Exclusive Hotels is working on two new restaurant schemes to launch when the lockdown in England allows.
The hotels and venues group, headed up by managing director Danny Pecorelli, is to introduce Hillfield, a new eatery at Pennyhill Park showcasing the best local Surrey produce, and The Well House at Lainston House, a new restaurant in the cookery school at the Winchester hotel.
Hillfield will be a transformation of the current Pennyhill Park Brasserie and will feature a menu packed with modern dishes with a twist of nostalgia, ready to open in time for Easter.
The cookery school at Lainston House is being adapted to make way for The Well House, which will focus on wood-fired dishes, BBQs and smoked meats. Seating will also be introduced in the hotel’s kitchen garden to immerse guests in the complete dining experience.
The new addition will be Lainston House’s second restaurant, running alongside The Avenue.
Speaking to BH, MD Danny Pecorelli says: “We’ll also be running more outside cooking classes, such as teaching people how to cook on the fire pit, and will be organising around 30 courses next summer on wood fired cooking, BBQ techniques as well as using the fire pit. One thing we have learnt during this is that when people can be outside, they want to be outside.”
The group is also focusing a number of other initiatives during this lockdown period, with its four hotels, two country house venues, and village pub currently closed, as well as reassuring staff and making sure they are looked after as a priority.
“We are still upgrading – but projects tend to be smaller; we are trying to be more innovative. We have installed four tubs around the group on the patios of some of the rooms, so adding features to keep that luxury feel.”
In addition, the group is running an online community called Flock to stay connected with its MICE customers and key business leaders through a series of virtual events, including online panel sessions and charity cycles.
Pecorelli explained that all hotels and venues will remain closed throughout January and February and after a successful three-month summer – from July to September last year – the group ‘did well enough’ to cover this closure period.
“We gave everyone full pay for December,” adds Pecorelli, “It was the human thing to do. We had operated for three months at full capacity. Across the group we made a very small loss in December, with the lockdown coming in on the 19th, no weddings, no Christmas parties etc.”
Despite the stop / start nature of the lockdown, having multiple sites in different locations impacted by varying tier restrictions, meant that Exclusive Hotels’ could redistribute food and minimise any waste.
“At one point I was getting tens of thousands of food and driving it around from one hotel to another,” Pecorelli says.
While the enforced closures continue, Exclusive Hotels is seeing some success with the sale of gift vouchers and wedding bookings, with virtual showrounds proving popular.
When asked about reopening, Pecorelli stressed that hospitality must be given sufficient notice to allow businesses to get back on track – “I’m sure the government has destroyed more businesses with short notice.”