Cleanliness means a lack of clutter, even if it's very welcome clutter, says Robin Hutson.
Over the years I have been asked what makes a great hospitality business and my answer is often the same: "What we do is not technically difficult, it's just a case of paying attention to a million details."
This concept of detail is really highlighted during these difficult times, as we are forced to adapt our normal operation to accommodate the Covid rules and guidelines.
So many of us pride ourselves in the creative detailing of our operations, yet we have found ourselves forced to remove or compromise on so many of our unique brand touches. I feel that inevitably this has had a detrimental effect on the individuality of the customer experience. For some guests the changes will go unnoticed, while others do notice but don't realise this simplification is part of the establishment's safety strategy.
I can certainly understand why on occasion some may think details have just been forgotten, or not bothered with or – worse still – have been a result of some cost-saving exercise. I am in no doubt that much as we all do our best to compensate, these measures have a collective tempering effect on the normal ambience of our hotels and restaurants.
In an attempt to minimise staff in guest ‘air space' at the Pig and Lime Wood, we no longer park arrivals cars or ‘room' our guests. We don't spontaneously help with their luggage or encourage interaction at the reception desk. That first sequence for arriving guests will certainly feel very different and far less hospitable than our normal super-friendly, warm welcome of old.
Our rooms and tables, while certainly clean, are stripped back and sanitised, with many brand details removed to reduce the harbouring opportunities for this evil virus. We, of course, all acknowledge and support the objective of keeping everyone safe, but nevertheless it's sad to see that the layers of detailing that have taken so long and so much considered effort to get right have, for now, been discarded to the Covid bin.
In our rooms we have removed our quirky information folders, our carefully curated selection of magazines – so no longer will Private Eye and The Week be part of the stay. Our larders and fridges are de-stocked of all the fascinating local food and beverage items, painstakingly sourced by our team. A big one for us are our breakfasts, the groaning buffet tables of exciting homemade, homegrown delicacies a thing of the past and, along with them, some of our most frequent Instagram images. Sadly the traditional breakfast menu somehow just doesn't have that same relaxed feel we have tried to create to start each day.
The groaning buffet tables of exciting homemade, homegrown delicacies are a thing of the past and, along with them, some of our most frequent Instagram images
So, all in all, among the long list of things I am missing through this pandemic, is the day when we can once again layer on the details that make each of our operations the unique experience that we work so hard to create.
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