Mersey treat

by David Tarpey , Thursday 27th August 1998 00:00

I live 10 minutes' drive away in Oxton, so I don't rise until 7.30am. That's with a cup of coffee with my wife. I kiss the kids off to school by 8am, then I'm at the hotel in Wallasey from 8.30am.

First, I check in with the night porter, then I run through the post. I dump the junk mail and bring the cheques to the top. I always spend half-an-hour with the accounts girl signing cheques.

We pay our bills promptly. It's too easy to keep other people's money in your account and spend it. I think that's one of the differences between the North and South. Up here, people don't spend what they don't have.

One of my priorities is looking after the small things in the hotel, such as checking there are fresh flowers, that the place is tidy and that room temperatures are correct. I'm always checking hygiene in the kitchen and general DIY all over the building. Detail is what it's about.

For example, I have to make sure that all the hotel's 260 lightbulbs are working.

My job is very much hands-on and this is such a varied business, so my day is always different. I'm always around to meet guests and potential future customers coming in to book meetings or functions, such as weddings. I like to be there to show them around the hotel and, if possible, clinch the booking. We host about 80 weddings each year.

We're always open for lunch, so I try to help out there too with serving tables, even though I always wanted to be a chef. Our policy at lunch and dinner is to try to maximise the sales to each customer by, for instance, encouraging the customer to have that liqueur or that extra bottle of wine. That's partly why we've increased turnover fivefold in 10 years.

I bought this hotel because I saw its business potential. We're normally full Monday to Thursday, and even at weekends it's never quiet any more.

Lunch is normally over by 3.30pm so it's time for me to head back home to have my supper with my family at 5pm.

Then, after washing, shaving and watching the Six O'Clock News, I'm back at the hotel to prepare to serve tables for dinner by 7pm.

At weekends, we try to do 70 covers in our 40-seat restaurant, and on Sunday lunchtime we'll often do 80. One of my most pleasurable experiences was last December, when we fed 5,000 customers throughout the whole Christmas period and we didn't get one complaint.

My biggest achievement is that I've managed to build Grove House into one of the most successful businesses in Merseyside. Yet I get much more pleasure from looking at thank-you letters than I do from studying our bank statement. I love the sense that the customer goes away really satisfied.

The North is renowned for its friendly people and noted for its hospitality, and that's what we aim to provide here. I think Liverpool and the Adelphi hotel have been shown in a poor light by the BBC, which has picked out the bad bits rather than focusing on the positive points, given the months it spent there.

I'll normally spend the whole evening here until midnight, before heading home to take my Dalmatian for a walk. I only work Monday to Friday and spend weekends with the family.

I don't want to be a slave to the business. You should run the business, not the other way around. And running a business like this is akin to painting the Forth Bridge. It's never quite done.

Developing the hotel is what I like most. I'm 42 and I bought a big family house last year, so now I'm ready for another venture. n

Interview by David Tarpey


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