Who else watched Amazing Hotels last night? It featured The Torridon, a five-red-AA-star, 18 bedroom country house hotel in the Highlands. Dan Rose-Bristow owns the hotel with his wife Rohaise.
He spoke to The Caterer about being on the programme, reviewing operations during lockdown and reopening.
Congratulations on being selected to feature on Amazing Hotels – are you excited to watch the show?
We've been keeping it secret and of course were excited about what was happening, and then it was a little bit overtaken by world events. We're just very thankful that we're open and able to utilise the opportunity hopefully and take bookings forward.
Have you seen a spike in bookings already?
We saw a spike in bookings when we were allowed to open. Nicola [Sturgeon] decided to let restaurants and hotels open on 15 July and we saw a lot of bookings come in from pent up demand, people wanting to get away. Amazing Hotels is on the One Show tonight and we're on Amazing Hotels tomorrow night, so we're very much expecting a spike in bookings tonight or tomorrow night.
What was it like welcoming the television cameras to the property?
There was a bit of scepticism to start with because you worry about what they're going to see and show, but very quickly the whole team put us at ease about what they were doing here and how it was going to work. They were here to look at the best bits of Torridon and show the personalities that work within our business, and when that became obvious it became a really enjoyable experience. It was very unobtrusive, sometimes you didn't even know they were in the house, so it was quite relaxed.
How has reopening been?
It's been exciting after a tough three or four months, like for every other hospitality business. When you run an independent, family business that's been around for 30 years, you're always a bit fearful whether it's going to make it out the end, but then you realise there's help around and people willing you to succeed.
By the time we closed on 20 March, another three weeks and we would have had 55 staff here for the season. We had to quickly cancel 10-15 new arrivals, make redundant 10 people who couldn't be furloughed because of the 1 March issue, and the rest were furloughed.
We had about 20 of the team onsite who lived here most of the time, because this is their home and they didn't have anywhere else to go or couldn't get home. Even of those who were made redundant, some of them stayed for two months free of charge. We were hospitable to them and in return the guys cut the grass and weeded the garden.
In the meantime, my wife and I spent most of our time trying to arrange financial support and grants and work out what things would look like at the end. Covid has given us an opportunity to review the operation and start again.
We've changed our model, we had the luxury hotel and the Torridon Inn and we've now put the two together as one full resort. We wouldn't have done that if we hadn't had this situation, so that's a positive for us, which then led us to rebranding.
What Covid measures have you put in place?
We do have reduced capacity in our restaurants and polite signage in places and sanitising stations. The team are either wearing visors or masks.
We're attempting to deliver the same experience because people are spending their money to come on holiday and we want them to have a hospitable experience.
What are your plans to ensure the future of the business?
Continue what we're doing – we've put everything in place in terms of how we manage social distancing and hygiene and restrictions on the way we operate.
We've rebranded, we've done refurbishments on our restaurants, we're in a good position, the product's in a good place – we just need to deliver on that promise of good service and make sure the people who come here have a good time.
I think with holidays, staycations, wellness, the great outdoors, all things people are looking for now, and to be fair were before but more so now, I think we're in a good location and in a good place as a product to capitalise on that and to make sure that we can offer what they're looking for.
Road trip anyone?!