After a busy summer for our Business Tracker operators, all three are getting down to planning for next year's Olympic Games. With staffing and marketing on their minds, they tell James Stagg about training, triathlons and cheerleaders
It's been a busy month at the Nothe Tavern in Weymouth since they started their Olympic preparations in earnest.
Owner James Parsons admits he's tired after a hectic summer season, though that hasn't stopped him stepping up the marketing activities ahead of the games.
Locally the pub has had a boost after the story in Caterer and Hotelkeeper was picked up in local paper the Dorset Echo. As part of the paper's Going for Gold series the pub was featured on the front cover, ensuring plenty of exposure for the business.
The nearby Ringwood Brewery has also offered to give the pub promotional support. "They're providing all our staff with new uniforms which feature their logo," Parsons says. "The brewery is ensuring its cheerleading troupe give out our leaflets and location as well as Ringwood beer when they're out on promotional work in the town."
Meanwhile, business has been boosted by the Olympic test events in the area. "There's been lots of sailing going on as part of the preparations," Parsons explains. "It's great because many people come up to see where it will all be happening."
The pub has also taken early bookings for the Olympics, following mentor Johnny Johnston's advice to open early during the games. "Johnny suggested opening for breakfast and we've already had two bookings," Parsons says. "There are 50 coming down from a London- based sponsor who have booked to come here for breakfast before watching the sailing events. Hopefully we'll provide them with some lunch too and catch them afterwards as well." The Nothe Tavern will also host an American company that makes yachting shoes, which has booked for dinner during the Games.
With renewed focus on corporate guests, Parsons went to the Southampton Boat Show last week to speak to more potential visitors. He says: "Johnny suggested we go to the Southampton boat show to promote ourselves. I went over to speak to company's that have a presence in Weymouth or might like to bring people to Weymouth for hospitality during the games. I also had a map to hand out showing where we are in relation to the venue."
Back to the present and Parsons is pleased with the business the pub has done this summer. "We've had a good season," he says. "Business is back to where it was a year before the road works that affected trade, so we're on track. In fact if anything it's even better and we've got Christmas coming too. We want to make the most of that and then really focus on the Olympics."
The Nothe TavernTel: 01305 839255www.thenothetavern.co.uk
At Best Western Ufford Park revenue manager Melanie Hawes is concentrating on setting the right rates for next year, in particular over the Olympic period.
"I think we're now settled on the rates for next year and they're about to be posted on the website in the next few weeks," she explains. It will be interesting to see how the bookings come through."
The hotel is signed up to the fair price charter and has set prices that are similar to other summers. "We don't want to put anyone off, but there's a slight increase on last year," she adds. "Certain dates are obviously at more of a premium. We use best available rate so it goes up or down depending on availability. Obviously if we pick up fantastically we'll react by changing the rates."
However, Hawes admits that with many package options at the hotel - including golf, leisure and spa breaks - keeping on top of the variables can be a challenge. "We have to be careful that customers can't book something like bed and breakfast and undercut a package," she adds.
With plenty of interest expected, it's a balancing act that Hawes is ready for. "It's a bit of a waiting game at the moment. We know some of the training camps have been confirmed in the area, but it's seeing what's going to come through," she says. The Australian and Canadian gymnastics teams will be in training camps nearby, while the Rwandan team will be in Bury St Edmonds and Azerbaijan in Ipswich, offering plenty of scope to attract supporters, friends and family.
The hotel is working hard to attract these visitors both during and after the Games. "We're aware that some of the business will be picked up after the event," Hawes says. "In particular we're expecting Americans won't just come over for the Olympics, they'll also visit the rest of the country. Suffolk as a region needs to promote itself in readiness for that and we're working closely with VisitSuffolk to ensure the region is a destination to visit."
Best Western Ufford Park Hotel, Golf & SpaTel: 01394 383555www.uffordpark.co.uk
The Palmer Arms
A summer packed with events at Dorney Lake has made for a busy season at nearby Palmer Arms. After trade dropped off momentarily following a strong April and May, owner Chrys Fisher says that, having picked up considerably over the summer, business has continued to be brisk into September.
"It's really busy at the moment at Dorney Lake," he says. "Saturday and Sunday now are really full on. People are racing at different times so we have a constant throughput."
The result has been that the summer period has been 20% up on last year. "When we bought this business we couldn't anticipate how much we would benefit as the previous owners told us they didn't get any business from Dorney Lake," adds Fisher.
Since being introduced as part of the Caterer and Hotelkeeper business tracker last month Fisher has received a number of calls from suppliers volunteering information on outside catering equipment to help him expand into the car park. He's planning on erecting a marquee with a separate kitchen to cater for the Olympic rowing and kayaking fans.
"Marquee companies have been in touch and it's pleasing because I wasn't quite sure where to start and it's saved a lot of ground work," Fisher says. "We've also already seen some really smart outside kitchens. They're caravan size, towable, fully equipped kitchens. I didn't even know they existed. People eat with their eyes so it has to look good and we're really pleased with the options available."
Now his attention is turning to ensuring the Palmer Arms is up to speed in terms of staffing. Having expected trade to drop off in September the pub's continued popularity has meant that the business has had to take on more staff after it's seasonal students returned to their studies.
"Getting good staff is the key to success," Fisher says. "We've talked with some of the students who worked with us this year with regard to staffing for the Olympics and also looking at getting more in too. We'll also have to call in some favours."
Having been pleasantly surprised by the effect Dorney Lake has had on business, Fisher is prepared for even greater footfall during and after the games.
"The more people that know about the lake the more triathlons will get booked and the more spectators will come." he says. "I've watched it snowball over the past three years. They used to close at the end of August for the winter, but now they're open all year round and we need to be ready."
The Palmer ArmsTel: 016 2866 6612www.thepalmerarms.com
Our Profiting from 2012 Business Tracker series is published in association with ACT Clean and People 1st