Mike Bevans, co-owner of Linthwaite House Hotel in the Lake District, tells us how he took a run down 11-bedroom two-star country house and transformed it into a brand new establishment
Tell me the story of your hotel
The hotel was originally a second home country house for a wealthy merchant based in Lancashire. The house was built in 1901 and had just five bedrooms, set in seven acres of hilltop grounds overlooking Lake Windermere. It was probably occupied from late March to October then shut up for winter being used as a holiday home.
The house became a B&B in 1969. The then owners added a bit on for themselves to live in and increase the number of letting bedrooms to 11. They also acquired an additional seven acres of land, which was previously owned by the local water board bringing the total amount of land surrounding the house to 14 acres. This included a beautiful ‘tarn’ or small lake, which is fed by a spring. The business was sold in 1989 but having missed out on the sale, we bought the property in 1990.
What challenges have you faced since opening?
The obvious one would be getting enough business. When we started everyone assumed we were trying to compete with Sharrow Bay another hotel in the Lake District. Actually, it was quite the opposite, we wanted an unstuffy, no chintz, swags or bows kind of country house hotel. Relaxed but professional, not “yes sir no sir, three bags full, sir.” The other main challenge was finding the staff, the right ones that is, but what business doesn’t face that?
And finally, working capital was difficult to get hold of. Inevitably, we spent more than planned when we bought the hotel in order to put our own stamp on it. The problem was that when we peeled back the decoration, the fundamentals, electrics, plumbing, soundproofing, were all very inadequate.
Where are you spending the majority of your budget?
We spend 32 per cent of our budget on labor, but this is often the case in this type of business.
What are your future plans?
We’re looking at the possible development of luxury ‘splodges’; spa suites in lodges. They won’t have a kitchen, so they wouldn’t be self catering but they would be detached suites in the grounds with a huge chill-out factor, and yet near to our fine dining service in the main house if the guest should want it.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
A hotel manager of the Savoy in London, of course.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Passionate, enthusiastic, focused.
If you weren’t a hotelier what would you be doing?
I’d be in marketing.
Average room rate: £160
Average food spend per head: £34 (dinner excluding VAT)
Average weekly occupancy: 70%
Staff members: 43