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Jerome Smail 20 March 2015

Gillian RobertsGillian Roberts, owner of the Dale Lodge Hotel in Grasmere, tells us how she overcame the challenges of the recession, extreme weather and major refurbishment to fulfil her destiny as a hotelier

Tell us the story of the hotel
My husband Brian and I opened the Dale Lodge Hotel ten years ago as a family business, with our two sons, James and Alex. We pride ourselves on offering a luxury, boutique feel to the hotel and we are extremely proud of our food and drink offering.

Our high-quality restaurant, the Lodge, and Tweedies Bar are both headed up by James, who trained under Raymond Blanc. Tweedies Bar is also the only CAMRA recognised pub in Grasmere and home to the annual Grasmere Guzzler festival, which we’ve been holding for the past eight years.

What challenges have you faced since opening?
We had only been open for a couple of years when the recession hit, so it goes without saying that this was a major challenge for a newly established business. We were also hit with an extreme snow storm one winter, which left Grasmere almost entirely cut off from the rest of world and naturally caused us problems in terms of cancellations, but also logistically with suppliers.

We aren’t afraid of a challenge at Dale Lodge and the biggest to date was when we undertook a major refurbishment throughout the property, which included the construction of our luxury Mews Suites to the rear of the main building. This not only helped us to develop our overall offering but also meant that we could reach out and attract a new market to the hotel.

Where are you spending the majority of your budget?
This year, we invested in a complete refurbishment of our kitchen, which serves both the Lodge restaurant and Tweedies Bar. The project saw the kitchen double in square footage, which has allowed us to serve a higher volume of guests without compromising on service.

The refurbishment also involved an investment in a new set of kitchen equipment, all of which provides the team with the best tools to experiment and keep our offering fresh and exciting.

What are your future plans?
In 2015, we are looking to refurbish three of our bedrooms within our main hotel as well as work on the exterior to keep it looking fresh. When it comes to refurbishment, we believe it’s a constant rolling project to keep everything looking in the best condition. We wouldn’t allow the property to become dated before we invest in a refurbishment project, which often happens with other properties.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
My parents owned a small hotel in Blackpool while I was growing up, so you might say that I am hospitality born and bred! Even as a small child, I always imagined that I would work in the industry and would eventually own my own hotel.

How would you describe yourself?
Driven, up for a challenge and innovative.

If you weren’t a hotelier what would you be doing?
I honestly couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve been part of the industry all of my life and it’s something I am immensely passionate about. That said, I wouldn’t mind spending a little more time enjoying a walk in the beautiful Lakeland countryside that I am so lucky to live in!

Average room rate: £125
Average food spend per head: £25-£95
Average weekly occupancy: 85-90%
Staff members: 20