Business tracker:Profiting from 2012 – Spirits are dampened

13 July 2012
Business tracker:Profiting from 2012 – Spirits are dampened

With wet weather hampering business in June, our Business Tracker operators are hoping rain doesn't wash out the Olympic opportunity. James Stagg reports

The Nothe Tavern

Olympic athletes have already begun arriving in Weymouth, but thanks to the weather their training is likely to have been as difficult as trading at the Nothe Tavern.

"Trade has been really weather dependent," says licensee James Parsons. "We're not far off last year but it is slightly down. We have expected to see it a bit busier as we're gearing up for the big event."

Fortunately, there are other events in Weymouth that are helping bolster trade, with a rowing regatta and seafood festival helping draw in the crowds before the main event.

"We had a stall down there last year and did sushi but this year I don't have the staff to allocate to it as we're focusing on getting ready for the Olympics," Parsons adds.

In terms of preparations the pub will be shut for a day this week while new beer pumps are installed to increase draught capacity and Parsons will also take the opportunity to have some minor work done in the kitchen. It will also give the team a chance to get together and have a meal and a few drinks before the expected influx during the Olympics. Some athletes have already visited the pub, however. "The teams are here and we've had plenty of Olympians in," says Parsons. "It makes us mere mortals feel a bit inadequate. Today we opened up early to feed one team before they went off training. They do have certain requirements but there's nothing we can't do. There are a few requests for burger and chips but in the main it's a lot of pasta dishes."

Those ordering fish won't be eating the local produce Parsons would normally supply, though, as the seven commercial fishing boats working out out of Weymouth aren't allowed to fish during the games.

"They're being paid a day rate compensation not to fish," he says. "My sea bass supplier is going to New Zealand for three weeks. It would be nice to encourage and showcase local produce, but we can't get it. We'll get local-ish fish coming from Poole and Brixham but nothing from Weymouth Bay."

The Nothe Tavern

Tel: 01305 839255

Ufford Park
Ufford Park
Ufford Park

It's business as usual at Ufford Park in Woodbridge, where the hotel is yet to feel much impact of the Olympics.

"It's not quite working out as expected as the torch only hits our area this week," explains revenue manager Melanie Hawes. "Because it hasn't been in our direction, as it's a regional thing, people aren't yet thinking about the Olympics."

She has also discovered that, rather than passing in the hands of a torch-bearing jogger, it will go by the hotel in convoy mode, which makes the event much less of a spectacle.

However, the torch will spend the night in nearby Ipswich, where there will be an evening of music and celebrations. "It will be a big event and should kick off the Olympic activity since there isn't long to go," Hawes adds. "The thing is in terms of sport we've had the Euros and now Wimbledon so people have been distracted.

"It's interesting that a couple of years ago we attended a huge conference in which we were told to expect to be extremely busy in our region and to be prepared. But at the moment it has not materialised. We've been doing as much as we can to get the business - and fortunately the hotel is doing well at the moment - but we haven't had what we anticipated."

With the economy still in the doldrums, Ufford Park has done less business for this July so far than last, although Hawes is hopeful that there will be some last-minute activity. "It's really difficult to manage at the moment," she says. "If the weather had been better I think more people would have booked in advance. It's a waiting game."

However, the Jubilee weekend proved successful, particularly for the hotel's spa, whose guest also stayed on for the afternoon tea, "Bunting was everywhere, which will now stay up for the Olympics," says Hawes.

And the hotel will be ready as and when interest does increase. Its family packages - launched last year - have proved a particular hit with those looking for a complete holiday budget, and Hawes believes they will attract late booking guests, too.

"We're looking to ensure our reception team know exactly what's going on so if customers have questions they will be equipped to help," she adds. "I think there will be people that want to know having made plans at the last minute."

Best Western Ufford Park hotel, golf and spa

Tel: 01394 383555

Palmer Arms, Windsor
Palmer Arms, Windsor
The Palmer Arms

Though the weather has also affected trade at the Palmer Arms in Dorney, so far the pub is operating very much in line with last year.

"We did a Jubilee event with the hog roast and a rib of beef at Dorney school which was excellent and 250 people turned up, even though it rained," says owner Chrys Fisher.

At the pub, business was steady, spread out over the four-day weekend. "If we'd had the sunshine it would have been a different story though," Fisher adds. "It has been a good month, and about the same as last year because it was a wet June then, too. But I'm hoping for a good end of July and August."

In the hope that good weather will arrive, Greene King is building a bar outside in time for the Olympics. Fisher says: "We're not quite sure what form it will take, but it will be a permanent structure. We'll have three lagers and three ales in there. It will take some of the heat off the bar with the volume we expect."

Meanwhile, the pub is already gaining from the increased number of visitors to Dorney Lake as it prepares for the Olympic and Para­lympic rowing. Training and final preparations are taking place, which means, though, that there are none of the usual triathlon events being held at the Lake.

"The lake shuts down when the torch goes by on 10 July," says Fisher. "We've spoken to one of the organisers and they expect to be bringing plenty of people back here. If there are enough we'll put a barbecue on."

Even though he admits that he doesn't feel ready due to the unpredictable nature of events, Fisher is confident there will be plenty of last-minute bookings.

"It's still an unknown as they've changed the road layout nearby so it will be interesting to see how that affects things. Other than that we've got staff coming it at the end of July just to shore up the teams. One of them is a German speaker so that will be good in terms of language."

But it may be the media guests that make the most lasting impression. The Palmer Arms will be hosting a team from the BBC, and ITV are also taking a parking space, while Channel 4 is expected to be nearby, too.

"They will all need to eat too so so we'll expect they come in," Fisher says. "But getting some publicity out of the Olympics will be excellent. It's only two weeks to be getting people through the door but the publicity could work for much longer."

The Palmer Arms

Tel: 01628 666612

Business Tracker

Caterer and Hotelkeeper has adopted three businesses as they run up to the Olympics as part of the Profiting from 2012 campaign in association with ACT Clean and People 1st.

All three are keen to exploit the opportunity and ensure they're fully prepared. Each month we'll be tracking their progress as they prepare to profit from the games, while mentors will be on hand to offer advice and encouragement

Our Profiting from 2012 Business Tracker series is published in association with ACT Clean and People 1st

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