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EXCLUSIVE: Hampton Manor pivots business model to reflect shift to more experiential travel

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Hampton Manor in Solihull is embarking on a new path as its owners James and Fjona Hill seek to evolve the business in a post-lockdown world.

The restaurant with rooms has reopened exclusively with The Great British Staycation package, shifting from a seven-days-a-week operation to offering two night stays, twice a week, all inclusive of food, drink and activities.

The two-night stay comprises bed and breakfast, dinner both nights, including at Michelin-starred restaurant Peel’s, with complimentary wine tasting and optional add-on activities. Check in is either on a Tuesday (check out Thursday) or a Friday (check out Sunday).

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Speaking to BH, James Hill says: “For us, we thought this is a huge opportunity to experiment that you’re never going to have again, to completely reinvent what you do. Most people in business are on the treadmill and getting off it is almost impossible, so to have the ability to say, we can do whatever we want, was amazing.”

His wife Fjona adds: “We wanted to help people experience the whole of the Manor in two nights. Interestingly it’s really resonated with people.”

The new concept has been designed to reflect the shift towards more experiential travel, and encapsulates the beating heart of the business, with an ethos rooted in new experiences, deeper connections and a love of nature.

James says: “Our team will have shrunk for sure understandably. We were a seven-days-a-week operation before and we were doing higher volumes, whereas this is higher value slightly lower volume.”

“When we first started we were just trying to work out how you survive,” adds Fjona, “and now ten years in we are really in a stable place now.”

Since Hampton Manor launched in 2010, expansion has seen the launch of a NyeTimber Summer House, a new Smoke restaurant set in the walled garden and the opening of a four-bedroomed cottage on the estate in 2018.

More bedrooms and another restaurant are currently under construction, and delayed by Covid-19, are pencilled in to open in 2022.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty,” explains James, “but we are in a position that I think if we break even by the end of April and we’ve lost nothing, we are comfortable enough to see this year and wave goodbye to it. It’s been a relatively expensive R&D experiment but one that could change our lives forever.”

Hampton Manor opened in 2010 after James and his father transformed a dilapidated former care home into a thriving 15-bedroom restaurant with rooms that has built up a solid reputation ever since.

In 2016, the hotel’s Peel’s restaurant won a Michelin star.

The family thread runs right through the heart of the business; James’ wife Fjona is creative director and his three sisters and their husbands all form a board.

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Zoe Monk

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