Surrey resort Foxhills has long prided itself on its sporting and leisure facilities, but now the hotel is looking to expand and improve its rooms and F&B offer in an attempt to establish itself as the Gleneagles of the South. Janet Harmer reports
Need to know Centred around a 19th century manor house named after the mercurial politician Charles James Fox, Foxhills is an extensive resort comprising a 70-bedroom hotel, three restaurants, two championship golf courses, a par three course, 11 tennis courts, four squash courts, a spa and conference facilities.
After serving variously as a private residence, a convalescent home for soldiers and a golf club, the Hayton family acquired Foxhills in 1983 and has since gone on to develop it as a successful resort with a strong focus on golf, tennis and cycling. It has hosted professional golf and tennis tournaments and in 2012 welcomed Team GB's road cycling teams for the duration of the Olympic Games.
With world-class leisure facilities in place, Marc Hayton, Foxhills' managing director since 2005, is now turning his attention to revitalising the hotel and the food and beverage offer. To this end, he appointed Jason Adams as general manager at the end oflast year to drive the business forward. Adams, previously general manager at the Arden hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon, has also worked at the Atlantic hotel in Jersey, Seaham Hall in County Durham and Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire.
For Adams, the opportunities for growth and improvement at Foxhills are enormous. "It has the potential to become the Gleneagles of the South," he says.
As well as improving service levels and making the business more efficient, Adams has also overseen the refurbishment of several key area of the hotel. Twenty of the bedrooms, the Nineteen brasserie and the Manor bar have all been transformed, alongside the installation of a new kitchen and an updated youth club.
Hayton says the refurbishment work isa vital aspect of driving the business forward, as well as ensuring the continued loyalty of regular customers. "Five-star service cannot be delivered if the infrastructure is crumbling," he explains. "Around 8% of the business's annual turnover of £12m is ploughed back into upgrading facilities."
Jo Parker of interior design company Parker Liddell Associates describes the generously proportioned rooms as "an inspirational canvas".
"We wanted to provide an elegant, classic contemporary scheme, reflecting the gracious setting at Foxhills," she explains. In order to make the best use of the space and for maximum comfort, the furniture was rearranged and the super king-sized Hypnos beds were made the main focus of the rooms.
A base pallet of zinc, pewter and stone was used, spiced up with cushions providing jewel-like accents of citrus yellow, tangerine and hot pink. The heavily quilted Zimmer Rohde bedspreads with their wave pattern offer a subtle nod to the nearby swimming pool, while the headboards from PTT Design in Nottingham use saddlestitched leather panels surrounded by silver nailing and an outer frame.
Groups of three black and white photographs from Elegant Clutter in Warwick, of divers, golfers or tennis players, reflect Foxhills' leisure connection. Penguin paperback novels in every room are a reminder that Foxhills is a place where the guests are invited to relax.
A new, larger bar, dominating the entire wall of one end of the room, has been installed by Nicholas Hollinshead Interiors. It meets the brief of creating a more practical workspace for staff, a larger serving area for guests and improving the display area for key products, such as MoÁ«t & Chandon Champagne.
The traditional, French-inspired oak bar with its black granite surface creates a real presence, and the antique mirror and glass shelving - lit by dimmable LED lighting - allow for an attractive display of spirits.
The recently transformed club house at Farleigh, sister golf club to Foxhills in Caterham, Surrey - provided the inspiration for the Nineteen brasserie, the casual dining option alongside the main Manor restaurant.
"We believe the club house at Farleigh is now the best in the country, with an informal, boutique feel - it's quite different to a traditional club house," says Hayton.
The aim of the designers, DesignLSM, was to bring the estate's woodland inside, using an earthy, organic palette for the carpet and pops of colour - punchy blues and acidic yellows - in the furnishings. Black and white photography by David Steen of actors and sports personalities provides the artwork.
"Although the name Nineteen refers to golf, we didn't want golf to dominate the look of the space," says Hayton. "I think we've succeeded in creating a relaxed space for dining and meeting people."
Impact of the refurbishment
Since the beginning of the year, Foxhills has spent more than £1.1m on refurbishments, made up of £500,000 on the kitchen, £420,000 on the 20 bedrooms, £100,000 on the youth club, £90,000 on the Nineteen brasserie and £23,000 on the Manor bar.
Return on investment, which has been self-funded, is now beginning to trickle through. The rates charged on the new-look bedrooms have risen by an average of £15, while average room rates across the resort have increased from £99 to £121 since Adams' arrival and continue to improve month-on-month.
Spend in the bar has increased through a focus on higher-value spirit brands. One recent Thursday evening saw 25 cocktails sold, costing between £10 and £18 each, with spend on wine increasing by an average of £8 a bottle.
Hayton says it is too early to consider the impact of the refurbished Nineteen on the business as he expects the space to flourish as a dinner venue over the winter months.
Future plans Hayton has a 10-year plan for the business, involving an investment of £25m, which will include the development of a 100-bedroom hotel, 12 apartments and a spa at Farleigh.
At Foxhills he intends to add 30 bedrooms, a ballroom, indoor tennis courses and a yoga studio, as well as rebuild the family restaurant. More immediately, the imminent announcement of a new executive chef is expected to bring about the first steps towards upgrading and improving the food and beverage offer throughout the resort.
Foxhills facts and figures
Foxhills, Ottershaw, Surrey KT16 0EL
Owner Marc Hayton
General manager Jason Adams
Leisure members 4,500
Annual turnover (2013) £11.8m
Operating profit (2013) £34,763
Average occupancy 85.1%
Average room rate £121
Nicholas Hollinshead Interiors
0121 666 6448
Nineteen brasserie DesignLSM