Hospitality industry specialist Hotel PR is celebrating after completing its second decade with a pledge to help boost the sector’s pandemic recovery.

Hospitality industry specialist Hotel PR is celebrating after completing its second decade with a pledge to help boost the sector’s pandemic recovery. In England hotels can re-open no earlier than 17 May. In Scotland hospitality will be part of a ‘phased but significant reopening of the economy’ from 26 April. Plans for other parts of the UK are unclear. Scott Thornton, who set up Hotel PR in February 2001, commented: “It’s a major achievement for any PR company to be still going strong after 20 years, even after the hard knocks of the past year. Hospitality throughout the UK is reeling from lockdown after lockdown but is now eagerly anticipating the upturn. As we’ve been intimately involved with the sector for so long we’ve felt the pain more than most.” He said UK hotels would face strong competition from foreign destinations in the second half of the year and there would be a flood of domestic accommodation fighting for business to make up for lost revenue. Glasgow-based Hotel PR has represented hotels, guest houses and luxury serviced apartments from Orkney to the Cotswolds, including London. Scott, a former foreign correspondent and senior manager with Reuters, added: “Having stayed at so many hotels around the world I saw a need for a UK public relations company which dealt exclusively with hospitality. Most PR firms take on clients from any sector but the ‘one size fits all’ approach tends not to work so well. We’ve always been totally focused on accommodation and…

More top names join Scottish hospitality awards’ judging panel

The widow of Andrew Fairlie and the restaurateur widely considered Scotland’s top seafood chef have joined the judging panel of the country’s most prestigious hospitality awards. New members of the Advisory Board of the Catering Scotland (CIS) Excellence Awards also include a leading hospitality educator and the managing director of last year’s winner of the Independent Hotel title. Kate Fairlie, a graduate in Business Studies with Travel and Tourism Management, met her husband Andrew while guest relations manager at Gleneagles, later joining the team at his eponymous restaurant in 2014.  She helped develop the restaurant’s famous Secret Garden, which supplies the hotel with fruits, vegetables and herbs. A CIS judge for over a decade Andrew, who died last January after a long battle with a brain tumour, was Scotland’s only double Michelin Star holder. Roy Brett, proprietor and executive chef of Ondine Restaurant in Edinburgh, trained at the Savoy before becoming Rick Stein’s head chef in Padstow, Cornwall. Moving back to Scotland as chef director for Dakota Hotels before opening Ondine in 2009, he has since forged a reputation as a champion of Scottish seafood and advocate of sustainable sourcing.  His awards include AA Restaurant of the Year, the Good Food Guide’s Scottish Restaurant of the Year and CIS Excellence Chef of the Year 2010. The managing director of Glenapp Castle in Ballantrae, south Ayrshire, Jill Chalmers, and Gordon McIntyre, Associate Head of Hospitality and Tourism at City of Glasgow College, have also accepted invitations to become members of the…

Keeping stress out of the kitchen – Hospitality industry launches mental health campaign

Scotland’s hospitality industry, recognised as having particularly serious problems with workplace stress, is combatting the issue with the country’s first award to promote the positive mental health of staff in hotels, guest houses, pubs, restaurants and catering businesses. The Catering Scotland (CIS) Excellence Awards – the leading annual competition for the hospitality, catering and tourism sectors – has launched the CIS Well-Being in Hospitality Award, a category aimed at honouring operators who recognise and address employees’ mental health problems. “The hospitality industry can be a great place to work but can also be a highly pressured environment,” said Billy Watson, Chief Executive of the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH). He added: “Recent research indicates that four in five hospitality workers found their job stressful some or most of the time, yet more than half wouldn’t make their employers aware of mental health problems. We hope this award will encourage employers to address factors that can contribute to mental health problems.” Gordon McIntyre, Associate Dean for Hospitality and Tourism at City of Glasgow College and a member of the CIS Excellence Awards Advisory Board, said problems were often made worse by having ready access to alcohol and that gambling issues can also have an adverse effect on employees’ mental health. Unlike physical injury, signs of mental health deterioration may not be obvious, and young men are particularly at risk because they are often unwilling to open up. “Unsociable hours, split shifts and constant working under pressure are some of the…

Edinburgh’s hospitality scene is Fizz-ing!

The corks hardly seemed to stop popping when Edinburgh’s newest Champagne and cocktails bar opened its doors with two packed VIP receptions. And of course Hotel PR were there! Here are Scott & Julia sampling the wares and Julia joining owner Kay Harrison-Mann and other special guests for a photocall at the entrance. Fizz (@fizzedinburgh) in Charlotte Lane in the capital’s West End is the creation of Kay, former Regional General Manager of Macdonald Hotels. Guests were entertained by a DJ and served Champagne, the bar’s signature cocktail, beers, wine, canapés and hot dishes. Kay said: “The launch parties were magnificent and the atmosphere was buzzing. That’s the way we plan to go on – adding lots more sparkle to Edinburgh’s hospitality scene.” Fizz also serves afternoon teas and Tapas sharing plates.


Employee of the Year Award sponsored by Fresh Food Company Stephen King, Uisge Bar and Restaurant, Murthly, Perthshire Runners-up: Rory MacAleece, Ibis Styles Glasgow and Glasgow West (Maven Capital Partners) Terry McBeth, Doubletree by Hilton, Glasgow The Sustainable Business Award sponsored by Green Tourism and Keenan Recycling BaxterStorey in partnership with City of Glasgow College Fairmont St Andrews Runner-up: BaxterStorey Scotland in conjunction with Royal Bank of Scotland The Healthier Scotland Award sponsored by the healthylivingaward in association with NHS Health Scotland The Usual Place, Dumfries Runners-up: Aramark – Scotland Team BaxterStorey at City of Glasgow College The Training and Employee Retention Award sponsored by City of Glasgow College and Caledonian MacBrayne Runners-up: Fazenda Rodizio Bar and Grill, Edinburgh Sonas Hospitality, Isle of Skye The Pub Excellence Award sponsored by KraftHeinz Foodservice Lord of the Isles, Craobh Haven, Argyll Runners-up: The Crinan Hotel by Lochgilphead The Crown and Kitchen, East Linton, East Lothian The Horseshoe Inn, Eddleston The Banqueting and Events Chef Award sponsored by ASA Recruitment and Tilda Alan Boslem, Big Bite Catering, Airdrie Runners-up: Scott Brodowski, Hickory, Edinburgh James Burton, Ginger Snap & Food Design, Edinburgh The Restaurant Newcomer Award sponsored by Kafoodle and Sodexo Edinbane Lodge, Isle of Skye Runners-up: The Little Chartroom, Edinburgh The Lookout by Gardener’s Cottage, Edinburgh North Harbour Bistro, Isle of Harris The Food Tourism Award sponsored by Seafood Scotland Cannonball Restaurant and Bar, Edinburgh Runners-up: Aberdeen International Airport Rufflets Hotel, St Andrews The Hospitality Educator of the Year Award sponsored by…

First Andrew Fairlie memorial award won by Prince Charles’ country house

The first award for hospitality excellence created in honour of legendary Scottish chef Andrew Fairlie has been won by Dumfries House, the 18th-Century Ayrshire country mansion and estate rescued and redeveloped by Prince Charles. Fairlie (pictured), who died in January after a long battle with a brain tumour, was Scotland’s only double Michelin Star holder for his eponymous hotel at the five-star Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire. The Catering Scotland Excellence (CIS) Awards, the country’s most prestigious annual competition for the hospitality industry, set up the award in his memory this year. It was presented by Andrew Fairlie’s widow Kate at a dinner attended by 500 guests in Glasgow last night (Thursday). Chair of the Advisory Board, Andrea Nicholas, said: “Andrew was unequivocal about using the word ‘excellence’ in the CIS Awards’ name and only accepting and judging entries which lived up to the term. Dumfries House encapsulates all that. It has become a symbol of excellence in hospitality, hosting hundreds of events, as well as in education, training and restoration, and inspiring a new generation to enjoy hospitality and the outdoors.” Prince Charles led a consortium of organisations and individuals which bought Dumfries House, set in 2,000 acres near Cumnock, together with its unrivalled collection of Chippendale furniture, for £45m back in 2007. Fairlie, the inaugural winner of the Roux Scholarship in 1983 and described by this year’s judges as a visionary genius, was himself presented with the CIS Awards’ Lifetime Excellence Award in 2017 (pictured). This year, the same…

Scotland’s Gold Hospitality Awards Go Green

   The Catering Scotland Excellence (CIS) Awards – the country’s most prestigious annual competition for the catering, hospitality and tourism sectors – has appointed Andrea Nicholas (pictured), co-founder and Managing Director of Green Tourism, as the new Chair of its Advisory Board. Perth-based Green Tourism has more than 2,500 members across the UK, Canada and Africa. A sustainable tourism certification expert with more than two decades’ experience in the industry, Andrea has been a judge of the CIS Awards for two years and has also served on the judging panels of the UK Cateys and VisitLondon Awards. She has developed environmental management systems for the New Zealand Tourist Board and Swedish Government. The CIS Excellence Awards are widely accepted as the ultimate accolade for Scotland’s chefs, hotels, restaurants, gastro pubs and educational institutions. Andrea commented: ‘This year we have updated and revised the criteria to make the application process simpler and more transparent, and I’m looking forward to working with the board to recognise and celebrate the leading companies and individuals working within the Scottish hospitality sector’. Several women have been added to the judging panel to lend their skills to the judging process while helping to promote a more representative gender mix. Anne Lee from NHS Health Scotland’s Health and Work Award Programmes, foodservice consultant Sandra Reid and the editor of Foodies magazine, Sue Hitchen, have all joined the board in 2019. Other judges include: Stephen Carter OBE, General Manager of the Old Course Hotel at St Andrews; James…

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.

Reputation can be fragile

Premier Inn’s recent reported payment of six figure compensation to the family of a guest who died after being scalded in an Edinburgh shower made me think again of how few hotels and restaurants give any thought to what happens if they suffer a crisis. I’ve been involved with Scottish hotels and restaurants for more than 16 years and can count on the fingers of both hands the number of those who know how to handle the press if they get into the news for the wrong reasons. Some but far from all of the Scottish properties of international brands have a crisis plan in a filing drawer back at head office. Independent hotels and restaurants generally don’t have a clue. Yet as the Newcraighall case showed there’s a daunting list of what could, and often does, happen: sudden death, fire, serious accident, food poisoning, staff scandal, discrimination allegations, damning hygiene report. A reputation can take years to build up yet be destroyed in minutes.

Hospitality industry honours “Scotland’s perfect culinary ambassador”

Scotland’s only double Michelin Star holder has been honoured by Scotland’s hospitality and catering sector as the country’s “perfect culinary ambassador” at awards in which his long-standing protégé was named Chef of the Year. Andrew Fairlie, who runs his eponymous restaurant at the five-star Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, was presented with the Lifetime Excellence Award at the Catering Scotland (CIS) Excellence Awards in Glasgow on Thursday 25 May attended by over 500 of Scotland’s leading hoteliers, chefs and caterers. “Andrew’s achievements at Gleneagles have been remarkable but his contributions to the industry have ranged far beyond them,” said CIS Advisory Board chairman Neil Thomson. “He has raised the country’s food profile, been a true champion for Scotland and been our perfect culinary ambassador with commitment, skills and enthusiasm that have won him the highest respect,” he added. “Andrew has also nurtured young chefs and set personal and professional standards to which they aspire.” Stephen McLaughlin, described by judges as one of Scotland’s unsung heroes, joined Fairlie when his Gleneagles restaurant opened in 2001 and has held the position of Head Chef since 2006. Neil Thomson added: “Stephen has worked quietly behind the scenes to uphold the restaurant’s worldwide reputation. His continuous innovations and constant adherence to the highest standards have helped make possible the retention of two Michelin Stars for well over 10 years.” Other finalists in the Chef of the Year category included Tim Dover of The Roost Restaurant at Bridge of Earn near Perth and Stewart Macauly of…

“I’m sorry (well, not really). The kitchen’s closed”

VisitScotland would regard this as heresy but many Scottish hotels and restaurants don’t really like tourists. Their owners and managers are happy to accept visitors – but on their own inflexible terms. My wife was enjoying coffee at the end of a lunch (which took ages to be served but that’s another story) at one of our favourite hotels in the Trossachs in mid-May when, at 2.35 pm, an American couple entered the restaurant. “We’ve heard so much about this hotel and thought we’d come here for something to eat,” they said enthusiastically. “The kitchen’s closed” was the curt response. “The chef goes home at 2.30.” My wife had just finished a nice bowl of home-made soup. Couldn’t the couple at least have that, heated up? Not a chance. It’s far too common a tale. Try getting a cup of tea in a rural restaurant in Scotland at 4 pm!