Entrepreneurial bravery required…

Sitting in the grounds of Grantley Hall near Ripon in North Yorkshire enjoying a coffee there is much to distract the eye including the pristine acres of grass adorned with flowers and manicured shrubbery, the bubbling River Skell, and the imposing Grade II-listed Hall itself. But what was most noticeable was the array of employees that seemed to constantly pass by.

Grantley Hall, North Yorkshire

It was a procession of gardeners, kitchen staff, receptionists, cleaners, and front of house personnel that comprise the team of 350 that service the guests of the 47 rooms, three restaurants and spa facilities. What’s particularly interesting in this time of great struggle to attract people into hospitality (and any other job for that matter) is that the hotel has only a modest 30- ish vacancies.

Maybe it is because as well as working at one of the region’s premier establishments the team appear to also be very well looked after. Thirty or so live on-site in an impressive looking building across the car park from the hotel that contains bedrooms, lounges, kitchens and a gym. Other members of the team live in a number of cottages within Ripon itself and use the hotel’s shuttle

My guess is that owner Valeria Sykes has not stinted on anything with Grantley Hall. A hefty £70 million has been spent on repairing and dramatically revamping the 17th century stately home in the Yorkshire Dales. This investment looks to have been extended to her employees judging by notonly the number of them on hand but also their delivery of a very chirpy, friendly level of service that suggests a happy ship.

Since opening its doors in July 2019 it quickly secured a Michelin Star for its fine dining Shaun Rankin restaurant before the various lockdowns hit. It has clearly continued with its forward momentum since reopening because both the accommodation and restaurant were fully booked during my visit in early July. This project for Sykes undoubtedly has long-term objectives but the chunky investment looks to be paying off pretty quickly.

It was only a short skip down the A1 to the village of Barnburgh in the south of the county that revealed another labour of love at the other end of the hospitality spectrum. Local businessman Gordon Jones and his son Ben have recently reopened a formerly boarded-up boozer and spent much time, skill and undoubtedly money to return the 1937 structure to its former glory.

Coach & Horses, Barnburgh

The suburban-style Coach & Horses is a rarity in having an interior that has remained largely intact since the day the architect laid down the original plans and the craftsmen got to work on its many fine details – including marquetry, glass work, lighting and furniture. It has some of the most impressive art deco furnishings I’ve ever seen in any pub in the country and rightly finds itself on various heritage and architectural lists.

Despite the fittings it contains, the reality is that it was a failed business when Jones took on the pub. Its doors had been closed for five years. However, like Sykes and her mansion he has taken the plunge and invested serious money into the business. Since reopening in June the place can
sometimes at peak times find all its inside tables, and additional 30 outside, all taken up and people being turned away, I’m informed.

The interior of the Coach & Horses

It’s this sort of commitment that the hospitality industry needs at this tough time when uncertainty continues to prevail. Yes, there has been much talk of private equity and other investment funds amassing serious piles of cash and waiting on the sidelines in order to pick-up assets on the cheap and refinance struggling organisations.

This is all well and good for Darwinian regeneration and recycling but it is invariably the brave entrepreneurial individuals who make the greatest contributions to the industry in terms of their creation of new and interesting businesses and bringing rewarding and attractive jobs to the market.

Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider 

This piece was originally published on Propel Info where Glynn Davis writes a regular Friday opinion piece. Retail Insider would like to thank Propel for allowing the reproduction of this column.