Neither COVID or a major fire stands in the way of Bath’s best boutique hotel taking the top ‘gong’ at the industry’s ‘Oscars’, The Cateys 2020. Bath’s Queensberry Hotel has yet again received industry-wide recognition as it has been announced as the Independent Hotel of the Year at the 2020 Cateys Awards.
After what can only be described as ‘a bit of a time of it’ for owners Laurence and Helen Beere, receiving one of the highest awards in the UK hospitality industry provides an added glow to the already heaving Queensberry awards cabinet.
The Cateys are masterminded by The Caterer magazine and ‘recognise the most talented individuals, biggest brands and the strongest performers in the hospitality industry.’ Due to lockdown restrictions in place in England, this year’s event took place as a live virtual ceremony and was watched by operators up and down the country.
The Caterer went ‘all out to celebrate those that are the peak of their powers despite the challenging conditions.’ In the Independent Hotel of the Year category, The Queensberry was up against the stiffest of competition with the shortlist also including the Grove of Narberth, Pembrokeshire, and Seaham Hall, Seaham, County Durham.
However, the category judges, including industry heavyweights from right across the UK, cited The Queensberry as ‘the epitome of a well-run, independent hotel where the owners are at the heart of the business’ – as they awarded it the top honours.
For the past 17 years, Laurence and Helen Beere have worked relentlessly to create the four-AA-star, 29-bedroom property, and to place it continually at the forefront of the boutique hotel market in Bath. During that time, the Beeres have battled the 2008/2009 recession, before embarking on an ambitious £1.3m investment programme in 2017.
Alongside continual financial investment, The Beeres’ focus is very much on creating a supportive environment for their dedicated 40-strong team, whose achievements are recognised and celebrated on a daily basis. Team bonding events include meals out, bowling, picnics and a summer barbecue at the Beeres’ home, while every member of staff is encouraged to stay in the hotel and dine in the restaurant with a partner or friend twice a year.
Extensive renovation work in 2019 – combined with the hotel’s Olive Tree restaurant being awarded a Michelin star in October 2018 – resulted in the business enjoying its most successful year. Occupancy during the summer months was 90%, with average room rates rising by 1% to give a revenue per available room increase of 6.3%.
Meanwhile, restaurant bookings across the year increased by 40% following the Michelin star award and during this time, the Beeres consolidated a new marketing plan, to help build the hotel’s direct bookings, achieving significant financial success as a result.
Having achieved such a strong performance during 2019, the expectation was that 2020 was to be even better. But, of course, when the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases exploded, all that changed, as it did for all others across the industry.
However, The Queensberry was to suffer an even deeper setback. Just four and a half hours after the Beeres closed the door, for the first time in 17 years, for the national lockdown, a fire caused by an incorrectly wired extractor fan, broke out in the hotel’s kitchen.
Determined as ever, the Beeres pushed on through an additional £1/2 million repair programme and reopening. Even the diagnosis of Covid-19 for both Laurence and Helen and their daughter Alice at the end of September failed to distract them from their plans. Thankfully, with everyone fully recovered, the hotel is doing well again – and ready to push through December and into a positive 2021.
Cateys category judge, David Morgan-Hewitt, Managing Director of The Goring in London, said, “Year after year The Queensberry has continued to blossom with new offerings, new decorations and new awards. The Beeres have grown this business organically and they have ploughed everything they have and everything they are into it and the result is an amazing and successful small business in the middle of a very crowded hospitality market in Bath. The Queensberry is a shining example of the very best of hospitality in our country.”
Founder Laurence Beere said, “My wife Helen and I believe that this is a good business and that is why we have kept fighting, despite everything that has been thrown at us in the past few years, and certainly this year. We stand with all of our eminent hospitality colleagues in being committed to making the most of the unexpected lessons that 2020 has ‘gifted’ us. Our industry has been through the deepest of challenges, and I will be forever grateful to our totally dedicated Queensberry and Olive Tree team players who are rising with us to meet these challenges as we all set forth into the future.
Laurence continued, “We are delighted beyond belief, and at the same time, remarkably humbled, to have received this industry recognition, especially in 2020. And we are grateful to The Caterer, and their team, for their critical ongoing news and insight for all in our sector and to the team behind The Cateys for their dedication to this year’s awards. This has most certainly been ‘a year like no other’ for all of us and we’re excited to roll out our 2021 plans.”
For more information about the Queensbury Hotel, visit www.thequeensberry.co.uk.