In 1994, Edward and Sarah Bence arrived as new owners of Brixham’s respected Berry Head Hotel. Since then, with their family, they have transformed it into a much-loved jewel at the heart of the community. The historic and striking hotel building has truly spectacular sea views, which must be among the most beautiful in the world, something that the locals are immensely proud of. There have been some famous visitors to the hotel over the years, including John Cleese, David Essex, Richard Wilson (from One Foot in the Grave), Princess Anne, a number of politicians and Prince Charles who once hosted a four-day conference there.
The Berry Head is our flagship hotel, and we also own the Hannafore Point Hotel in Looe, Cornwall. The Berry Head Hotel is situated at the water’s edge in six acres of its own grounds, on the edge of Berry Head National Park. It is a 3-star hotel, with a restaurant, brasserie and function facilities catering for a broad range of customers. Since taking over, we have built a swimming pool, a function room and added the top floor. Profits were all reinvested into the hotel, which has gradually become the hugely popular venue it is now, not only for visitors but also very much for locals.
We owe the success of our two hotels primarily down to their locations, both of which were chosen very carefully and purposely outside of traditional resorts. We do like to be seen as integral to the local community and the port of call for local people and organisations. Both hotels are in fishing towns, and Brixham is actually the largest port in England for fish landings.
As such, we work very closely with the local community, both in terms of clubs and associations and other businesses in the area. We use local companies for all our requirements wherever possible, for most food products and of course focus on fresh local fish direct from local boats.
Another aspect of our approach is that we always try to be as innovative as possible. The hospitality industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world today. With this growth has come many corporate and branded operators, and has subsequently allowed us the opportunity to distinguish ourselves by providing a more personal touch than our competitors as a family run independent.
In this fast paced environment, you have to be constantly moving and tweaking services in order to meet ever changing market expectations. You need to be constantly coming up with new ideas and packaging things in different ways to appeal to an ever widening market, particularly in terms of food and beverages. It is vital that we do this in order to maintain success and maintain success and in this regard, everything that we do is under constantly under review. We will try and introduce new things, and if they work we will run with them. We are always trying to learn from our customer base as to what they seek whilst maintaining traditional standards of product and service, adopting a strategy of evolution as opposed to revolution.
Developing our services is also vital considering the highly diverse range of customers that come to our hotels. Our leisure visitors include young couples, families on holiday and of course older customers who particularly enjoy taking short breaks. Families will celebrate their weddings, christenings and anniversaries or just come here for a family gathering or a simple lunch or evening out. That is what defines us – our ability to give people what they want. In addition, we also welcome a number of corporate guests on business or for conferences and seminars.
Although the Berry Head Hotel has some very nice features in terms of its setting and surroundings, our number one asset is our staff. When we bought the hotel over twenty years ago, we employed eight people, whereas we now have 65 staff at the Berry Head Hotel and 45 in our Cornwall hotel. Whenever we add to our team, we look first towards local staff training them ourselves wherever possible. This is very much a people industry, so whom you employ is very important indeed. Hospitality is one of the few industries where almost every member of staff interfaces with the customer, so it is absolutely essential that they have good social skills and know how to converse with the customers. I cannot really emphasise enough how important it is to have the right staff.
Another aspect of our business is that we take tremendous pride in the fact that we are very much family-orientated. Both our son and daughter have degrees in hospitality and have returned to use after pursuing their careers with large hotel companies. They are now taking on more and more of the responsibility and will hopefully grow the business further. We may expand, but it would depend on the property, the location, and the opportunity available. More importantly, we will always maintain our ethos of a personal service and attention to details.
Company: Berry Head Hotel
Name: Edward Bence, managing director
Address: Berry Head Road, Brixham, Near Torquay, Devon, England, TQ5 9AJ
Phone: +44 (0)1803 853225