The Hotelier Edit: Mike Wood of Hempstead House
Independent Hotel Show London catches up with Mike Wood, GM of Hempstead House, to discuss the luxury hotel's 30th birthday, ongoing sustainability efforts and what it means to manage an independent hotel.
Tell us a bit about the history of Hempstead House
We are very proud to announce that next year will be our 30th birthday as a hotel! We are a privately owned family business in Kent near Faversham purchased privately in 1993 as a family home by our current owner, until a friend wanted to get married in the garden and the dream was born. The house has links to a Family from New Zealand and even an old well under the floor in the drawing room the original house hosting only six bedrooms are still in use as our deluxe rooms.
How has the hotel evolved over the past few years?
Hempstead House now hosts 35 bedrooms, a junior suite, two restaurants within the hotel, Thai brasserie, wedding venue, conference suite, private dining rooms and a luxury spa with outdoor pool. The first of the bedroom additions were in 1998, Our Heritage Suite for weddings was added in 2003 with AquaManda Spa in 2009. It has become a hotel and spa with now 72 staff and an incredible redevelopment of all our bedrooms and public areas since our recovery from covid-19 from 2020 -2023
What is the F&B offering at Hempstead House, and how do the team approach building menus?
We have our Lakes Restaurant entertaining guests for breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with an a la carte menu changed seasonally hosting 1 AA rosette as we aspire to gain our 2 AA rosettes. Our Brasserie is a unique menu of Thai food for nearly 10 years by our Thai chef. Our team of chefs are led by our head chef who all generate ideas for the new menus hosting the required components and suitable to our location using 6 main local suppliers for meat and fish, fruits and vegetables. All menus are hand made and prepared by butchery and filleting our meats alongside all in house bakery and patisserie for our pastry section of afternoon teas and deserts. We use a hybrid of many traditional skills and modern equipment showcasing really creative and quality ingredient menus.
How is Hempstead House tackling the issue of sustainability?
This is such a hot topic. Hotels and spas have a multitude of opportunities to cater for to meet guest expectations vs economic & sustainable promotion. A benefit of our independence is to ensure we assess our business levels to look weekly at our electricity and gas use by means of time clocks for all areas of the hotel into sections that are operated individually. Our spa temperatures have been adjusted and the business is LED lighting throughout with a quarterly service report of our usage to identify high user areas that use more power.
Our beauty suite has organic natural products with our bedroom toiletries being removed to refillable bottles for wash products. Our local food & wine suppliers are scheduled for less orders instead of daily where possible and full food waste recycling. Visible signage to encourage guests to use one towel during spa use/accommodation stays are present and the removal of all plastics from pens to cups and growing herbs and flowers in our gardens for restaurant. We have just this week removed all pesticides and chemicals for our gardens and looking at battery operated lawnmowers.
How do you approach sourcing new suppliers for the hotel?
One of the many privileges of being an independent hotel is the flexibility and opportunity to source the best quality and quantity for us by auditing our products on a regular basis an on the contrary we do not always want the cheapest price or goods and this gives us full autonomy to keep our current suppliers to work together with them in sourcing the best products. Should we need a new product we will seek recommendations with in the industry.
Hempstead House is a popular wedding destination, why do you think guests choose you for their special day?
We are different and offer something very special for bride and grooms to feel proud about in a country house venue that is totally bespoke & personalised or them. They become part of us for their life. The main event for the day. The competition is so high every year with new venues but the tradition of a venue with 100% service package available from accommodation to breakfast, it just leaves brides the enjoyable part of the wedding plans to do! We can be a blank canvas for our guests and build their wedding. We have even had owls bearing rings to photos in the swimming pool!
What does it mean to you to run an independent hotel?
I have never done anything else! My career in hospitality is over 20 years and 10 within management. The pride in decision making for the team and business for both gust experience and staff development is so powerful to see the changes come together. When things do not plan out then we get together and revise it again. Seeing the success develop and leading or equally being lead by my management team is very rewarding. It breeds real engagement and ownership.