The Hotelier Edit: Peter Banks, Managing Director of Rudding Park: winner of AA Accessible Award 2022
The Independent Hotel Show collaborated with our partner, AA Media and interviewed Peter Banks, Managing Director of Rudding Park, winner of the AA Accessible Award 2022.
Rudding Park is a hotel and spa in Harrogate, England and it is committed to providing accessible facilities for all guests. In addition to 90 bedrooms and suites, the hotel has five accessible rooms, with interconnecting doors to adjoining double non-adapted bedrooms. The rooms have a range of features to make them accessible, including low-level switches and controls, flashing light/audio alarms, push button emergency alarm and a telephone next to the bed.
Call you tell us a little about the history of Rudding Park?
Rudding Park has been open since 1972 and we employ 320 people.
We have a holiday park which opened in 1977. The non-residential part of the hotel, including the conference, banqueting and the weddings part opened in 1987, the golf course opened in 1995, the hotel opened, and that's when I started working at Rudding in 1997, I've been here for 27 years now. We did a further extension in 1999 that linked the two buildings together, a further extension to the restaurant in 2006. This doubled the size of the restaurant because we knew we were going to expand to larger bedrooms. We only had 50 bedrooms to begin with. We then put on another 40 bedrooms in 2010, and then we spent 10 million pounds on the spa in 2017. We've gone from 2 million pounds turnover when I arrived in 1996, to 27 million pounds turnover this year. It's a fantastic business to run because it is so diverse. Of the 27 million, only 5 million pounds worth of that revenue is bedrooms. The bedrooms help contribute to a lot of this revenue. It is an extremely diverse business that makes it very interesting to run.
What does great customer experience look like to you and what makes it unique?
The first thing is they are our guests, not customers.
One of the first things we say to a new starter upon their induction is that we have ‘guests’.
The most important thing is building a team which exemplifies the right attitude as well as having the right skills. We always want to employ people who care. It doesn’t matter so much if they make a mistake, as mistakes can be learnt from, we just want them to care. For us employing a positive attitude, ensuring they are inducted well and have passion for their work, is encouraged from the day one, which works well. In summary, care is important, as it exemplifies positive examples of a great guest experience, and we achieve this through this in-house training. For us, it’s really important to follow this golden thread and ultimately put our guests first.
How are you approaching the issue of sustainability?
We’ve taken strides to become more sustainable. I think just doing sustainability for sustainability's sake isn’t the point of it. However, when sustainability and additional productivity or profitability go hand in hand, then it can make a huge change for the better. So, for example, our combined heat and power plant cost us a million pounds to build, but we will have repaid that in two years’ time, and we're saving something like several hundred tonnes. We compost a lot of items for the kitchen garden, grow lots of our own items and we also keep bees and we use the honey from this. We've also joined the Clean the World initiative, where all the soaps and amenity products get re-milled and sent away to people who need it, which also helps prevent as many items go to landfill.
Our plastics, tins and bottles along with all our food waste goes to ReFood, which is used to recycle and regenerate into electricity. What's left over then gets composted and then gets sold to farmers and they put it back into the fields and away you go. It's a virtuous circle and they create enough electricity to power a town the size of Doncaster.
How do you approach creating your menus and sourcing food and drink suppliers?
I try not to be too prescriptive to the Chefs in our fine dining restaurant. Our Chefs have a little bit more latitude, so some of the fish for example, comes from Cornwall, but all of his lobsters at the moment are coming from the east coast, from sort of northeast, which is fantastic. And they were belting lobsters when I saw them the other day. So, yeah, that's all very local. We try to buy from Yorkshire, really, if we can. We try to keep it local, keep it real and keep it honest.
Are there any innovative products or services or other know systems, whatever, that you've implemented into your establishment, that you would recommend to other hoteliers?
I would recommend they look at the combined heat and power plant. It's an absolute game changer for me and you don't have to get a 360 kilowatt one. You can get them down to the one have, which was a 74 kilowatt one. We make 90% of the electricity for the hotel and spa complex, we make that, and it has saved us so much money, really. I’d recommend looking at them.
You can even get quite small engines. If you’re on mains gas, it makes absolute sense.
It helps save the planet and it also saves you money. It's fantastic!
Do you attend the independent hotel show? And if so, what do you value about the show?
Yes I do. I go down there to explore any new and fresh ideas. Otherwise, after being at one place for 27 years, you can become a bit stale. I always see loads of people down there. Again, it's another networking opportunity and I can go there and back in a day, easily. It's a day very well spent.
The 2023 AA Hospitality Awards are taking place on Monday 25 September.
To find out more, visit the AA Hospitality Awards site.