40 Nigel Way

conduct ourselves in a manner that we are seen, individually and as a business, as valued members of the community and proud always to be associated with the product. I firmly believe that St Austell will continue to run the business in that way. I feel that we are handing the

baton on – after 37 years, we have been in charge for nearly a tenth of the hotel’s 400 year’s history. I hope that the new owners will build on our custodianship and invest and develop the hotel with a similarly long-term view. There’s nothing worse than stepping into a hotel that has grown old and fusty and lacking in investment, often run by owners who have similarly grown old and lack the interest or energy to keep the business lively and relevant and playing a role in the community. I didn’t want the hotel or myself to get like that. I am hopeful that it will carry on in pretty much the way it is. It’s really important – these institutions play a vital role in the community which often people don’t recognise. After nearly 40 years and in our

60s, now was a natural time to sell - albeit we are not retiring full time just yet - as we still have two other hotels to run. If I am honest, from a business perspective, I now love West Somerset more than I love South Devon. With two hotels only, it is much easier to run a business in Somerset. Business rates are markedly lower – the Royal Castle bill is over £300k – and it’s much easier to find, recruit and retain staff. It offers a more laid-back lifestyle. Whilst I don’t want to hang my boots up just yet, I do feel as if a huge weight has been lifted from my

shoulders – I am back to loving life. The weight is caused by owning a business of this size in a market like Dartmouth or Totnes; it is not

easy. Running a hospitality busi- ness can be fun as it’s like running a show where you have to give a performance. But it’s a show that has to happen every day, we have to perform to our best as much as we can to give all our customers the experience they deserve and expect. It can be a bit lonely as the buck

always has to stop with you – that can be exhausting. It’s also harder and harder to perform in Dart- mouth – staff recruitment is tough- er and the fundamental costs of running a hotel are as high as they have ever been. The market has changed. It’s very competitive not just from the likes of Premier Inns and the cheaper hotel brands but we are now competing with AirBnB and the trend towards self-catering. Running a traditional quality hotel takes investment and stamina to stay relevant and competitive. That said, it’s would be too glib

to say that we are not in it for the money – obviously, the business has to be economically viable but it has to be more than that. Nothing has given me more pleasure than to watch my staff grow as the business has developed, delivering hospitality professionally and to the highest standards. I have enjoyed being a hote-

“That sense of personality and

welcome is critical to a town like Dartmouth – I fear sometimes that we are in danger of losing that and becoming just like every other town.”

lier; I have worked hard, leading from the front and instilling that same enthusiasm and effort in the team around me. The new own- ers have been kind enough to acknowledge that there will be a ‘Nigel Way’ space that will need filling. I am confident it won’t take long for my team to step in and fill that space. I am proud to walk

around town and see others being successful who have started their careers here. Many of my team have been with us for many years,

some since they left school. They have left to start families or devel- op their careers elsewhere but have returned to work with us again. It’s very flattering to have been such a part of people’s lives. We have a strong backbone of staff who know how to run this hotel and will provide the continuity under new ownership.

Running these hotels requires

the owners/managers to lend them a bit of personality. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bit quirky so long as you are pleasant and welcoming to all your guests. Inevitably things go wrong and often with the more difficult customers. But if you have met and been nice to that guest, you can always find a solution that leaves everyone happy. It’s those skills that make all the difference – I work hard to instil and motivate that same sense of hospitality and personality within my teams so that the same experience is enjoyed by all our customers. None of my gen- eral managers could be described as corporate – they are taught to be out there, not to hide away but take it on the chin. I tell my receptionists – you have to be the acceptable face of each hotel. When a guest walks in, I want them to be seen be- hind the desk greeting each guest with a smile. That guest may have had an awful journey to get here - they deserve a warm welcome It’s these little things that make a

difference. That sense of personali- ty and welcome is critical to a town like Dartmouth – I fear sometimes that we are in danger of losing that and becoming just like every other town. I have had some memorable mo-

ments over the years - the millenni- um in 2000 was amazing. Pete Goss parading down the river that same year with his new and huge radical catamaran when thousands came out to watch was quite special. Working with Bob and Di Lyons (af- ter putting on a music ensemble on a pontoon in the Boat float) to lay the foundations for the Dartmouth music festival.

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