Following the staffing issues Colin and Hari Fell had last year, the appointment of Blaine Reed as head chef has brought stability to the kitchen. Since then, says Colin, "we have enjoyed excellent-quality food and a great reputation locally."
The hotel has two different restaurants, the main fine-dining restaurant and the Garden Room, where breakfast is served and overflow from the main room is seated. Before the start of Best for Business the Fells had introduced a lighter "Garden menu" for corporate customers who wanted to eat in the Garden Room.
Following Robin Hutson's involvement and suggestions, they have simplified and lightened this menu further, renamed it the "bar menu" and opened it up to everyone.
Colin explains: "We renamed it the bar menu to make the offer more self-explanatory and now have a new menu box in our drive so all passing trade can see it. There's also a blackboard in reception advertising the food."
Hutson says: "It was important to differentiate the two menus. Calling it a bar menu makes a proper distinction from the fine-dining menu and is more like Babington House, where they have a no-rules eating policy."
The effects so far have been positive. "We are now picking up more passing trade and keeping more pre-wedding guests in-house rather than losing them to the pub next door. We've just had our highest May kitchen turnover, at £22.5k, versus £19k, our previous best May in the kitchen," says Colin.
Hutson also suggested introducing a daily GP monitoring system for Blaine to encourage him to be vigilant about food costs and really make it a central part of his decision-making process. This has resulted in a rise in GP from 63% to 70%.
Colin says: "While we were happy with the achievements in 2008 we felt the restaurant still had a way to go before we were happy with turnover."
He adds: "We are very positive about the future of the kitchen, as we have a fantastic and committed team. We have just recruited internally for a kitchen trainee position."
Clearwell, Gloucestershire GL16 8JS
This month it was Colin's turn to undertake a mini-stage. In charge of the wine list at Tudor Farmhouse, mentor Robin Hutson arranged for Colin to visit co-Hotel du Vin founder Gerard Bassett's newish property, Terravina, in the New Forest.
Colin says of the visit: "Gerard and his wife, Nina, were extremely helpful, and I've taken away many ideas that we're now in the process of putting in place."
He spent the first evening with Gerard and the sommeliers covering issues like wine storage, serving techniques, purchasing, list writing and cocktail making.
The following day he had time with Nina, learning about their marketing, PR, fixtures and fittings, upselling, housekeeping - and even a bit about their plumbing.
Colin says: "Nina kindly shared details of some of her suppliers and contacts as well as giving me an insight into their customer-service ethos. I was very impressed with the warm and relaxed customer service at the hotel as well as Nina and Gerard's hands-on approach."
On top of this, the Fells spent a night at Babington House in Somerset, following Hutson's suggestion, to learn about its relaxed approach to customer service, and Hari has started a City & Guilds course in vegetable gardening with a view to overseeing the production of more fresh produce in the hotel's gardens.
On the business sales front, Colin adds: "We've just had our best sales month ever, in May," although he admits, "our summer bookings are still looking extremely thin."