Martin Lyall, manager of the George hotel, Cranbrook, Kent, winner of the Managed Business of the Year at the Shepherd Neame Pub Awards, explains his formula for running a successful hotel.
First impressions count - as do last impressions. These are axioms that hotel managers ignore at their peril. With a reliance on word-of-mouth recommendations and repeat trade, hoteliers need to ensure that those impressions tick all the boxes on the customer's wish list of an enjoyable stay.
It is the attention to detail that makes the difference. Service, of course, must be excellent; not just in terms of cheerful and polite staff but in all aspects of standards. You can deliver great service, but if the tables are dirty, then you are failing.
The reaching and maintaining of those standards is the result of successful teamwork. After all, the kitchen porter is as important as the general manager in the chain.
Complementary teamwork starts with recruiting and then supporting the right people. You cannot teach someone to be pleasant; they need to have the right mindset.
I treat the business as my own, and I would never ask a member of staff to perform a task that I wouldn't or couldn't do myself. The captain of a football team doesn't necessarily have to be the best player, but he does need to know how to play.
It is also important to treat each member of staff individually, depending on their strengths and weaknesses.
A clearly defined target is necessary: when I first took over the business, I sat with the chef and discussed my objectives for the business with regard to the food - namely, to make us the preferred choice for the locality. The measure of that is how many covers you are doing and how many people you have to turn away because you are full.
The measuring of standards is important, and staff should be encouraged to ask questions of the customers. For example: is this your first visit? Have you enjoyed yourself?
This, in turn, makes the customer feel like more than just a customer. As hoteliers, we should be interested in their views and concerned about their concerns.
And that is all part of the service.