Hintlesham Hall Hotel’s general manager Graham McGregor outlines his plans for the property
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Graham McGregor has been general manager at Suffolk’s Hintlesham Hall Hotel for almost a year.
He arrived in May last year after previous roles at some of the region’s most prestigious hotels: the County Hotel in Chelmsford, Seckford Hall and the Swan in Lavenham.
He took up his new post after Has Modi, the owner of Hintlesham Hall Hotel, shared his ambitious plans for the much-loved property.
Graham said: “He has an absolute passion for the hotel and history of it. He really wants to preserve it and is happy to invest in the property.
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“I’ve been delighted to come in and move the business forward and develop it.”
Over 700 years old, Hintlesham Hall, just outside Ipswich, was originally a small moated manor house that over the centuries has grown to become the wonderful Grade 1 Listed hotel and Suffolk landmark is it today.
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But no hotel owner can rest easy for very long. There is always something to do; some refurbishment work required somewhere; some investment needed somewhere else.
“We have a footfall of over 50,000 people a year, so there’s a lot of wear and tear on the carpets and the décor. Everybody knocks something, so that’s around 50, 000 knocks a year,” Graham said with a smile.
A key project that is ongoing is refurbishment of the hotel’s 32 rooms and bathrooms while Graham also has plans to redesign the reception areas and create some dedicated areas for conferences and business meetings.
A major focus for the hotel is to engage with the local business community and it is in the process of launching a number of corporate packages. They range from use of a meeting room for a few hours to hiring the whole hotel for the day.
Corporate events are also on the agenda and include archery, Zorb balling and even axe throwing activities within the extensive grounds.
“There’s a huge range of things that we are able to provide in terms of team building exercises across the grounds and surrounding landscape. In total the hotel has 16 acres at its disposal,” said Graham.
Also outside, Graham has overseen the re-planning of the property’s vegetable garden and, from this spring, the hotel will be growing a lot of its own produce. Graham even has plans to introduce some beehives and produce Hintlesham Hall Hotel honey
The garden was made famous by well-known food and cookery writer Robert Carrier who owned the hotel in the 1970s and developed a prestigious herb garden on the site.
Although the new plans to resurrect the garden will not generate enough produce to entirely stock the hotel’s kitchens, it is hoped it will provide substantial amount of fruits, vegetables and salads for guests and diners. There are also plans to grow a lot of fresh flowers.
“All the little nuances in a hotel make a big difference - rather than having plastic flowers, we plan to have fresh cut flowers from the garden,” said Graham.
“It’s a tremendously exciting time and it’s an opportunity to re-brand the business.
“But at the same time we have to be so careful because people are so fond of it – you have to pay homage to it but also bring it forward. We’ve got a huge following of loyal customers who we don’t want to disappoint, but we also need to attract new customers in the future.”
Another initiative Graham has overseen has been a partnership with Laurent-Perrier champagne makers, and the hotel now holds regular Laurent-Perrier afternoon teas, where their champagnes are served exclusively. Three different types of champagne are offered, one to accompany the sandwiches, one to go with the cakes and another to enjoy with a scone. More specialist wine and champagne dinners are planned.
A loyalty programme has also been developed for the restaurant to encourage people to return to the hotel regularly, and there are also plans to update the hotel’s computerised property management system which will be able to interface with social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
In addition, there are plans to boost wifi in the hotel, including the provision of a dedicated, superfast broadband service for the business and conference areas.
“It does take longer to retrofit technology in properties such as this, because parts of the building are Grade 1 Listed – you have to hide the cables but you have to be very careful,” said Graham.
“When the redesign of the corporate offering is complete, the hotel will have five conference rooms seating between four and ninety people.”
Whilst at the County Hotel in Chelmsford, Graham won a number of awards for his work on environmental issues and it remains an important consideration for both him and Has Modi.
Graham continued: “Hotels are huge consumers of resource and we are well underway to putting together a complete environmental package for the property.”
Already hot water and central heating are provided by biomass boilers, the gardens and grounds are watered using bore holes on the property, three electric car charging points have been installed and all toiletries in the rooms are made from 100% natural products.
In addition, the ash produced by the biomass boilers goes to fertilise the garden and the hotel’s food waste ends up as certificated agricultural compost.
All providers of the hotel’s bottled drinking water and toilet tissues are ethical companies.
Graham concluded: “Everything we do in terms of the things we purchase and the service providers we use, we insist our suppliers have good environmental credentials.”
“I think today, you should be constantly aware of the impact your business has upon the environment.”