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. :)