Sponsored by Reynolds
In November 2016, the Principal York completed a £20m refurbishment and rebrand. The hotel now has 11 flexible conference spaces, a purpose-built events centre and a team of 36 team members, who can accommodate up to 400 delegates or 200 for dinner.
Every year, the team welcomes more than 100,000 delegates and hosts over 600 events of all different sizes and requirements. The hotel conference team recently won Visit York's Conference Venue of the Year and CHS Awards Best Large Conference Venue of the Year.
The conference and welcome teams ensure a smooth transition and friendly welcome, from arrival (where the hotel's VIP conference service ensures a member of the welcome team is there to escort delegates to the meeting or event space) to departure.
The hotel's head chef has developed low-glycaemic dishes for conference menus to keep delegates' blood sugar levels steady and avoid post-afternoon slumps. In keeping with the brand's ethos to promote local to a national business audience, the menus celebrate the best ingredients from York and the surrounding countryside, and local suppliers are used, such as R&J Butchers in neighbouring Ripon.
For afternoon breaks for delegates, head pastry chef Martyn Edmonds has developed a rhubarb gin cheesecake using artisan Slingsby gin from Harrogate, and a Rowntree's fruit shot sourced in York, while all flour that goes into the cakes comes from a local mill.
All conference food is labelled clearly for anyone with special dietary requirements, offering the closest equivalent choice to the standard menu. Since these changes have been implemented, guest satisfaction has increased, with a high repeat customer figure of 50%.
At the end of 2016, the team secured a new partnership with Virgin Trains East Coast. Working in conjunction with Virgin and Visit York, Principal York conducts monthly presentations and hosts familiarisation trips to York for key national conference agents, including Inntel, Grass Roots, Capita and American Express, allowing them to promote not only the hotel but the city of York as a destination. This relationship also gives a unique selling point for the business traveller.
Group booking facilities allow VIPs and conference groups to block-book tickets or even carriages up to 12 months in advance at discounted rates. The hotel also works with local leisure and tourist partners to provide packages for conference delegates to maximise their stay.
Since implementing these, the hotel has seen a 15% increase in positive feedback on review sites and has achieved 93% guest satisfaction. Staff are also available to escort lone female delegates to their bedrooms (which are never situated at the end of a corridor) or the car park. Staff are trained to never read out a female's room number when checking in and lone female guests are made aware that all rooms have peepholes on doors for added security.
Same-sex room service is provided on request. And as part of the Principal York's ethos, the conference team is encouraged to act spontaneously with thoughtful gestures and personal touches, and any member has the authority and freedom to brighten someone's day.
What the judges said
"They showed some great initiatives to enhance the guest experience and are committed to going above and beyond to give great service."
"The team is passionate about giving the hotel experience a local flavour."
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