Meet Dominic Hughes, GM of Strattons Hotel & Restaurant in Swaffham — a small market town in Norfolk. Here, he explains how buying locally and waste-reduction polices are keeping costs down and F&B revenue up
How is your restaurant clientele split?
Our restaurant has an emphasis on informality and comfort. Visitors include approximately 45% locals from East Anglia, as well as 55% hotel residents on business or holidaymakers escaping from London for the weekend.
What are the main F&B revenue generators?
The restaurant is open daily from 6.30pm and every Sunday lunch from 12pm-2.30pm. Lunch is available by arrangement Monday through to Saturday and large groups, delegates, weddings, and celebrations are welcome. We also have an on site cafe deli called CoCoes open daily, where residents take breakfast comprising fresh, wholesome, nourishing and delicious food using local producers and suppliers.
You can pop in for great coffee, teas, homemade cakes, light bites and tasty take-outs. The deli also offers freshly-baked bread, organic- and biodynamic wines and Norfolk cheeses. We also hold a tapas evening in the outside courtyard on the first Wednesday of the month.
How do you keep the hotel breakfast interesting?
Breakfast in many ways is the most important meal as it’s the last impression for guests. We offer cooked-to-order dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients. For example we serve fruit juice from a local farm.
All of the products served are the best we can source from within a 10-mile radius of the hotel. Our unique take on breakfast staples include fruit salad with fresh blueberries and pears, or kedgeree with Pinney’s [Suffolk smokehouse] smoked haddock and Puy lentils with our own poached Bantam eggs. Everything is made daily on site ensuring all dietary requirements are catered to.
Are diners interested in where the food comes from?
The local provenance of the food Strattons offers is fundamental to the hotel’s principles of caring for the environment, and it is especially important in creating a unique regional experience for the visitors.
The kitchen has a committed philosophy to use the plentiful and abundant seasonal produce on its own doorstep, such as eggs from the hotel’s hens and fruit from the orchard.
The kitchen has always sought out small, local suppliers and producers, vetted them, and invited the chefs and front-of-house team to see their product at source. We’ve noticed an increasing interest in food provenance over the last five years. There’s less interest in fine dining and more people wanting quality, well-cooked food at a reasonable price in relaxed surroundings.
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How do you balance value and your margins?
We achieve good gross profits because we have an excellent buying policy and very specific waste-reduction methods within the kitchen operation. For example, the hotel waste to landfill averages 7% while the kitchen unused product averages 0.5% of total production. This enables us to give good value to customers.
How do you train staff and motivate them to offer the best experience for guests?
We are a small, independent, family-owned business, where the directors are hands-on and have created a real team environment. We believe good customer service stems from creating a team that offers personal and genuine hospitality and has great product knowledge. One example of our training initiative is making regular visits with the employees to the local attractions, suppliers and producers to gain firs-hand experience to feedback to guests and, in turn, encourage spend within in the community.
How does this pay off?
The entire team of 25 at Strattons is committed to providing outstanding customer service and although the market has been tough in recent years, and guest expectations are higher, we have had 100% team effort to ensure the best product which led to a repeat business of 72% in 2012.
What initiatives have you planned to increase the number of diners and guests over the next year?
We have an exciting programme of events for 2014 which we publicise on our website and through e-shots to our database. We are expanding our ‘Green Passports’ loyalty initiative into the restaurant following its success in our hotel, giving diners special offers and gifts for each visit.