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Meet the Owner – Linden House, Essex

Sarah-Jane Lampe 27 December 2013

!cid_0DD4ED00-C141-4588-9DB1-2D03B7DB4A26Sarah Foster, owner of Linden House, tells us how she overcame many obstacles to open her own boutique-style hotel in Essex

Tell me the story of the hotel
Having lived in what is a fairly affluent area on and off for most of our lives, I saw a gap in the market for a high quality, boutique-style restaurant with rooms. Born out of two beautiful historic buildings at the heart of the Stansted Mountfitchet village, Linden House opened in August 2011. Sadly too many period properties remain neglected in these tough economic times, and are invariably destroyed in favour of apartment blocks, it was important to us to preserve these properties. Linden House is the kind of place we like to visit; beautifully luxurious rooms which are comfortable and relaxing, fabulous food and service which is second to none. With only nine bedrooms, we are favourite for corporate travellers fed up with airport hotels and bad food, and those wanting to celebrate a special occasion or just get away for the night. Additionally, we are fast becoming the place to go for locals too.

What challenges have you faced since opening?
By far the biggest challenge we faced was obtaining change of use planning permission from the local council. After one failed attempt and a huge amount of investment, we finally gained permission five months before opening. But, as we thought we were there, we faced opposition from local residents with regard to our alcohol licence and had to attend a hearing; it really felt like a battle we would never win. Since opening, our biggest challenge has been finding the right staff, not something unfamiliar to the hospitality business.

Where are you spending the majority of your budget?
Our overheads are enormous whether we have a full or empty restaurant or rooms. Our staff costs are very high as we are open all day, from 7.00am, until at least midnight, seven days a week.

What are your future plans?
The business is so young; we still have many plans to progress here, but would always look at expanding if a suitable opportunity arose.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
A model or a marine biologist

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Driven, creative, sociable

If you weren’t a hotelier what would you be doing?
Relaxing

Average room rate: £150
Average food spend per head: £30
Average weekly occupancy: 70%
Staff members: 20