Q&A with Nathan Chart, General Manager at Chilworth Manor

By Petra Clayton

Juggling a large Edwardian hotel, 12 acres of landscaped grounds and a busy state-of-the-art health club and spa, multi-tasking is all in a day’s work for Nathan Chart, general manager at Best Western Chilworth Manor Hotel, part of Legacy Hotels & Resorts.

For this month’s interview, we sat down with Nathan to find out what is on the horizon for his hotel and the British hotel industry.

What does a typical day as the General Manager at Best Western Chilworth Manor Hotel, look like?

The great thing about being general manager at Chilworth Manor is that no two days are ever the same. The hotel is so varied in its facilities and offering, so my day is also very diverse. I always do my best to get out and about around the hotel as much as possible, speaking with our team members and guests. One day we could be welcoming a wedding party, setting up for a conference or simply looking at ways to further improve our overall guest experience. I much prefer this to the time spent in the office dealing with admin and paperwork, but unfortunately this is an essential part of my day too!

As General Manager to a large hotel with a host of facilities, how do you motivate your staff on all levels?

I like to be seen as much as possible around the hotel and always ensure the great feedback I so often receive about the team is shared. In particular, when guests mention a team member by name, as I know this is a great morale booster and encourages the staff to strive to deliver even more. We have recently introduced an employee of the month scheme, where one member of staff is chosen for special recognition by the heads of departments, each month. This has proven to be a great addition to our internal practices so far, helping staff to develop their career and achieve goals.

What’s your favourite part of the hotel and why?

Entering the gates each morning and driving down the approach to the hotel does always bring a smile to my face. We are very lucky to have such a beautiful and unique setting on the Chilworth conservation area with its historic woodland and lake, whilst also being close to the city [Southampton] and airport. Inside the hotel, I’d have to say that my favourite part is the main Manor lounge, with its mezzanine gallery and high ceilings you really get a feel for the history of the building as an Edwardian manor house.

What part of the hotel has proven to be a challenge?

I’d say utilising the many spaces and rooms that we have at Chilworth Manor has been a challenge in the past. From the large coach house suite, to the cedar suite with its tiered seating and smaller, more intimate areas throughout the hotel. Historically, I think it’s fair to say that some rooms have been under-utilised but over the past year, we have been experimenting with different areas and opening up more spaces, so that guests can enjoy all the different parts of the hotel. Alongside our refurbishment and decoration programme, we have also tried to be creative in the use of space adding a family lounge during the recent school holidays and an afternoon tea lounge during National Afternoon Tea week, both of which proved really popular so we are busy thinking of the next big idea. It’s been great receiving positive feedback from our guests acknowledging the changes we are making.

And looking at the wider hotel industry, what do you see as the main challenges for UK-based hotels this year?

Brexit is an obvious one; we are not yet sure about the greater impact leaving the EU will have on the hotel industry, but I think there is concern within the industry. This has been an area of discussion within the Southampton Hotelier Association, where I sit as vice-chair. The uncertainty over the value of the British pound means that British hotels are very sensitive to potential changes, but time will tell.

We have already seen a reduction in the amount of European nationals applying for jobs at the hotel, whereas before the EU referendum, we found most of our applicants were Europeans, as is the nature of the industry. To counteract this, we have been working with local colleges and the Council to support recruitment days to try and encourage students to consider hospitality as a career choice.

Chilworth Manor has a fantastic location on the outskirts of Southampton, how do you remain a part of the local community, whilst still attracting guests from further afield?

We have such a great location close to many family attractions in the area, such as Paulton’s Park (for Peppa Pig World), the New Forest and the city centre, so we work to promote the local area and attractions where possible. In terms of our local community, we have been keen supporters of the Countess Mountbatten Hospice Charity, who held their family fun day at Chilworth Manor last year. The day was a real success with over 500 people attending and we are now organising another day for next year!

We look to include as many different events for hotel guests and local people as possible, such as cinema pop-up events, themed afternoon teas in one of the lounges and providing strawberries & cream to the annual science park walk, which explores the Chilworth conservation area.

The Club celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2017, how will you celebrate?

Our leisure facility The Club at Chilworth opened on 24th September 2007, so this month marks the exciting 10-year anniversary! We’ll be exclusively offering a limited number of memberships at the founder rate and will have special packages to offer in celebration of reaching this great milestone.

Fortunately, since Legacy Hotels came on board we have been able to put investment into The Club; refurbishing the male and female showers, re-decorating throughout and recently, laying new carpets. With these newly improved areas, we are looking forward to showing off the space to new and existing members during our anniversary month.

 

For more information about Best Western Chilworth Manor Hotel please visit www.chilworth-manor.co.uk or call the hotel on 08444 119 050.