It’s Skye high at nation’s top hospitality awards

Double triumph for island hotel and restaurant The Isle of Skye, often voted one of the world’s most popular islands, has sailed away with two of the top honours at Scotland’s most prestigious awards ceremony for hospitality, tourism and catering. The Three Chimneys on the edge of Loch Dunvegan took the title of Best Restaurant in the 15th year of the Catering Scotland (CIS) Excellence Awards while Skeabost House, described by the judges as a ‘Cinderella fairy tale,’ won the Group Hotel category. In further evidence of the growing attractions of Scotland’s West coast islands, the Douglas Hotel on Arran was named Best Independent Hotel at a packed gala dinner in Glasgow on Thursday night attended by more than 500 of the country’s leading hoteliers, caterers, chefs, colleges and suppliers. Judges said Shirley Spear’s Three Chimneys, at Colbost in the north-west of the island, ’has consistently delivered world-class standards over many years… its chefs have wowed guests with a delicate and skilful touch that has showcased the highest standards to a global clientele.’ Last Autumn, Three Chimneys, whose head chef is Scott Davies, was named the UK Good Food Guide’s Restaurant of 2018.   Other finalists in the category included Glasgow’s seafood specialist, Gamba, and L’Escargot Blanc in Edinburgh. Skeabost, the most recently acquired member of the Sonas group of three boutique hotels on Skye, ‘is a real Cinderella, rags-to-riches story,’ the judges commented. Anne Gracie Gunn and her late husband, Ken, ‘took a tired, unloved hotel and transformed and…

‘Grandest ever’ Indian food festival set for Glasgow in July

The biggest Indian food festival ever held in Scotland will take place in Glasgow on Saturday and Sunday 14 and 15 July, the organisers announced. In addition to food stalls serving dishes from all of India’s regions the spectacular event will feature cookery demonstrations, live music, films, dance, holistic therapies, competitions and children’s activities. The ‘Indian Food Bazaar – a Culinary Journey’ will be staged in the heart of Glasgow at the historic Briggait Centre (formerly the city’s fishmarket), transformed into Indian street and rural scenes. “Nothing on this scale has ever been presented before, certainly in Scotland,” said organisers’ spokesman Nav Basi. “It will not only showcase the flavours of the culinary diverse regions of the world’s second most populous country but also highlight its culture and traditions, and seek to educate as well as entertain.” Facebook/Twitter/Instagram @indianfoodbzr

Snails set the pace in Scotland’s top hospitality awards

Fred Berkmiller, Chef Patron of Edinburgh restaurants L’Escargot Blanc and L’Escargot Bleu, is up for a double success at this year’s Catering Scotland Excellence (CIS) Awards. With Berkmiller himself shortlisted for the Chef of the Year title for a second time, his L’Escargot Blanc (The White Snail) establishment in the capital’s Queensferry Street is one of three finalists in the Restaurant of the Year category, alongside Glasgow’s Gamba and Shirley Spear’s Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye. His other restaurant, L’Escargot Bleu (The Blue Snail) is in the capital’s Broughton Street. Other contenders for Chef of the Year include: Billy Boyter, who reopened The Cellar at Anstruther in 2014; Brian Grigor of The Balmoral; previous winner Geoffrey Smeddle of the Michelin-starred Peat Inn at St Andrews; and 2017 finalist Paul Wedgwood of Wedgwood The Restaurant on the capital’s Royal Mile. Meanwhile, The Cellar’s Conor McLean, a member of the Scottish Culinary Olympics team, is one of three finalists in the Young Chef category, together with Craig Palmer of the Marcliffe Hotel and Spa in Aberdeen and Kevin McCafferty from City of Glasgow College. Shortlisted in the particularly competitive Independent Hotel of the Year category are: The Douglas Hotel on the Isle of Arran, Dunstane Houses in Edinburgh and the Lovat Loch Ness, which is built on the site of a Hanoverian fort built to pacify the Highland clans after the 18th century Jacobite uprisings. The Group Hotel of the Year Award will be contested by the Doubletree by Hilton…

Palace, theatre and racecourse in running for top catering honours

One of the widest ranges of nominations ever to be submitted for the top honours in Scottish hospitality have been received for this year’s Catering Scotland (CIS) Excellence Awards, the organisers announced. In addition to colleges, local authorities, international hotel groups and a conference centre, contenders include a palace, a theatre, a yacht, a racecourse, farm holiday cottages, a transport operator and a variety of pubs. Located from as far afield as Shetland in the north to Dumfries and Galloway in the south, and from east Fife to islands off the west coast, the entrants this year span the full breath of Scotland. Among the 17 awards, the Restaurant of the Year and Chef of the Year categories continue to prove popular, while others including Young Chef of the Year and the all-new Food Tourism Award are gaining significant support within organisations and businesses of all types and sizes. “This unprecedented degree of interest has underlined the wealth of talent in the industry, and indeed how widespread it is throughout Scotland,” said CIS Advisory Board chairman Neil Thomson. As the country’s annual competition for the catering, hospitality and tourism sectors, the CIS Excellence Awards are widely accepted as the ultimate accolade for chefs, hotels, restaurants, gastro pubs and educational institutions. The shortlist for 2018 will be announced in the third week of April and the awards presented at the Doubletree by Hilton Glasgow Central on Thursday 31st May. For more information or to book a place at the event, call…

Death of owner who brought luxury sailing to Scottish hotels

Ken Gunn, global seafarer who skippered stars on the Hebridean Princess Ken Gunn, co-owner of the multi award-winning Sonas Hotels group on Skye and the global seafarer who introduced luxury sailing to the world of Scottish hospitality, has died at the age of 67. Before he and his wife Anne launched their first hotel, Toravaig House on the southern peninsula of Sleat, in 2003 he was captain of the five star cruise ship the Hebridean Princess, sailing around the UK, Ireland and Norway. VIP guests included HRH Princess Anne, actor Sean Connery, racing driver Jackie Stewart and singer-composer Chris de Burgh. The Hebridean Princess, twice chartered by Queen Elizabeth including a trip to celebrate her 80th birthday, was the model for the nine bedroom Toravaig which the couple insisted should be ‘a luxury ship ashore.’ They went on to purchase and develop the nearby Duisdale House, voted Scotland’s Best Hotel in the 2013 Thistle Awards run by national tourism organisation VisitScotland and Best Independent Hotel in the Catering Scotland Awards in 2015. In 2016 they bought Skeabost House near Portree in the north of the island and recently completed a total refurbishment and extension. In the Islands’ section of the 2018 Scottish Hotel Awards the three hotels won six different categories among them. Skeabost, which now has 18 bedrooms, was voted Scotland’s Island Hotel of the Year in 2016 and again in 2017. Born and brought up in Oban, son of a sea captain, Ken was educated at Oban High…

Still remembered – Whisky tribute to Sir Iain

Visited Skye’s newest distillery, Torabhaig, and was intrigued to find its two stills are named after the late merchant banker Sir Iain Noble and his widow, Lady Lucilla Noble. Sir Iain, who died in 2010, founded the firm of Noble Grossart and was instrumental in founding Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic college, situated near the distillery on the Sleat peninsula. That could be reason enough for the honour but he also founded, in 1976, the “Gaelic whisky” company Prban na Linne, which produces the malt Poit Dhubh.

Does VisitScotland have to close all these tourist information centres?

VISITSCOTLAND chiefs have announced plans to axe nearly two-thirds of local information offices — just as the country celebrates a record-breaking year for tourism. Bosses claim they are closing 39 of the 65 centres because travellers prefer to plan their adventures online. But industry experts believe holidaymakers deserve to be welcomed to our homeland by a team of friendly faces. Today SCOTT THORNTON, managing director of Edinburgh-based consultancy Hotel PR, explains why the personal touch is always best… Read the full article here.

Top romantic hotel bans mobile phones

Lochside retreat says ‘digital detox’ needed to get families talking again Scotland’s most romantic hotel has banned mobile phones in its dining room – to help children connect with their parents. Ardanaiseig, on the shores of Loch Awe in Argyll, believes it is the first hotel or restaurant in Scotland to introduce such a ban and that doing so will promote good old fashioned ‘family time’ “Leisure breaks, especially in such a blissfully peaceful location, should be relaxing. Mobile phones have no place in a restaurant and can get in the way of kids’ chats with mum and dad,” General Manager Bronwyn Smith said. She went on: “Good old fashioned table conversation and manners have taken a back seat in today’s busy and fast paced way of life. Our hotel would like to encourage laughter and chatter and if it means introducing a ‘digital detox’ we are all for it.” Recent surveys had shown that the average adult in the UK spends nearly nine hours each day on media and communication, outstripping even time spent sleeping, and that almost half of 18-24 year olds check their phone in the middle of the night. “Mealtimes offer a chance for the family to converse and share experiences,” Bronwyn Smith said. “The only distractions in our dining room should be the breathtaking view over Loch Awe or the delight in seeing our local wildlife scamper across the lawns.” Ardanaiseig Hotel, in 120 acres of wooded grounds at Kilchrenan near Taynuilt, was named by…

Everyone’s a journalist now – So how do YOU deal with bloggers?

A dramatic change in the way hotels and restaurants promote themselves has been the massive growth of blogging. Just a few years ago nearly all reviews were written by journalists working for newspapers or magazines. Now anyone can be a journalist – and this causes problems as well as opportunities for the hospitality trade. How do you decide which bloggers are genuine? Are they just trying to get a free stay or meal? How many followers do they really have? Will they focus on your hotel or restaurant, or on the local area and its attractions? How many courtesy nights do they want? How many of them are there? What do you charge any friends who accompany them? Could you sell the room or table? What do you offer? What recourse do you have if they don’t publish anything or write a critical review? With print journalists you can take it up with the editor. That’s more difficult with bloggers. Many bloggers (or vloggers, who incorporate video) reach far more potential guests than conventional print media – and since they’re online they can reach a global audience. At Hotel PR we receive a request from a blogger or blogger every couple of days and can usually separate the sheep from the goats. If you’re approached, give us a call and we’ll guide you.

Lessons for hoteliers from Grenfell Tower

There are lessons for hoteliers in the problems experienced by the Prime Minister and Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster. There’s crisis management for a start. How many hotel owners and GMs have a plan in place to cope with the media fall-out from an emergency or disaster? Very few. Of more day-to-day relevance is the crucial importance of human contact and empathy. Theresa May and the Council may well have tried their best to tackle the aftermath of the fire but they failed to show residents that they cared. Hotel managers and owners must interact with guests. It is not enough to sit behind a desk – or in the case of many owners, visit your property once or twice a year from your home in another country. You need to talk with them, find out their wants and needs, and above all let them know they’re the life blood of your business. And you should respond to online reviews, however critical, and not pretend they didn’t happen or that the writers are deluded.