The restaurant serves two different types of dish for two different types of customer, and according to owner and general manager Louis Naudi: "By and large it works well. Hotel food is not always perceived to be that good, so two years ago I decided to change things." Naudi started using Welsh products, with Visit Wales deeming the Royal Sportsman's the best breakfast in Snowdonia thanks to its home-made jams, marmalades, fresh home-made bread for toast and local Welsh yogurts.
Lunch is now branded as "Lite Bites", as Naudi thinks most customers look for something small rather than a main meal in the middle of the day. Specials are added daily, and customers can have a main course if required. Naudi says he had tried a two-course lunch for £10 but it didn't work, as customers wanted a light meal. For dinner, Naudi is sure to change the menu monthly so as to fit in with seasonal produce, and all sweets except for ice-creams are made in-house. Sunday lunch is a traditional affair, with focus on local roasts, notably beef and lamb, fresh fish and a vegetarian option. There is also a serving of afternoon tea comprising home-made scones, Welsh clotted cream, home-made jams and Welsh butter.
A couple of weeks ago Naudi rearranged the menu layout on the outside menu cases to attract customers, and called Gelert's Bar a "gastro bar", "to differentiate ourselves and be seen as producing better-quality meals", he says. A 10% loyalty scheme to encourage repeat business "works to a degree", according to Naudi.
According to mentor Peter Birnie: "We agreed that the smart move was to offer at dinner the same menu in both the bar and restaurant and let the guests decide where they were comfortable, and this has worked well."
Birnie also suggested that there should be "more external promotion, with improved menu board and signage, greater emphasis on local ingredients, light options at lunch, as well as removal of some items from the menu to the ‘specials board', so they can vary easily from day to day.
"I also put forward the idea of more tasting of dishes to avoid clashes of strong flavours on the plate, to keep the presentation simple but still with style. Overall, the key was being as flexible as possible, as a hotel has a wider selection of potential guests. In-house guests and even chance diners have different expectations."
131 High Street, Porthmadog, Gwynedd LL49 9HB
Although Naudi was involved in a car crash last month, business has been good. "The result in the food offering so far has been exceptionally good: in April turnover was up by 18% overall in comparison with April last year - the best in 11 years. In comparison with March income was up by 66%, but that would not be too unusual. However, in April food sales were up by 25% and drink sales by 40% compared with April 2008 . May looks as though we will beat last May's record by about 2%, but that's not bad in a recession," he says.
The split between food, drink and accommodation in April was 30%, 26% and 40% respectively, and almost identical in May. Turnover in May was up 2.82% compared with May 2008, another 11-year record for May and up by 22% in turnover compared with April.
Naudi says his strategy has always been to get an AA rosette or more, and the AA is now returning with a senior inspector to reinspect the hotel and its food after Naudi sent letters to a few AA inspectors. In this particular area Naudi has looked to mentor Peter Birnie, as he feels it's an area where he could be doing better - and Birnie has extensive experience.