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The Caterer

A hotel's weighty problem

28 March 2014
A hotel's weighty problem

The prevalence of obese guests may mean increased repair costs for broken furniture, but at least they are spending more in the bar, says Neil Kirby

During the 28 years I have worked at the Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane, the only time the size and weight of a guest became an issue was when the larger-than-life opera singer Luciano Pavarotti came to stay.

Although his actual weight was a closely guarded secret, it was said to be in the region of 330lbs. Pavarotti was a frequent guest of the hotel and a special bed had to be constructed for him that was bigger and stronger than the norm.

In the 1980s this seemed unusual, but one thing I have noticed about many of my guests today is that they seem generally to be larger in size. An indication of this trend was brought home to me in 2009 when we had health and safety instructions to take down our ‘Maximum eight persons' sign in the lift and replace it with Maximum six persons'.

I had one overweight guest who literally got stuck on the toilet, with her backside wedged into the seat, which was very embarrassing for all concerned when we tried to release her.

Another large lady fell in the shower and could not get out as she was wedged in so tightly. We had to call the fire brigade to come and cut the shower cubicle down around her.

At the Langham Hotel today the biggest single maintenance expense is replacing toilet seats that have been broken by overweight guests. They are nearly always people under the age of 30, as obesity appears to be an increasing problem in the young. I have genuinely considered designing a larger lavatory seat so that hotels can cater for modern trends.

The second expense is replacing toilet roll holders that have been pulled off the wall when they have been used by guests to lever themselves from the seat. One girl even wrenched a washbasin from the wall in her efforts to stand up. We design all the rooms ourselves and now install disabled handrails beside toilets as a matter of course, simply to assist able-bodied but overweight guests.

For the hotelier, however, there is a positive side to this. The larger guests have a tendency to eat and drink more, so food and beverage sales are up.

• Neil Kirby is proprietor of the Langham hotel in Eastbourne

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