Boutique Hotel News caught up with Sophie Shotton, GM at Yorebridge House, which won the 2019 BoHo award for best UK Country and Coastal hotel (1-20 rooms).
• How long have you been GM at Yorebridge House?
“I’ve worked for the hotel since 2013 when I managed the restaurant, and came back as general manager in 2016 following a year of maternity leave. Not what I had planned! I’d hoped to work part time after having children, but when the owners approached me with the opportunity to come back as general manager, I couldn’t refuse!”
“Part of me definitely wanted to prove myself, and in the first year I worked all hours under the sun. Since then, with more experience and support from the team around me, I have forged a fantastic job that suits both my professional and personal life.”
• Why do you think you won the award at the BoHo Summit 2019?
“We try and portray a home-from-home environment and I truly believe that our staff have adopted this ethos wholeheartedly. Our guests always feel relaxed and welcome and the staff are smiley, positive and helpful whilst remaining professional. Job satisfaction is high and this can be felt by our guests.”
• What sets Yorebridge apart from other boutique hotels that were in the same category?
“The location, food offering and beautiful interiors have given the hotel many of its awards and accolades, however it really is the staff that set us apart from all other hotels.”
“The team is very small with just 19 full time staff members, where most of the team are local! Each one is proud to work here; they’re a happy, productive team with time to spend chatting and getting to know our customers to make the most personable experience during their stay.”
• How important is it that the award was founded on guest experience rather than a panel of judges?
“Customer service is our greatest attribute; we have always provided a good Yorkshire welcome to our guests and this can be seen throughout the guest journey.”
“Winning an award which is based on actual guest feedback is so gratifying for every member of the team as it is based on all aspects of the stay. It is vital that all members of the team know just how important they are to the overall guest journey.”
• What is your vision for Yorebridge House?
“I am keen to continue to promote Yorebridge House on a national scale to contribute to Yorkshire’s name as the foodie capital of the North, as well as promoting Yorkshire to international and first time visitors.”
“I’d also like to encourage young people to consider jobs in this industry, especially this part of the UK. I would love to continue working at the hotel for many years to come and hope I will be associated with its successes now and in the future.”
• What was the first major decision you made as GM? And what’s been the impact?
“The hotel is in a beautiful rural location in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, ideal for romantic holidays and walkers, but not so great for recruitment!”
“It has always been a challenge to recruit long term team members so I approached HIT training to help recruit and mentor some new team members front of house. In 2016 I took on two new apprentices, and three exiting employees undertook training courses relevant to their careers.”
“Following this, I approached the local council to apply for funding to help with the training costs. They were very keen to help and, as well as covering the 10% employer contribution required for the apprenticeships, I was able to apply for funding for relevant equipment such as kitchen appliances and uniform.”
“The apprenticeships also secured NI savings for the business which allowed for more spending elsewhere and a much better bottom line.”
“I will continue to encourage apprenticeships to sustain the training needs of the team and benefits to the business.”
• What are your plans for the future?
“I have climbed to the top so much quicker than I could’ve in any other industry, and there are still endless opportunities for me. I am soon to complete a L5 Diploma in Operational Management, and this year I have applied for a scholarship with the Master Inn Holders. If I am unsuccessful, I will undoubtedly apply again next year.”
“I will also re-apply for the Acorn Awards next year, as I would love to be considered for the award given my achievements at such a young age!”
“Alongside this, I plan to become an advocate for women in hospitality and end the stereotypes that prevent so many women from pursuing a career in this industry.”