The general manager of the 90-bedroom Bermondsey Square hotel in London, which is being transformed into Hotel GB - the location of Channel 4's new reality TV show - hopes the programme will lead to a boost in recruitment to the hospitality industry.
The hotel, which is managed by Bespoke Hotels, will feature Gordon Ramsay and Mary Portas in the role of joint general managers, with support from Phil Spencer as maitre d', Kirstie Allsop as concierge and Hilary Devery as manager of the hotel shop. Other key personalities include Gok Wan as bar and events manager, Dr Christian Jessen as manager of health and wellbeing, Katie Piper as spa and salon manager and Kim Woodburn as head of housekeeping.
As well as providing a training opportunity for a group of unemployed people who are looking for a break in the industry, the programme will also raise money for The Prince's Trust and Springboard.
Robert Holland, the hotel's GM, said he agreed for Bermondsey Square to be used as the location of the programme after being approached by the producers, Optomen.
"As an independent hotel, I am always keen to look at ways of publicising the hotel in unconventional ways," he explained. "The focus on employment in hospitality, as well as the stellar cast involved, were enough to convince us to take part. I was also reassured that the plan was to run ‘the best hotel in the world' rather than be a repeat of the Britannia hotel in Liverpool.
"I am hoping that the programme will help find it easier to recruit staff going forward. I am quite astonished that for all of the press in regards to the level of unemployment, my colleagues in hotel hotels and I, find it so difficult to recruit chefs and waiters. I currently employ 21 nationalities within my 50 staff."
Holland said that the hotel is now closed for two weeks to regular guests - this week while Optomen prepare for the programme and next week while filming takes place. However, bookings are now being taken from members of the public who can stay in the hotel or visit the spa and restaurant during the filming of the series.
The level of transformation and intrusiveness that is currently taking place has surprised Holland, "I thought that there would be a lot of false walls and props, like panto, but what has transpired is quite different and the hotel looks great with it," he said. "I will be keeping some of the styling and I trust that there will be a legacy and people will remember us for our involvement in the programme."
Holland's team of staff will be on hand throughout the filmng to ensure that the support and training is provided to ensure the hotel remains fully operational.
The essence of the programme will pit a team of boys, led by Ramsay, who will oversee the restaurant, bar and gym, against the girls' team, headed by Portas who will be in charge of rooms, reception and spa.
Bermondsey Square will fully reopen in its own right on 14 October with Gregg's Table - the restaurant launched with the judge of BBC TV's Masterchef Gregg Wallace earlier this year - transformed into Gregg's Bar & Grill. Holland said the hotel had taken on board some of the negative reviews about the restaurant and will be introducing a new menu, which has been inspired by the grill menu at sister hotel, Cotswold House.
Hotel GB will be screened every night for one week, from Monday 1 October.
By Janet Harmer
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