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May update: The Tudor Farmhouse Hotel

22 May 2009
May update: The Tudor Farmhouse Hotel

Although many staff at the Tudor Farmhouse Hotel are long-standing, owners Colin and Hari Fell have had a grave problem with their kitchen over the past couple of years. After several successful years, the head chef left in June 2007 and they struggled to replace him. This resulted in two head chefs leaving in rapid succession, unstable times in the kitchen and two months of gross profits of 35%.

Hari says: "The instability also meant that we lost our other two members of the kitchen team and had several months working with temporary chefs."

In April last year, Blaine Reed joined the team as head chef and they also appointed a new sous chef, Stuart Cornell, in February.

Hari says: "Now we have a stable team again. It has taken a long time and we have learnt a lot about the running of the kitchen and chefs in that time."

The Fells also try to employ local people, partly because they do not have staff accommodation, but also because they like to play a positive role in the local economy.

Mentor Robin Hutson says: "There are some members of staff the Fells rely heavily on - three or four key individuals - and in some cases they've been there a long time, so they must be doing something right in terms of retention."

Following Reed's mini-stage at Shaun Hill's Walnut Tree Restaurant nearby, Hutson advises: "This type of gesture costs very little and Blaine got plenty out of it - he gets the experience, knowledge andmotivation, and he gets out of the kitchen.

"In these hard financial times this can be a great way of motivating staff and it has a much more long-standing effect than a cash bonus and can help your business. We used to use these incentives a lot at Hotel du Vin. Blaine should now be looking at using his suppliers in the same way to motivate the new sous chef, Stuart."

In addition to Cheryl Holes, the deputy manager, who has "been there forever" according to Hutson, and enables the Fells to have proper days off, Wendy Baldwin, the head of laundry, has been there for 22 years.

"She holds the laundry together and we fear the day she announces her retirement!" Hari admits.

To this end, Hutson has suggested Hari conduct a cost comparison for the in-house laundry to see how it compares with outsourcing and to provide a back-up plan for when and if Wendy decides to retire.

"Currently there doesn't seem much in it, although we realise the whole situation relies on Wendy staying in the role," Harisays.

Clearwell, Gloucestershire GL16 8JS 01594 833046www.tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk

MAY UPDATE

Things have been going well this month for owners Colin and Hari Fell. Hari explains: "April was a very busy month in the hotel - we had our second-best ever April, with occupancy at 79%, and May looks set to be busy, too."

However, she admits advance bookings are still not at previous years' levels, but they're hopeful that this is just because in this economic climate people are booking later.

Sponsor First Choice Coffee has installed a new Tiger coffee machine and the Fells now offer its Fairtrade brand in the rooms. Hari says: "The coffee has proved popular, and it is great to be able to offer this now."

On the food and beverage front, the new bar menu is going down well with guests and, although actual figures are not yet available, it also seems to be attracting some non-resident trade, despite very little dedicated promotion.

Finally, as part of their renewed PR drive, the Fells have lined up a joint interview with mentor Robin Hutson on a local radio station to promote the hotel.

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