August update: Tudor Farmhouse – money talks
At the Tudor Farmhouse hotel, Gloucestershire, Hari and Colin Fell have a 40% mortgage with Abbey and took out an additional loan in January this year to cover the cost of refurbishment to rooms and some communal areas. However, Colin says: "That was no problem. We have never used an overdraft, so we've had no problems there."
Further plans for refurbishment and improvements to the hotel - which include a couple of the bedrooms and a lot of the bathrooms - will be funded by profit. Colin adds: "If we don't earn it, we don't spend it."
Despite recent energy price increases, the Fells have been savvy with suppliers. For example, with help from a Carbon Trust loan, they've invested in energy-efficient boilers that have resulted in lower gas bills.
Colin says: "We installed new boilers, replacing the 20- to 30-year-old ones. We are looking at energy-efficient ways to replace our reliance on gas and oil through things like solar panels."
Mentor Robin Hutson says he has noticed the Fells have become more focused on their finances. "They have gained focus in their overall operating numbers and they've embraced the ideas we had at the start of the year about controlling food costs, improving average room rate and drinks margins," he tells Caterer.
He adds: "The great thing about the Fells is they've always been open to improving the business and honest about the bits they were not expert in. That keenness to learn is a terrific trait. They're trying to build a better business, and with motivation like that it's not difficult to help them tweak it."
Kitchen staffing costs are down significantly, because, says Colin, "we haven't had high recruitment costs in the past 12 months, and because last year was so dire they could go only one way".
Clearwell, Gloucestershire GL16 8JS
Despite the global economic gloom, Tudor Farmhouse has had a better July than last year. "Not the best," says Colin Fell, "but not bad."
He's also been busy completing the business's end-of-year accounts ahead of a VAT inspection, which, while routine, Colin thinks is because the VAT bill was much smaller in quarter one because of all the work they had done.
The website has also been updated with new photography and a new look to make bookings easier.
Colin has embraced his role of wine specialist and has lined up the hotel's first wine event for 25 September with the help of local wine merchant Tom Innes of Fingal Rock in Monmouth.
Hari's blog is going well. The traffic isn't huge, but she noticed a spike when Colin sent out the newsletter, and she plans to visit suppliers and post stories and pictures about them, all adding to the hotel's focus on local produce.
She's also just completed an NVQ in horticulture with a view to increasing the amount of fruit and veg they grow in-house and they are planning to invest in a greenhouse to help with this.
Mentor Robin Hutson adds: "They're doing really well, but this business is always like spinning plates: there's always one just about to fall down. You never arrive at the moment when everything is hunky dory - or at least I never have."