As the cold snap continues, summer might seem some way off but our operators are already setting in place plans to make the most of outside spaces. They tell James Stagg how they're appealing to, and preparing to accommodate, the crowds
Bookings are up year-on-year at Ufford Park but not quite as high as might be expected with the Olympics approaching.
"We found at the Ipswich hoteliers meeting that everyone had assumed they'd be fully booked for the Olympics but so far it hasn't materialised," explains revenue manager Melanie Hawes. "Particularly with Locog releasing a number of rooms in London, we thought we needed to look at another angle."
So the hotel has decided to target families who might want to visit the Games as part of a longer break. "Those that haven't got tickets might want to go to the Olympic Park and watch it on the screens, so we're putting packages together for families that might want to stay here and get the fast train direct from Ipswich to Stratford," Hawes adds.
The train to Stratford takes under an hour so Ufford Park is marketing itself as a base to both explore the heritage coast line and make a trip to the Olympic Park. Well used to families, Ufford Park offers a family inclusive break which includes use of the health club, bike hire, dinner, bed and breakfast for four nights at an all inclusive price. "That has worked really well as we've got some good-sized family rooms. Families prefer a total price and an amount they know they will spend. Otherwise everything adds up but with this they know what they're working to," Hawes says.
Meanwhile, this month Ufford Park has been rolling out its customer service training to make sure all staff meet expectations. "Providing customer service is important in general but especially so during the Olympics," Hawes says. "We have staff that speak a variety of languages so now everyone knows who might be of assistance. It's been really positive."
As it has been developed in-house, it's been tailor made for dealing with corporate, families or golf and spa customers. "It's such a mixed demographic we need to make sure we look at each element," Hawes adds. "Trying to keep everyone happy can be a challenge."
Best Western Ufford Park hotel, golf and spa
Tel: 01394 383555
While recent acquisition the Walnut Tree grows at a steady pace, owner Chrys Fisher has been able to continue to make plans for capturing some of the Dorney Lake crowds.
He's in negotiations with the BBC, which is keen to book out the function room at the Palmer Arms as a base, and continues to investigate marquee hire and the possibility of signage.
"It could be local and national crews setting a base up at the pub," Fisher says. "I think they would prefer to be here as we could look after them food wise.
"I'd said I'd do it for double the daily rate, including the car parking as they'd have a couple of vans and all their equipment. We've had a lot of interest in it but I'd prefer the BBC take it as we have a lot of the local BBC people in and long term it might help."
While the function room looks likely to be occupied, along with some of the car park, Fisher is still looking for a marquee company to quote for the planned outside catering operation. "We've had two leads but nobody gets back to you," he says.
At the Walnut Tree, Fisher is consumed by promoting the pub as more of a food destination that it had been known as. "It's very wet led at the moment so we're trying to push the food. Sales are growing steadily but it's getting it out to a wider audience."
Once the new team has fully settled in, he will consider introducing offers to promote the food offer. "We need to grow it food wise because on the lease model the drinks never stack up financially," Fisher adds. "Though at the moment we sell a lot of beer, so Greene King will be very happy. We're actually turning over as much as we do at the Palmer Arms."
The pub also has a large garden in which Fisher plans to introduce a children's area to encourage families. "At the Palmer Arms we're family friendly and it helps encourage trade throughout the day as they tend to eat out early," he adds. "Especially in the summer, it means you don't have a quiet patch. When you pay the rent you pay it whatever."
The Palmer Arms Tel: 01628 666612 www.thepalmerarms.com
The sailing might not have started yet in Weymouth, but summer has come early at the Nothe Tavern, according to James Parsons.
"This weekend was like a summer weekend, only without people in the garden," he explains. "We've been getting lots of good feedback on TripAdvisor and the recommendations have encouraged trade, both in terms of locals and visitors as guest houses are recommending us, too."
In order to maximise space when the summer - and the Olympic sailing - does arrive, the Nothe Tavern has had its licence extended to serve drinks in the garden from an outside bar. Parsons says this means a redesign and general refresh of the garden area next month.
"We've got designers down to look at the garden and put a plan together," he explains. "We're going to include a bar and barbecue area, as well as a covered seating area. We just want it to be an appealing space. It's borne out of the Olympics but it's a long-term investment."
Parsons has plans to add to his team with two security staff to be on hand during the Games. "We've got a couple of people to ensure we control numbers more than anything," he says. "We can't predict how many people will want to come but we need to be prepared. As we're going to be encouraging people into the new garden we'll also need to control noise as there are residents nearby."
British Institute of Innkeeping council member and mentor Johnny Johnston has visited and given Parsons some contacts for work experience at a venue which experiences high volumes. "Johnny came down with his wife to pay us a visit," Parsons says. "They hadn't realised quite how close we are to the venue. He gave me some contacts for the potential work experience at a busy venue so I'm looking at going to the Cheltenham festival to see how pubs there cope with large crowds."
The Nothe Tavern Tel: 01305 839255 www.thenothetavern.co.uk
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