Who’s in charge?

Last week I stayed at Copper Beech House, a great B&B in Malvern (http://www.copperbeechhouse.co.uk/home), along with the brilliant team at Nicol & Co.

The hotel owners, Kathy and Steve, could not have been more accommodating and everything was delivered on time and to a far higher standard than I expected from somewhere charging £80 a night.

The next day I stayed in one of the most famous hotels in England where a standard room is c.£300 a night. The check in was outstanding, I was greeted outside and my car valet parked, the receptionist was both efficient and friendly and the bags were delivered within a couple of minutes – I was able to get set up for the work ahead straightaway, such a bonus. But I’m afraid the story doesn’t end happily.

That evening the service at dinner was very slow, and for a meal costing £60 a head, (just for food), completely unacceptable. The waitress was so embarrassed she suggested we deduct the automatically added service charge off the bill.

The next day, the first coffee service took 20 minutes, followed by another delay with the second order. The water for lunch arrived 15 minutes late and not once did anyone appear to care about how we were feeling.

I’ve stayed in hundreds of different hotels – from the cheapest B&B in Portsmouth (an absolute sh*thole!) to the Burj al Arab in Dubai. Price is a completely unreliable indicator of service, (although the Burj does take some beating), and sometimes, indeed quite often as Copper Beech House demonstrated, the smaller the establishment the better when it comes to personal attention. But what I’ve come to realise is that a consistently reliable sign of whether a place is likely to deliver great service is when there’s a person in charge who is very visible.

The key is visibility. An owner/managed business can be just as poor as a faceless multi-national if the boss is absent or hides away in a back office. The best businesses, whether they be a hotel, restaurant, gym, shop or estate agency have someone in charge who’s properly “on it”, highly visible and clearly in charge. For Copper Beech that’s clearly Kathy, (sorry Steve, you’re a great chef but we know who wears the trousers behind the scenes!), how about your business – is it always obvious who’s running it?

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