follow it up. We've also upgraded our website by rewriting half of it and added new photographs and set up another website for activities. We're about to start a promotional campaign locally through newspapers over a six-week period, with a different theme each week, to encourage local interest. I've also invited six journalists here and offered them weekends free of charge in exchange for feature articles.
"When Peter Birnie visited, he recommended constant review and price adjustments. So we've scrapped all our printed literature and now change our prices week by week online. During winter, we did more discounts, but now it's back to summer and prices are back to normal. The conventional wisdom often quoted in Caterer by the great and the good, is that prices should not be discounted. I did and it increased the volume and, as we have a 60% repeat/referral base, this means that many will return or send others. We have returned to standard rates for the rest of March and as of 1 April our prices increase by between 3.5% and 5%. Bookings are coming in slowly but surely and many are being left to the last minute, hoping for discounts, which I refuse.
"We also have two databases of 2,000 names and every two months we try to think of something intelligent to include in them, such as a Welsh masterclass or some local news. We send a hundred or so by post and the rest by e-mail. We also offer a loyalty card scheme that gives 10% off a two-course lunch. I also encourage people to stay for dinner, bed and breakfast and offer an upgrade if they stay an extra night. When I upgrade people, I look at each one to offer a personalised response and ask what extras I can give that add value to the package.
"We also sponsor an animal charity rescue centre and make a contribution for every booking. This often tips people towards staying with us, as we have a lot of animal lovers here because dogs are welcome in the bar - this also means people choose to eat in as well, as they can stay with their dog. The only thing left is to get our AA rosettes, as they serve as a good marketing tool.
According to mentor Peter Birnie: "Louis knows more about marketing than I do, as that was his former career and his area of expertise. He's well on track with it all."
131 High Street, Porthmadog, Gywnedd, Wales LL49 9HB, 01766 512015
According to Louis Naudi, "We had a fairly successful Mother's Day, even though it's not as big a tradition up here. We did 30 covers in two hours, which was nice and comfortable and the same as last year. Discretionary spending has reduced, though, as people don't value eating out as much up here. We finished the dining room lastmonth and the bar in the same week.
"The wine list is also now finished and 50% of wines have been replaced, and twice as many are available by the glass as before. Lighting has also been replaced: we've put brighter lights everywhere. We've reorganised bedside lights so they are consistent. We're having a few problems with suppliers at the moment: we had to send samples back three times until we found what we wanted. We've also replaced all the chairs in the bar."