The Hotelier Edit: Paul Skinner of Gravetye Manor
Gravetye Manor GM Paul Skinner on the hotel's illustrious history, providing guests with a luxury experience and growing a thriving kitchen garden.
What is the history of Gravetye Manor?
Originally built in 1598 the property has enjoyed an illustrious history, it’s most notable owner, William Robinson one of the greatest gardeners of all time brought the manor and the one thousand acres in which it stands in 1885. In 1958, Peter Herbert arrived at Gravetye and injected his own exceptional hotel keeping and restaurant standards establishing Gravetye as one of the best country house hotels in its class. 2011 saw the dawn of a new era at Gravetye Manor, the hotel came under private ownership and the new owners provided a sympathetic program of restoration and redecoration ensuring that today’s customers can enjoy this historic house for generations to come.
What does a great customer experience look like at your hotel, and what makes it unique?
Gravetye Manor provides a sanctuary of peace and tranquillity; it is a traditional country manor hotel experience with all the service touches of a modern luxury hotel. Our customers get to enjoy the world-renowned gardens, the legacy left by William Robinson and experience Michelin star dining in our restaurant along with exceptional country manor style hospitality with warm and genuine service.
How are you approaching the issue of sustainability?
One of our biggest unique selling points is the kitchen garden, the recent restoration of this 1.5 acre kitchen garden provides much of the seasonal influence for the menu in the restaurant. We manage to grow a good majority of the vegetables, herbs, edible flowers and fruit required to provide meals for our customers throughout the year.
How do you approach creating your menus and sourcing food & drink suppliers?
The driving force behind the inspiration and seasonality of our menus is the produce we grow in our kitchen garden. Our chefs have built excellent relationships with our local suppliers and we share a joint passion and commitment to animal welfare and sourcing the very best ingredients to ensure we maintain the highest standards. We also work with many local beverage suppliers ensuring we have an excellent range of local beverage options on our wine list and cocktail menus to satisfy our customer’s requirements.
How important is hospitality tech to your business?
When you are operating a manor house whose history dates back to 1598, we have not deliberately embraced technology across the property as our customers prefer it this way. We do have a property management system and electronic reservations and dining booking systems and Wi-Fi so we are up to date with the 21st century!
What is your approach to recruitment and retention of staff?
The single biggest challenge effecting the hospitality industry at present is recruiting and retaining team members. Identifying the right candidate is vital as we make a significant investment ensuring they are suitably trained and prepared to look after our customers. A solid start is a necessity, having a robust on-boarding program, ensuring we have a uniform and just making them feel welcome is key.
Next, we need to be proactive and ensure we have regular job chats with open two-way communication, provide honest feedback and frequent appraisals of their performance. I am a strong believer that this personal approach towards colleagues will build a lasting relationship with the purpose of allowing individuals to learn, develop new skills and grow within our organisation.
What do you think some of the major opportunities and challenges are in the hotel market this year?
Without doubt, a major concern this year is the increase in our overall operating costs and the financial strains that this places on the business to achieve certain targets without impacting on the customer’s experience.
At Gravetye Manor, we create our own opportunities on a daily basis and are solely responsible for ensuring that all of our customers leave with only the most positive memories from their stay experience. We tailor individual plans for our resident guest’s personal requirements and look after our dining guests with attentive and friendly service.
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