Bell at Skenfrith

Origins

The business was started in 2001 and foot and mouth struck the week it opened. This meant a lack of tourists coming to the area (there was an official "ban" on movement in the countryside). This presented a challenge to cash-flow, but did mean that the business had to put in place robust management accounts, to keep a check on outgoings. The owners were determined not to change the strategy of offering top quality produce and experience just to get over a short term blip. Overheads were cut (keeping salaries to a minimum) and a very close eye kept on all direct costs.

Success Factor

Staff training has been crucial to maintain standards. In the hospitality business, a business is only as good as your last meal/ stay. The Bell uses a combination of outside training, NVQ and manufacturer in-house training as well as ad hoc internal training, utilising existing skill bases and resources. Setting a vision and sticking to it has been crucial to the business and it has set out to aim for the top end market, and have not diverted into what could be easier short term money, that would compromising future direction and growth. Finally, growing at a pace that the business can cope with, including cash flow but also staffing – for example, perhaps the business could do another 10 covers on a particular dinner, but can the kitchen and front of house staff cope? The philosophy is not to try and confuse short termism for sound commerce.

The Future

The business is getting close to the maximum turnover generated from the current set up. It can sell all its rooms at weekends four times over as there is a lack of quality accommodation within the locality. The owners are looking to expand accommodation, done to the same standard as The Bell and the aim would be to have B&B suites or self catering suites. They are also investigating expanding the Bell brand in a retail/ wholesale environment, aiming at its strengths, and target areas such as wine, local produce/ delicatessen. There is a potential site in mind but plans or budgets have yet to be finalised.