It’s iconic buildings and eye-catching kitchen garden food have seen it become a darling of the UK hospitality scene, but what is it that really makes The Pig Hotel stand out from competitors?
With five locations dotted around the South of England, and another three set to open before the end of 2019, The Pig Hotel Group has cultivated an offering that marries quintessentially British retreats, great food and authentic experience.
To explain in greater detail how the business has cultivated such a strong customer following, Tom Ross, operations director at Home Grown Hotels, the parent company to The Pig Hotel, answered a few of our questions ahead of his appearance at an upcoming Be the Business masterclass event in Cornwall.
Greasing the wheels
Described as someone who “does the heavy lifting” by Home Grown Hotels and Lime Wood Group CEO and chairman Robin Hutson, who also founded Hotel du Vin, Ross gets involved with everything from GDPR compliance to room pricing. Having previously been operations director at The Pig Hotel’s Bath and Combe locations, Ross took up a role overseeing all Home Grown Hotels sites in 2016.
His promotion came at a time when the hotel group announced it was making a big investment in the portfolio and opening three new sites in Kent, West Sussex and Cornwall.
When we asked what makes The Pig Hotel offering so unique, Ross said it was “everything and nothing”. He added: “Each site is only successful because of really hard work and attention to detail. The skill set in making sure a kitchen garden is excelling is different to making sure the team are happy and trained.”
Ross will be sharing his thoughts on engaging with a workforce and encouraging members of staff to be the driving force behind improvement and change at a masterclass event at the Watergate Bay Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, on 13 November.
“We take training really seriously and focus on what we call craft skills,” he explained. “The business wants someone who isn’t only a waiter, but wants to know about food, wine and the art of service – not just writing an order down and bringing out plates.”
Ross, who has previously held hospitality roles at The French Laundry in California, Hotel Du Vin and Mogford, looks for staff who display an interest in everything around them. “We want housekeepers to be curious about the garden or restaurant.”
“We employ people based on personality as they have interaction with guests and need to have genuine rapport.”
The Pig Hotel culture
Training and engagement at all locations is driven by little and often communication and feedback. “We have coffee chats after week one and month, after which appraisals happen throughout the year. This provides a way to give feedback, give action plans and create those pathways to improvement – but it also needs to be a day-to-day thing. Our staff are working with other people every day, and they are not in big departments,” he said.
Believing that businesses often get caught up in paralysis by analysis, Ross said it is more about having a certain degree of “emotional intelligence” to realise when certain staff are in need of a pick up or conversation.
Despite the challenges of having hundreds of staff spanning sites that stretch from Hampshire to Devon, Ross and the management team do have the luxury of being able to move employees round to offer them new experiences and opportunities to learn. That, he strongly believes, builds longevity.
“We have a budding entrepreneur scheme for people who want to commit to the business over a longer period of time. This allows us to help them grow, and they have now started to come through and fill bigger positions,” he went on to say. One particular individual to go through the scheme is set to become assistant manager at The Pig Hotel site opening in Bridge, Kent, before the end of 2018.
“The business also has kitchen apprenticeships to help grow our own chefs. It’s about looking out for every opportunity to capture them for the longer term.”
Ross endeavours to not only make his staff as skilled and engaged as possible, but also listen to the areas they highlight as spaces to develop in. “We run things like wine courses, getting suppliers in to educate us and make sure we’re constantly challenged. Our industry gets a bad rep, and that is down to a few places treating people badly.”
The Pig Hotel, in an industry which suffers from staff churn and the challenge of constantly training and up-skilling new staff, is bucking the trend by making it clear a career is possible in the organisation. Through a combination of empowerment, education and pride, its success is evidence that a different approach is possible.
Register to attend the Be the Business masterclass today and hear first-hand how Tom Ross and The Pig Hotel are leading from the front.