When Harry Nicholas bought the mansion house in Renfrew, that is now the Glynhill Hotel in 1967, he could hardly have imagined that today some 50 years later the hotel would still be a force to be reckoned in the hospitality business. Today the business is owned by Harry’s daughter Maroulla, who is MD, Ross and Daso. In fact, Maroulla remembers well the week that they took ownership of the mansion because she and her brothers had to help clean it, before being treated to icecream cones!
Today it has grown from a 22 roomed hotel, into Renfrew’s only fully serviced hotel complete with 147 rooms, bars, restaurants, a function suite for 350 and a leisure club. In the last two and half years alone the family have invested some £2.5m in the hotel. Maroulla explains, “We get a lot of guests from England, and while there was still uncertainty with regard to the Referendum we had held back a bit on investing, but as soon as we decided to ‘stay’ we got our cheque book out.”
As for the current uncertainty, Maroulla definitely believes it is having an impact on the business, but she feels that if they don’t keep investing in the hotel business would be restricted. She says, “You can’t stand still. We’ve improved our efficiency by sending our staff on courses, and we’ve implemented changes in our processes. In fact, we’ve saved more than £50K with the changes we have brought in.”
However, the biggest changes have been in the hotel itself. Marketing Manager Ross McLauchlan comments, “One of the first enhancements we made was to create a Champagne Terrace outside of the Barony banqueting suite. This was to enhance our wedding offering. At the same time, we also redecorated the function suite and re-upholstered the chairs. It freshened the suite up. Just lately we have put down a new bespoke zebra-style carpet and put in new partitioning.”
The reception area, bar and restaurant have also been revamped. New Amtico-like flooring has been laid throughout, supplied by Select Contract Furniture and Grand Thistle wallpaper from Timorous Beasties has been used in the reception area and in the restaurant. While the bar has a designer cream weave paper which compliments the new bar furniture which was also supplied by Select Furniture. The cool contemporary looking chairs in vivid purple, cream and striped fabric, can it together.
Says Jeff Taylor of Select Furniture, “When you work with Maroulla you know she is looking for sophistication and quality and she wants it to look aesthetically good. She is also looking for furniture which is unusual. Luckily we work with a lot of sole agencies here and abroad who are happy to make bespoke furniture. The furniture in the cocktail bar is eye-catching and unusual in that the seats are circular and fit together. She has also gone for opulent fabrics for the curtains throughout the hotel.”
He continues, “In the function suite the zebra design carpet was bespoke – Maroulla had an idea in her head and we worked together to ensure that we tweaked it until she got what she wanted. She has a habit of getting what she wants!” Although all the public areas have been refreshed it’s the bedrooms that really have accounted for much of the spend. All of the hotels standard rooms have been upgraded and 45 boutique bedrooms have been created which now have the wow factor. Everything has been replaced from the beds to the bathrooms. The hotel has also created three more bedrooms having transformed storage rooms into a threeroom apartment, which can also be sold as single rooms.
Explains Ross, ‘In the apartment, we have installed a kitchen and a small seating area. It can be hired as one three-bed apartment or we can separate the rooms and sell them individually.”
He continues, “All in all it took between six and eight months to finish the two floors of bedrooms. All that remains for us to do now is the Club Rooms. The Carvery has also been refreshed having been re-decorated. Now the Carvery hosts the hotel’s evening guests, with the hotel’s evening food operation, being amalgamated into the carvery.
Says Jeff of Select, “We put in new fitted seating in the carvery, and new voile curtains. This has made this area more intimate.”
Says Ross, “We wanted to improve the hotel experience for everyone, but our over-riding priority was creating a more attractive wedding venue and I think we have done that.”
Maroulla comments, “It’s very rewarding seeing the changes. It’s my job to drive the business forward and I try and do something fresh every day. When I arrive in the morning I drive in and look at the hotel as if I am seeing it for the first time. This means we are continuously improving our offering. But that’s not all we are also investing in our staff too. For instance, all our key managers have been through a Business Improvement Course, me too! Next, our supervisors will be going through it.”
She continues, “We have to stand on our own two feet. There is not a lot of support out there for businesses like ours, but what there is we embrace. Right now I am focussing on improving our service in the hotel. One of the business improvement coaches said that it takes 40 times to make an action a habit, I try to keep that in mind when it comes to staff many of whom have been with us for many, many years.”
It’s not just staff that stay the course at the Glynhill, suppliers do too. Her architect Robert Hirst of G D Lodge has worked with her for more than 30 years. Says Maroulla, “My father used to say If you treat your customers well and treat your staff and suppliers the same you will always have a business. Certainly, our success has been due to, in no small part, to our relationships with our suppliers.”
Says Robert Hirst, “We’ve had a long-standing relationship with the Nicholas family and of course the refurbishment of the hotel is ongoing. The scenario is that when you improve parts of the hotel the worse the other parts look, so it’s a bit like refurbishing the Forth Bridge. Maroulla can’t afford to stand still, especially as the competition improves. It means that she has to stay ahead of the game, if not ahead of it. What we do is ensure that she is offering facilities for the clients that she is trying to attract. It’s certainly challenging but it is interesting too.”
He continues, “The expectations of customers are high and they expect a standard of facility that is better than in their own homes, whether they are business customers or leisure customers. One of our ongoing challenges has been to take the dated extensions which were added shortly after the original building was acquired and make these incongruous buildings look a part of the overall development both externally and internally, and the other challenge is that it is a very linear site.
“So we have to co-ordinate the various spaces so that they lead into one another. For instance, we can add balance – the juxtaposition of the modern flooring in the reception area, which leads to a grand traditional staircase is an example. The quality of the materials reflects the quality of the hotel. Much of the credit for the internal finishes and design is due to Maroulla and my associate Alec Milne who works most closely with her. Generally, Maroulla gets what she wants, by one means or another.”
He concludes, “The next phase, which is imminent is the upgrading of the Club Rooms. We are planning new en-suites. The Nicholas family have taken a business that they have inherited and have driven it forward. Maroulla particularly has done a great job.” The last word, as usual, goes to Maroulla, “I believe it is better to make a mistake than to do nothing at all. Sometimes people don’t embrace change, but I do!” She certainly does.