A historic York hotel is focusing on high-end quality as its marketing point of difference. Russell Quinn reports.
MANAGEMENT of The York Hotel say the recent recruitment of a world-renowned chef is further boosting the success of the historic venue in the Avon Valley town.
Hotel manager John Langton, who joined the team eight months ago and recently extended his contract until the end of the year, says recent growth of the business has been about “30 per cent on top of what we’d been doing”.
“I’m confident of reaching a budget that we’re working aggressively towards that would see us at about $1.3 million (in annual turnover) the following year,” he says.
Mr Langton and The York Hotel owner, John Hay, recently appointed Martin Spring to create top-end cuisine in the kitchen.
Mr Spring is an executive chef with a double cookery degree (in food and patisserie) and experience with the Hilton and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in London, Paris, the Middle East and Thailand.
Mr Langton says his new recruit was a world champion patisserie chef for two years.
The 101-year-old Federation-style hotel, with its cafe-cum-restaurant that seats about 40 (plus eight grand bedrooms and an additional 15 terrace suites which opened in February), is a rare piece of good news in York, where some business owners have expressed concern at the perceived lack of a focused marketing campaign for the town.
And while The York Hotel joins a number of other businesses for sale on the main street, with a price tag of $2.75 million (after Mr Hay spent $3 million renovating the property during the past 15 years), Mr Langton is upbeat about the hotel’s offering.
He claims the York hosts one of the ‘hottest’ Friday nights in the state, even outshining the bright lights of Perth.
“If you think York is in the middle of nowhere mate, our record thus far on a Friday night is 134 cocktails,” Mr Langton says.
“I’d like to see the numbers of bars in and around Perth that can achieve that.”
Mr Langton, who has worked in hospitality for about 30 years, says he has developed a sound understanding and respect for customers while eliminating the romanticism often associated with the industry, which can cause pain for new hospitality operators.
“It’s either in the blood or it’s not and a lot of people play at hospitality and, to be frank, they find it a pain in the arse,” he says.
“They find it to almost be subservient in nature and that’s not what it’s all about.
“A dollar is a dollar and people should be treated with respect and they should be welcomed into an environment, and if you consider that to be subservient, to bring pleasure to other people, then I don’t think you’re in the right role.”
Spending much of his life working as an expatriate for the likes of IHG, Southern Pacific Hotel Corporation and various private ventures has given Mr Langton an appreciation of how different cultures experience and understand hospitality.
He says that, when he moved to York eight months ago, some assumed he would struggle with the town’s size. But having lived a simple life for the past five years working in hospitality and cultural tourism in Fiji, Mr Langton told Gusto he felt right at home in the state’s oldest inland settlement.
“York has a population that was 100-fold on where I was living in Fiji for the last year,” he says.
“You simply have to assimilate yourself into their society, and understand there are nuances and there are particular ways of conducting yourself, a particular way of offering product and that only comes with experience.”
And he says the locals (which make up 70 per cent of clientele) have responded well to the slightly up-market offering that maintains an approachable pricing regime alongside candles and white tablecloths.
“The locals have taken a little bit of time to accustom themselves to the fact that we’re not that expensive and now we do very well out of them,” he says.
“I would like to keep the level of business I have with the locals in place and increase the Perth market up to 70 per cent.”
• The reporter received a complimentary night’s stay and
dinner at The York Hotel.