Friday, 6 June 2014

The Old Dame

Over the years a hotel gets a lot of use. Thousands of people walk in and out of our doors having either stayed with us for a period of time or simply popped in for a drink, perhaps a bite to eat or even stayed for a day and celebrated a wedding. 

As you might expect, with a lot of use comes a lot of repairs and maintenance and keeping up with this can be a constant battle. You have to make sure any disturbances for guests seeking a relaxing break are kept to a minimum. You need to close off corridors and a number of rooms when it's quiet so that during the busy times you can have every room available if possible to generate the revenue needed to pay for the improvements.  You need a vision for the hotel. You must know what you are trying to achieve in terms of design and also take into account that the rooms need to be guest friendly whilst also easy to maintain.

The Burlington Hotel in Folkestone is a Victorian - Edwardian building, built in the late 1800's using wonderful red brick and large stained glass windows. It has a grand staircase and winding corridors, there is plenty of character in each and every corner and history, something that we believe must be maintained in a time where the mod cons can sometimes takes over and the history gets lost.

The hotel is undergoing refurbishment at the moment, as the last time it had a major overhaul was back in the late 1990s. The old reception is long gone, and replacing it are fresh white ceilings, a tiled floor, bright walls with golden curtains and seating areas with black Chesterfield sofas sitting on modern rugs.

The Martello Bar is undergoing a similar fate with new comfy furniture and quality modern tables and a new sound system.

We have various rooms off for refurbishment too. All of our bedrooms have recently benefited from new top quality LG LED HD TVs (apparently the more acronyms the better the tele) which range between 32” to 39”.  Three of our rooms on the first floor have only recently been returned to the hotel following a complete refurbishment and have been transformed into deluxe, modern four poster double super king sea view rooms with brand new tiled bathrooms fitted with experience showers to refresh and relax you. We also have standard rooms going through a complete overhaul. 

The Corridors are also getting a spruce-up. Often the receivers of abuse from suit cases and spillages they are being giving some much needed TLC in the form of clean, fresh colours with complimentary stretched canvas artwork adding warmth and bringing that ‘home away from home’ feeling to them.

In October, the Premier Suite, our main function room which is popular with weddings here in Folkestone, will be closed for two weeks for a makeover with renovated wooden flooring (which gets a lot of use and wear and tear from all those dance moves and high heeled shoes) a new modern look, new brushed nickel chandeliers.

There is a lot to do over the next 18 months and the finished product will be worth the hard work and shall give this grand old dame a new feel, by mixing the new with old, keeping the history and bringing it sympathetically up to date.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Wedding Saving Tips

You are engaged! Congratulations, what great news! Now all the planning can begin.
Think of all the fun you will have finding that dream wedding venue, booking the Church or the Civil Ceremony, buying all the wedding magazines you can lay your hands on that will help inspire your big day. Imagine all those wonderful looking wedding invitations, the beautiful flowers, the fabulous dress and the perfect shoes to match.
However, have you thought of the cost for all this...Do you have the budget for your dream wedding?
Planning the dream wedding can spiral out of control and before you know it you have a wedding that could set you back over £25,000. Therefore it is so important that you sit down and work out what you can afford. If you are lucky enough to have family offering to help with the cost of the day, it is important that you know how much they are looking at giving you.
If you are not so lucky and haven't saved or don't have family that are in a position to help you pay for the wedding, have you considered getting a loan? I think everyone would agree that if you can avoid borrowing you should. A huge amount of marital problems and break ups are over financial hardship. Do you really want to start married life owing thousands to the bank that could take you up to 10 years to pay back, all for one day?
Unlike property or a financial investment, your special day will only give you a return of memories (all be it fabulous ones!). Weddings are expensive so if you do need to take out a loan to cover your costs, you might want to make sure that you won’t still be paying it off in 5 years’ time. Ultimately, wherever your cash is coming from to pay for the day, work out your budget before you do anything else and whatever you do, stick to it!
Write a “must have” list. A list of all the things that you definitely need to spend money on, for instance the church, the venue, the rings, insurance, the registry fees, (remember the venue can take around a third or even up to half of your budget). Write another list, alongside the “must haves” of additional things you want that are important to you both. You may both have your hearts set on a string quartet or feel you must have an oversized chocolate fountain and a professional wedding photographer followed by a two week African Safari Honeymoon.
Just because it’s the “in” thing, doesn’t mean there aren’t better options out there for you. Some years ago, it was fashionable to get married in a marquee on a field, nowadays converted barns are all the rage. These options often come with venue hire fees followed by higher costs from a separate outside caterer and other hidden extras that you and your guests might not be expecting. A barn which may be miles away from a town with hotels could mean that all of your guests have to pay for an expensive taxi journey to and from the venue on top of the cost of their hotel which can put some people off given the current economic climate.
Why not consider holding your wedding in a fully serviced hotel instead? Many hotels will waver the venue hire fee if you’re spending with them for food and drink already and add value by offering your guests a discounted rate to stay which also means that they could stay up celebrating with you until the early hours (if you haven’t collapsed exhausted in your honeymoon room already by then)!
Hotels are a great way to still have that luxury experience for your wedding day, dealing with one person to organise your venue, food, drink, service, accommodation and all without breaking the bank. You can even cut out the cost of the church and get married in the hotel holding your entire day under the same roof!
Following some of these tips will help you see how far your budget will stretch, it also shows you where you may need to make compromises. Perhaps that live band could be a disco instead? Alter your wedding to match your budget, don't increase your spending amount. 

We’ve also seen a great suggestion to help you increase your wedding budget by cutting out something you buy every day that you could do without. An example if you cut out spending £2 each day at the work vending machine on a soft drink and snack you could potentially save £520 over the year.
Now you know what you want and what you can afford, the fun can begin! Time to get to some venues and some wedding fayres!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Big Bad Bug

Ahhh bed bugs, horrible aren't they...makes me itchy just thinking about them, and yet they are about and having them is not a reflection on cleanliness or how well sanitised your home is, once they are in, they’re in!
You may have heard in the press a few months ago about a case surrounding two ladies who stayed at a hotel in London and suffered with mass beg bug bites during the night, meaning they had to go to hospital due to the swelling and itching caused from the bites. A horrible experience, and it turns out they weren't alone. The hotel in question has had several such cases with previous customers. Something that would put you off going back until they can confirm the infestation has been dealt with and they are clear of the problem.

The issue with such an infestation is that it's very difficult to get rid of them. You may be exposed to them elsewhere and bring them home with you, to your own beds, and they breed at such an extraordinary rate you will soon experience the unpleasant problems in your own home.
They are a notoriously complex problem to deal with and experience is essential to get rid of them in a safe, efficient and rapid way.  Everywhere in the world is experiencing an increase in bed bug infestation currently, so should you have come across such an issue, chances are you won’t be the only one.

You will find that places with a high turnover of visitors tend to be the most affected like hotels, motels, B&B's, Hostels, dormitories and prisons to name a few.  According to research, bed bugs tend to be picked up mainly through travelling.  Large infestations are found on aircraft, ships, trains, buses and offices and they normally travel with you on your clothing, cases etc. Travelling with you to your next destination. 

A common misconception is that bedbugs are a result of unclean surroundings like a guest room that hasn’t been serviced properly but you’ll find cases in hotels everywhere, from 1 to 5 stars and even those with the highest scores for their cleanliness.  They thrive on movement and activity, so in a busy hotel that regularly has guests checking in and out it’s very likely that they will eventually be subjected to this sort of infestation.
We had a case at our sister hotel in Canterbury some time ago. 

The BEST WESTERN Abbots Barton Hotel has always had very high scores for cleanliness and our housekeeping manager there is a very competent lady that has been with us for many years now.  She treats the place with a lot of pride as if it were her home.  When she found out about the bugs she was devastated and almost in tears thinking that she had failed on cleanliness in some way.  Whilst it had nothing to do with her or her team, I think that the reaction was testament to just how seriously she takes her role.  Luckily the hotel caught it pretty early on and called in their pest control company who used a pesticide bomb in the infected guest room, closing it off for days to ensure that nobody went in.  Without movement the bugs couldn’t spread or live so they were soon in the clear again, albeit at the expense of having the room out of order for a number of nights at a very busy hotel. 

Rentokil reported the number of bedbug call outs had gone up by 24% in December last year. There is even a sniffer dog that has been trained to find the critters and hotels in Britain have been using him!

So what are the tell-tale signs? Look out for blood spots/smears on bed sheets and in the seams of furniture and upholstery.  How do you avoid them? Don't allow clutter to build up where you sleep and don't take in second hand beds or mattresses.  Wash bedding in a hot wash, bedbugs can't survive these.

What if I have them? Call a pest control service straight away!  Don't fear though, they may well bite, you might suffer with itching but they cannot pass disease.

Night night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite....

Monday, 31 October 2011

Hotels that go bump in the night!

It's Halloween!!! So....what ghost stories have we got for you?!  

Well we know we have a ghost at our hotel, we haven't tried very hard to discover very much about him but he is definitely there.  He walks the stair case from the cellar to the first floor and appears late in the evening.  Often when the night porter is on his rounds.  
Now being such a large old building, it should be of no surprise that we have a ghost.  Many staff members have different stories about their encounters with him.  He doesn't cause trouble, he simply paces up and down the stair case and corridors, occasionally appearing at reception.  

Some guests that have held an event in the room next door to the staircase in question have come in to show us their photos. They have all been believers and shown much excitement about so called Orbs being present in their pictures. (This doesn't happen to everyone, just some I hasten to add.)  

So what do we make of all this??  Well we think the ghost might have been a long serving member of staff many years ago.  He seems very careful not to disturb the guests, only the staff on duty.  In fact no guests have ever reported a paranormal experience, just the house keepers and night porters.  

Our Duty Manager Kumar had his first encounter about 8 years ago....  

It was a winters evening, wind and rain pelted Folkestone's sea front. Kumar was three hours into his shift.  At around 1.30am having done his rounds of the building he got himself a hot drink from the kitchen and made his way back to reception. Sitting on the sofa in the bay window he took a moment to rest and enjoy his drink when he felt someone sit next to him. Opening his eyes there was nobody there, however someone (or should I say something) started blowing in his ear.  There was no draft from the windows and there was no breeze hitting any other part of his body, just his ear.  Jumping up and switching on all the lights Kumar moved back behind the desk and remained there for the rest of the evening listening to the creaking of the floor boards and with the distinct impression that he wasn't alone.

Even now, the night porters tell us of similar experiences and the sound of someone pacing the corridors, and once even a shadow of an object in the shape of a man was caught on camera walking up and down the stairs. 

A housekeeper who used to work for us also experienced some strange goings on.  She was a live in member of staff and it happened that her room was below the suite in the hotel. On one particular night she was woken from the loud noises coming from above, the sounds of furniture being dragged around, doors being slammed and heavy footsteps stomping across the floor.  She rang reception to find out if the guests in the room above were ok, but it was reported back the suit was empty away.  The noises got louder and so they decided to investigate, however when they opened the door, the noises stopped and there was no sign of the room being disturbed.....  

What we don't know is if the two disturbances could all be tied in by one paranormal entity, if we have a couple that are harmless but occasionally like to remind us they are there or if indeed there are some perfectly reasonable explanations.

Of course being Halloween....We are expecting a sighting or two over the next few days....Wish the night porter luck!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

War of the Rosettes

Now its no surprise that everyone, when given the chance loves to go out to dinner, whether it be to your local Indian restaurant or to a top rated restaurant like the Fat Duck owned by Hesten Blumenthal.  It does of course depend on what kind of occasion, how much you can afford and what you like to eat when you do venture out.

If you like to splash out occasionally, restaurants with rosettes tend to be the ones people head towards, but do you really understand how they work, how they are awarded and how much work the restaurants have to put in to gain them?

The rosette system has been established for a long time and recognises successful cooking at different levels across the UK. When an inspector visits the hotel or restaurant it is their chance to get a snap shot whereby the entire meal, including ancillary items (when served) is assessed.  Around 10% of restaurants nationwide are of a standard worthy of one rosette and above.  This is indeed a massive achievement, and something not to be underestimated.
Restaurants with one or two rosettes gain these through achieving standards that stand out in their local area.  Good quality ingredients are selected, food is prepared with care, understanding and great precision should be apparent in the cooking process.

Restaurants with three and four rosettes are gained when all of the above is finely tuned, seasoning and the judgement of flavour combinations will be consistently excellent.  They also combine appreciation of culinary traditions with a passionate desire to explore and improve. These virtues are then supported by intuitive service and a well chosen wine list.

A five star rating is extremely rare, and is the pinnacle, where cooking compares with the best in the world. These restaurants have set standards which others aspire to, yet very few achieve.

So now you understand how they work, all that's left is to try a few when the occasion arises! If though you aren't too worried about the awards, there are still so many restaurants out there waiting to be discovered. A lot of them can be found hidden in hotels and down side streets. Don't ever be afraid to book a table and give them a go. You will be surprised and what you find!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

'Tis the season to be jolly....

So we all know Christmas happens in December and tradition shows some homes and businesses put their decorations up on the 1st, and others two weeks before the big day. Any talk of Christmas before this point seems to get a touchy response.

Most people you mention the “C” word to before December will give you a role of the eyes followed by some kind of comment along the lines of “Oh no, not yet, please, it's far to early!” as if Christmas coming is a bad thing.

Now I'm quite an excitable person and the one thing that can never come round too soon is Christmas. It's a great time of year, catching up with family, friends, eating loads of tasty food, drinking lots of good drinks and watching people unwrap gifts. I love that bit the best, in fact we have competitions to see who's wrapped gifts look the best at our house!

So why the negative response when talking about it in August? More than likely it's because everyone dreads the last minute rush to do everything, and knows it would be ideal to get it done sooner, but time is short and people are busy. This however is exactly why planing in advance for the season is key. You need to know how much you have to spend on gifts, food and nights out, on staff parties and other festive activities. This helps spread the cost out over a few months instead of having all that expense coming out of one pay packet. You can bet your life however that if you're starting to think about it in October/November, us businesses have been thinking about it a whole lot longer. This is so we have everything ready for you when the time comes for the usual rush.

Businesses have to plan in advance, we have no choice. Supermarkets have to get their orders in for decorations, festive foods, etc. Printers have to print cards, wrapping paper, etc to ensure it's ready to be sent out to all who need it.

Hotels are much the same, we have prices and entertainment organised and booked by March. We have the head chefs working on Christmas menus in the Spring, and we have the information approved and sent to the printers as early as May/June! I will start talking about it at networking events in August and September....The websites will have the information on around the same time.

Why you ask? Well it's simple, if we don't start to get you thinking about it, when you eventually do come to think about booking your Christmas party in early November, the key dates will already be taken. Chances are your first choice of Friday or Saturday nights will be full. Big firms book their parties a year in advance, to ensure they get the date they want and sometimes by doing this they get a better deal, and you can be sure, they will get the key dates if they can.

Christmas is coming, we may have Halloween and Guy Fawkes in between, but the farmers are already feeding up those Turkeys and Geese. The Brussel Sprouts are starting to come into season and the Christmas trees are being watered and pruned to ensure they look great, and are ready for you to take home and decorate.

You can't ignore it so....if you go away for Christmas be it for a four day break, or just for the traditional Christmas lunch, book it sooner rather than later to avoid disappointment. If you are in charge of organising the staff party, get onto it in the next few weeks, and start looking for your venue. Whether it's us or some where else, don't leave it too late, get it booked and enjoy the Christmas period for a change. :)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Girls just wanna have fun....

It is important to us as a hotel that we support a charity every year, and so this year we are supporting Marie Curie Cancer Care.

The charity started back in 1948, the same year the NHS was launched.  Not long before the Hempstead based Marie Curie Hospital was transferred to the NHS, a group of committee members from the hospital decided to preserve the name of Marie Curie in the charitable medical field.  This was the beginning of the Marie Curie Memorial Foundation, a charity dedicated to alleviating suffering from Cancer, today known as Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Following the donation of an engagement ring to help raise funds, the first appeal was launched and brought in £4000.  By 1950 the ongoing appeal had raised a staggering £30,000 and two years later the Marie Curie Memorial Foundation officially became a charity – number 207994

The charity dedicates itself to providing more and better care for its patients and their families through the Marie Curie Nurses and its nine hospices.  It is committed to carrying out the research and innovation required to find out what the best care is and the best way to provide it.  They ensure measures are taken to give people the choice of place for their end of life care through the Marie Curie Delivering Choice Programme.  The Charity is also determined that the needs of the dying remain on the political agenda and will continue to campaign for patients to be able to die in their own home in all four countries of the UK.

A lot has changed since 1948 but their core values have remained constant, putting patients and families first.  You might be lucky and never need their services, but you might know someone who did or will.

We decided we wanted to put on an event to help raise some awareness of what they do and to hopefully raise some money for this great cause.  So....I would like to introduce the Burlington Girls Night.  A fun packed evening with Cosmopolitan cocktails, nibbles, prizes to win and lots to buy including clothes, jewellery, make-up, skin care, handbags, shoes and much more!  All in aid of Marie Curie.

We want you to have fun! Men aren't all fans of clothes shopping with the wives, girlfriends and daughters, so we thought we would arrange the perfect evening for you to enjoy shopping and leave the men at home!

We have met through various channels all those having a stand on the evening. They are people you won't find on the high street. They are independent, one off suppliers and stockists. They take pride in what they offer, and the experiences they want you to have. We all love a bargain, we all love to feel like we have our own personal shopper and this is certainly one place where you will get to have it all!

If you want to get out the house for a couple of hours, shop with your friends and have yourself styled then this is going to be right up your street.  The added bonus is you get to have loads of fun and help Marie Curie Cancer Care at the same time! IT'S FABULOUS!

When? Thursday 29th September 2011
Where? The Burlington Hotel, Earls Avenue, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 2HR
What Time? 7.30pm – 9.30pm

We hope you can make it!