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The Big Interview with Oliver and Dominic Heywood, co-founders of Flat Cap Hotels.

Leanne Donovan 27 September 2017
The Big Interview with Oliver and Dominic Heywood, co-founders of Flat Cap Hotels.

Can you tell us a little about your career history and how you came to be in your current role?

3rd generation of Hoteliers. My brother, Dominic and I have grown up in the hotels, pubs, restaurants which our father has owned and independently operated. Some of these hotels have had leisure clubs and a large focus on conference & banqueting or food & beverage, like The Vicarage and The Courthouse now do. I moved to London in 2010 to work for Radisson Edwardian (14 4/5* hotels across the UK) on the Hotel Management programme. Working in every department Front of House, C&B Operations Manager, and Corporate Sales as well as being a Night Manager – this experience was invaluable to understanding how larger hotels operate in a group structure.

From there I moved into an advisory role focusing on Hotel investment & development for 2 of the large property firms: Savills and Cushman & Wakefield. Again, this was invaluable experience for me from a very different perspective and view of the industry. The contacts, friends and people I met through all of these companies have 100% assisted in the growth and direction of Flat Cap Hotels. I have been able to see what works in London and throughout the rest of the UK from an independent and branded view and how we can take elements of structure, design and style but do it in our own way and tailoring the ideas and concepts to our own businesses.

Flat Cap Hotels is a family business, we are owners and operators and feel it is important we are in touch with all areas of the business. My specific role is focusing on the PR and Marketing as well as the growth and development of each business. Operations is overseen by Dominic with overall assistance and advice from our father Peter.

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

Opening the doors of The Vicarage and The Courthouse. Making what was an idea / dream; we all had come true as clichéd as it sounds. We grew up in Cheshire and drove past both The Vicarage and The Courthouse when they were derelict buildings… Being able to bring an idea to life and to do it as a family; is very fulfilling.

The Vicarage has just been recognised and shortlisted as one of the ‘best turnaround pubs’ and ‘best pubs with food in the UK’ – that was a great achievement. Hopefully with some more awards and recognition to come…. Its early days for The Courthouse – but it’s just great to have both places trading.

You reopened The Courthouse in June this year following a complete renovation of the property, how has the venue been received by the public so far?

We have honestly been blown away by people’s reactions. It really has been received fantastically. The building has never been opened up to the public before. People have only ever been in the building previously if they have either been in court (rightly or wrongly) so now the public can come in and walk around and enjoy a drink at the bar or a meal in Barristers Restaurant. The public are so curious to what it looks like and what we have done to the building. It is a ‘one of a kind’ and very unique venue to the North West and it is just great that it is now open for people to come and enjoy. We have some very special new facilities to open as well..

What do you think the key issues are in the hospitality sector at the minute?

Increase in minimum wage and rise of food and drink prices as well as VAT and Business Rates – all are impacting the industry dramatically. The looming outcome of Brexit will impact the industry but positively / negatively is unknown.

How do you plan on tackling these issues?

These are industry issues and therefore we support the British Hospitality Association in tackling the Government on these issues. We also try and work with as many local suppliers and producers as possible. As a company we focus on employing from the local area and want to focus on being community centres. Both our properties have huge amounts of history and character in their individual locations and have been important buildings within their demographic for centuries. We focus on attracting local and national people to come and enjoy the properties which many will have simply walked or driven past for years.

What do you think The Courthouse offers differently that will help overcome any issues in the industry?

The Courthouse is a ‘one of a kind’ venue and very unique. Massively different to its competitors however in terms of operation – it is an amalgamation of the modern restaurant and bar, conference and events venue and hotel in a Grade II listed former crown court. All of the above issues impact The Courthouse. They are sector issues which filter down and effect all branded and independent hotels on a massive and daily scale. We focus on being flexible and therefore keeping up with the market trends in terms of products, brand and produce we serve. We must do this to stay ahead of the pack or become a market leader in our given demographic. Hopefully this makes us stand out from the rest and mean people want to come and spend time at our places and enjoy the facilities we have on offer….. The Rooftop Gardens are going to be very unique and special!

What are your future plans for The Courthouse?

There are lots of exciting times ahead for The Courthouse. We opened the Barristers Restaurant and Bar in June with the Rooftop Gardens with a cover of 150 and its own Champagne Bar launching in the coming months. Before the end of the year, we will have 10 bedrooms online and next year will see 40 bedrooms added to both wings of the property. We offer meetings and events space for up to 400 and are therefore one of the largest meeting venues in the South West.

Last hotel you stayed at?

The Edition Hotel, Berners Street, London.

The one item of technology you can’t live without?

It would have to be my Iphone I’m afraid! Because of emails/ phonebook.

What is the most important life lesson you’ve learnt?

Listen…. Then ask questions.