Rooms for Growth

David Hancock, founder of Inn places, gives his advice for pubs with rooms

The key to the survival of Britain’s rural pub is the provision of good food – and, increasingly, the added appeal of a few cosy bedrooms. Pubs are now seen as places to eat, drink and sleep, with an ever-growing number now very much in tune with today’s leisure aspirations and lifestyle, and customer expectations.

Britain’s top pubs with rooms now offer an increasingly discerning public a stylish alternative to a faceless, budget travel inn, a faded town-centre hotel, or a large, impersonal and often expensive country-house hotel.

Gone are the days of cheaply furnished rooms with their accompanying smell of stale tobacco, food and beer, while basic shared bathrooms await at the end of dimly let corridors – rural pubs are rapidly becoming our new breed of country hotels and restaurants. Classy furnishings and fabrics, contemporary bathrooms and cossetting, eye-for-detail extras – once the preserve of five-star hotels – are now the norm in many of our country pubs and inns.

Today, you’ll find soothing heritage colours, Smart TVs, digital radios /I-pod docks, fresh coffee, home-made biscuits, goose down duvets and pillows and Egyptian cotton sheets on big beds, and spotless bathrooms kitted out with claw-foot baths, storm showers, fluffy bathrobes, under-floor heating and top toiletries. Add an informal atmosphere, good food, real ales, fine wines and footpaths from the front door and you have the perfect recipe for a great weekend away.

Benefits of Rooms
Adding rooms changes the dynamics of the pub, it becomes a 24-hour operation, with the added pressures of extra staff to service rooms, cook and serve breakfast, for example. However, once up-and-running, profit from rooms can exceed 80%, plus the customer spend increases, as they only have to walk upstairs to sleep having wined and dined well.

Pubs with Rooms – what we look for…
First impressions, beyond the smiley welcome from friendly, informative staff, are important, notably clean stair carpets and warm and inviting access corridors to the bedrooms. If arriving after dark, especially after a long journey, I wish to enter a warm room, with curtains drawn, lamps switched on, and digital radios switched on to Classic FM – always soothing and a nice touch.

High on the room ‘essentials’ list is a quality bed topped with the best linen and down to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep, and a great shower with a generous supply of top toiletries. Cossetting extras that make me smile are two easy chairs (if there’s room), decent tea, fresh coffee and homemade biscuits, a clock, a good information pack (food times/sample menus/local information); up-to-date magazines, plenty of plug sockets, plus bathrobes and a shaving mirror in the bathroom.

Finally, however good the food is at dinner, the guests last memory of their stay is breakfast, so make it equally special by offering an imaginative buffet choice and an interesting selection of cooked dishes. Ban the cereal boxes, cheap sliced bread and packet butter and jams, and bring out the warm croissants and pastries, home or locally made preserves and the big bowls of compote and fruit salad.