Tej Walia has been general manager at Foxhills Club & Resort in Ottershaw, Surrey, since August 2018. He tells Janet Harmer how the family-owned business is investing heavily in improving the resort's facilities while also enhancing the experience for staff
Tell us about Foxhills' £25m investment programme.
Foxhills has been operating since 1983, when it was taken over by the Hayton family. Some of the facilities needed updating, so we decided to significantly invest in state-of-the-art facilities and new buildings. We believe we should be at the top of our game, delivering the best in terms of facilities and services.
What has been completed so far?
The Fox dining rooms are the refurbished main restaurant in the Manor House. The Yoga Cabin offers pilates and yoga classes in a tranquil woodland. The Practice Den is a floodlit golf practice area, and the Woodie is a grab-and-go food outlet near the tennis courts.
Work has also started on the Pavilion, which is a £7m building to replace the existing Youth Club.
What is there still to do?
The Pavilion will be in operation by spring 2021. We are planning a new all-weather tennis dome and looking to refurbish around 30 bedrooms. Other improvements will include a car park extension and resurfacing.
What are you doing to ensure the service levels of Foxhills match the new improved facilities?
We understand the importance of investing in people just as much as the bricks and mortar. If we have committed to invest £25m in the business, we must also invest significantly in our team, as they will be the key to the success.
We have just hired a training officer, which is a new role at Foxhills, and increased the training budget. There are also plans for upgraded staff accommodation.
We must also invest significantly in our team, as they will be the key to the success
What is your recruitment policy?
We employ around 200 staff and we look for people who can deliver our mission: when you leave, you feel better than when you arrived. This doesn't just apply to guests and members, but also to our colleagues.
How many club members do you have at Foxhills?
We have more than 3,000 members, which is a mix of families, some third generation, adults only and corporate. Not all members have the same requirements, so the trick is training and empowering the team so they can anticipate needs and be proactive.
What are you doing to upgrade the family focus of Foxhills?
The Pavilion is a perfect example. Details are being finalised, but the facilities will include a crèche, an art studio, soft play and a kids' den, swimming pools, a games room, music, dance, fitness and spin studios and a restaurant.
There are also some outdoor elements at Willow's Forest School, where you can learn skills, build fires or dens. We are discussing a few additions, perhaps overnight camping and low ropes courses – we really want to make the most of our 40 acres of woodland.
In today's world it is unusual for a business on the scale of Foxhills to remain family owned. How do you think the future of the ownership of the property looks?
The future of Foxhills looks very encouraging. I believe the success of a club like Foxhills is enhanced by the fact that it is family-owned. How many organisations are there where the guests have direct interactions with the owner, general manager or senior stakeholders, who can make a swift decision on the feedback?
In a competitive marketplace we need to invest in our product and people. Anyone who visits us will see that is exactly what we are doing.
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