Profiting from 2012 Business Tracker – Operators gear up
Christmas preparations are in full swing at our Business Tracker operators, while Olympic preparations are also taking shape. With new acquisitions, menu planning and training initiatives on the agenda it's shaping up to be a busy December. James Stagg reports
Planning for London 2012 has been put on hold at the Palmer Arms until the new year after owner Chrys Fisher acquired a new pub in the area. After months of negotiations, he has signed on the dotted line for the Walnut Tree in Bourne End and has set about refurbishing it in readiness for opening at the end of the month.
"We're going to make it a pub restaurant and have closed it for a refurbishment," Fisher says. "It hadn't been invested in for a while so we're restoring it to its previous glory."
The Walnut Tree will be food led - like the Palmer Arms - but as it is in a more residential area, Fisher is also keen to attract drinkers.
"Our market for the Palmer Arms was food led but here you have more people within walking distance," adds Fisher.
The pub is some 15 minutes from the Palmer Arms so Fisher believes it may be a bit too far to benefit from the Olympic rowing at Dorney Lake. However, it will provide a source of additional staff during the event.
Back at the Palmer Arms, it's been a busy month. Bonfire night being held on a Saturday meant the pub attracted many guests, and having learnt lessons from last year, they were able to serve all of them. "It's a good day PR wise as we don't charge an entrance fee," Fisher says. "Many people have dinner first and watch the fireworks. It's a great evening.
"Last year people were going to the corner shop to buy cans of beer because they couldn't get to the bar but this year we managed to serve everyone by having a beer tent and a double barbecue outside with more people manning it."
As Palmer contends with the day to day, mentor Simon Numphud, head of AA hotel services, has been making suggestions as to how the pub might profit further from the rowing at Dorney Lake. "We've been talking about awareness and the AA may be able to help. We have a sign business so one of the team is going to look into what might be possible," Numphud says.
"I've also suggested Chrys looks at the opportunity to partner with a local farmer to use his field as a satellite parking area. It might be that they can offer parking for visitors who they could then sell breakfast to before they head on to the lake."
The Palmer ArmsTel: 01628 666612www.thepalmerarms.com
Christmas has come early at the Nothe Tavern in Weymouth, where festive parties have already taken place. "It's full on already," explains James Parsons. "It's probably groups of people in the industry that can't take the time in December."
Boosted by bonfire night, November has been another successful month at the pub which has benefitted from fantastic views of free local firework displays. "Our rear patio overlooks Weymouth Bay and they have a free firework display out at sea from a boat and we've a perfect view," says Parsons. "We had lots of trade from it this year."
Meanwhile, work has already begun on sprucing up the business in preparation for crowds expected for next year's Olympic sailing events. "We'll have the pub painted, finish our rear patio and build the outside bar," Parsons adds. "Marstons has been very good and are doing the painting and the patio."
Mentor Johhny Johnston, ex-multiple operator and chairman of the BII Benchmarking and Accreditation Services steering committee, is visiting in December to help create low-maintenance menus for the Olympic period.
"We want to create new menus for next year anyway and at the same time we'll get a menu prepared for the Olympic period," Parsons says. "The idea is to look at what we're doing and reduce it a little."
Parsons also intends to explore suppliers to ensure he's getting the best possible prices.
With information on the detail of the Olympic sailing venue limited, a priority is to find out whether visitors can take food in as it will influence the Nothe Tavern's offer. "A management company is running the ticketed area and we're getting conflicting reports as to what is and isn't allowed," Parsons says. "Trying to get information is very difficult but our priority is to find out what they will allow into the arena as we're looking to offer packed lunches to take in."
As if all that is not enough, Parsons is also in talks with a yacht charter company about catering for their events next year. "It's not finalised yet but we have worked with them in the past and are confident it will come off," he says.
"We need to get as much as possible done now because in January the momentum will really have to pick up as it'll be on us before you know it.
The Nothe TavernTel: 01305 839255www.thenothetavern.co.uk
Last month's Red, White and Blue ball at Ufford Park was a resounding success. Raising money for charity Destination Gold and local Olympic hopeful Joshua Tanner.
"We raised a considerable amount," says Melanie Hawes. "The lots went really well, particularly the Bobby Robson memorabilia."
Like our other Business Tracker operators, the hotel had a profitable November, with trade well up on last year. It can also look forward to plenty of celebrations in December, as almost all of its Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe themed evenings are already sold out.
Meanwhile, the hotel has rolled out a new training programme. "We've launched it to our management team now and it will go out to the main staff in January," explains Hawes.
The programme will be linked to an NVQ and will look forward to next year's Olympic Games to make sure its customer service is absolutely polished.
"We'll be training staff on what's going on, where things are happening and relevant transport information," says Hawes.
The training was originally developed for Ford dealerships but Ufford Park has worked with the supplier to tailor it to its business and work up elements that refer directly to the period around London 2012.
As part of the exercise the hotel has also conducted an audit of languages among its staff in order to try to best help any non-English speaking guests.
Best Western Ufford Park hotel, golf and spaTel: 01394 383555www.uffordpark.co.uk
Our Profiting from 2012 Business Tracker series is published in association with ACT Clean and People 1st