The Hotel Inspector

Sunday 29 August, 7:00pm on Fiver

Award-winning hotelier Alex Polizzi comes to the aid of another struggling British guesthouse. In the finale to series six, Alex visits a couple who own a historical house hotel in rural Devon. Although the building and country setting are beautiful, poor marketing and cluttered decor have brought the hostelry to the brink of collapse. Kingston Estate is run by former model Liz Corfield and her husband Michael. They bought the ramshackle 18th-century house, outbuildings and grounds 25 years ago with the intention of restoring the estate to its former glory. They converted the outbuildings into guesthouses and the main house into a luxury bed and breakfast. Several years ago the couple converted one of the barns into a multi-purpose spa and conference facility in the hope of bringing in more business clients. However, the cost of the conversion, combined with falling guest numbers and the effects of the recession, have hit the Kingston hard, with occupancy rates now at only 35 per cent. Alex’s inspection of the upstairs rooms leaves her unimpressed. As the rooms cost up to �200 a night, she feels that standards should be exceptional. “It looks too fussy and not special enough,” she says of the bathroom decor. She is equally dismayed by the upstairs sitting room. “This room is far too cluttered and unappealing. It’s like an old people’s home,” she says. Alex is impressed by the new conference and leisure centre, but not by the photographs of the facilities in the hotel welcome pack. “It looks like a 70s nightmare,” she declares. She then learns that the tired-looking and malfunctioning hotel website has no online booking option and makes no mention of the new conference facilities. The hotel inspector’s plan is to revamp the website and aggressively promote the facility’s conference room and spa, whilst removing much of the clutter in the rooms. However, a week goes by and it seems the couple have failed to take Alex’s advice to heart. “On a business level, they are pretty set in their ways,” Alex says. To prove her point, Alex takes Liz and Michael to her own award-winning historical hotel, the Endsleigh in Dartmoor. However, the couple have their own criticisms of Alex’s establishment. “They’re pretty hard to get through to. I don’t think I’m winning at this juncture,” Alex confides.

Sunday 22 August, 7:00pm on Fiver

Award-winning hotelier Alex Polizzi comes to the aid of another struggling British guesthouse. This week’s instalment sees Alex head to the Windsors Hotel, a hostelry in Chertsey plagued by poor decor, dated furnishings and an unenthusiastic owner. The Windsors in Surrey is a six-bed hotel run by former air stewardess Mel. Having started life as a wine bar in 1989, the establishment was turned into a hotel a decade later with the addition of the upstairs rooms. Business initially boomed, but occupancy rates have fallen to just 25 per cent. “Bookings just dropped like a stone,” Mel says. Mel now finds herself working round the clock, and has lost her sense of pride in the business. “My stress levels have gone through the roof,” she adds. Alex’s first impressions are underwhelming at best. “It looks like a wine bar with flats above,” she says of the hotel’s exterior. The rooms fare little better, with too many cushions and chintzy decorations for Alex’s tastes. “Welcome to the knocking shop,” Alex jokes as she enters a room kitted out with deep red furnishings. She is also unimpressed by the lack of attention to detail and the level of cleanliness in the rooms. Her immediate reaction is that Mel should reclassify the hotel as a guesthouse, thereby lowering the expectations of the often unhappy guests. At breakfast the next morning, Alex is impressed by the service and quality of the food. However, this is offset by the oppressive nature of the room itself, which is blood red from floor to ceiling. “I feel like I’m in someone’s womb,” Alex says. During her feedback to Mel, Alex points out the shabby frontage, which includes dead flowers in hanging baskets, torn posters in the windows, and an inconspicuous main sign. While Mel agrees with Alex about the outside of the hotel, she is less sure about Alex’s criticism of the bedrooms. To test possible guest reactions to the hotel, Mel asks her husband to act as a businessman and appraise the establishment from a traveller’s perspective. Mel clearly feels uncomfortable with criticism, even from her husband. When he questions the need for the abundance of cushions, her answer is emphatic. “You’re supposed to put them behind your head, you twat,” she says.

Sunday 15 August, 7:00pm on Fiver

Award-winning hotelier Alex Polizzi comes to the aid of another struggling British guesthouse. This week’s show sees Alex visit the Sandygate Hotel in South Yorkshire. Despite showing promise, a lack of marketing savvy and sloppy pricing have left the hotel in peril. The 11-room Sandygate Hotel in Wath-upon- Dearne on the outskirts of Rotherham is owned by Elvis fanatic Dave Elliott and his wife Dyan. While Dyan tends bar and deals with the front of house, Dave is the hotel’s chef and controls the restaurant side of the business. Although the eatery turns a small profit, the overall costs of the establishment mean that the venture is losing money. With occupancy rates as low as two per cent, the Elliotts estimate that they have six months to turn the business around before going bankrupt. Dave is adamant that the restaurant he runs needs little improvement. “My food is the best you’ll find in the north of England,” he announces. As Alex arrives at the hotel, her first impression is not encouraging. She is met by an empty notice board, poor signage, shabby hanging baskets, and a reception confusingly located behind the bar. However, the rooms Alex inspects turn out to be of a fairly high quality. “I have to say, the rooms are pretty nice here,” she admits. She soon realises why nobody is using the hotel – she can find no website information, reviews or pictures of it. In fact, it seems to have no online presence whatsoever. Alex then investigates the restaurant, and is bewildered by the huge choice of dishes available. The size of the menu is echoed by the big portions. “I can feel my arteries clogging as I eat,” Alex says. Dave maintains that the quality of the food is good, and that many people like large portions. “Alex is a bit of a skinny bird. I like something I can get hold of, myself,” Dave responds. Despite agreeing that the food is delicious, Alex believes that the low prices and large portions are dramatically reducing the hotel’s profits. The next day, Dave is still feeling sensitive about Alex’s comments on the state of the hotel. “It’s like someone looking through your knicker drawer,” he says. However, over the next few weeks, Dave and Dyan start to heed Alex’s advice. They increase their online marketing presence, court businesses for extra clients, and re-evaluate their restaurant’s profit margins. Alex also gets the go-ahead to turn the couple’s disused function room into a lunchtime eatery. Before long, the couple have an established website, a new reception and a more realistic menu.

Sunday 8 August, 7:00pm on Fiver

Award-winning hotelier Alex Polizzi comes to the aid of another struggling British guesthouse. This week’s show sees Alex turn her attention to the Rutland Arms Hotel in Bakewell, Derbyshire. Set on the edge of the Peak District, the hotel enjoys high occupancy rates during the summer months, but poor organisation, bad reviews and an absence of visitors in the winter have pushed 68- year-old owner David to the brink of financial ruin. David, a 68-year-old former solicitor, bought the 17th-century Rutland Arms Hotel in Bakewell 12 years ago, hoping to retire on the profits. However, the reality of the situation has proved very different to David’s dream. Despite good occupancy rates during the summer, the establishment is losing some �50,000 a year thanks to an absence of visitors during winter. A lack of organisation and structure means that David spends his days cleaning, running the bar and tending to his precious collection of antique clocks. “I’m a first-class bog cleaner,” says David. Having lost nearly �750,000 in his time in charge of the place, David is fast running out of money – and patience -with the Rutland. As the hotel inspector visits the place for the first time, she is pleased with the frontage. “It looks wonderful from the outside,” she says. “You can’t see any of the problems that may lurk within.” Alex’s large, clean room is equally impressive. However, as she tours the hotel, Alex discovers that the level of housekeeping is inconsistent. Other rooms have not been cleaned, the reception area is messy and full of disparate objects and the signage is shoddy and confusing. On the plus side, the breakfast is good, though the service is somewhat lacklustre. After a day spent in the hotel, Alex is ready to deliver her verdict to David. The main areas she wants to address are the shoddy housekeeping, the dismal off-season occupancy rates and the messy reception. Most importantly, however, is the absence of any real leadership, which has led to bad training and a low morale amongst the staff. “As charming as you are, you’re not very competent,” says Alex. For his part, David seems to agree with everything the hotel inspector says. “Hopefully, with Alex putting her foot up my bottom, we’ll be able to achieve good standards,” he says. “She really is a formidable person – I’m looking forward to working with her.”

Sunday 1 August, 7:00pm on Fiver

Continuing on Fiver this week is the documentary series in which award-winning hotelier Alex Polizzi strives to transform the fortunes of struggling guesthouses across Britain. Alex’s latest challenge is the Artist Residence in Brighton, a nine-bedroom B&B run by 21-year-old student Justin. Decorated and staffed by up-andcoming artists, the establishment is designed to be a unique cross between art gallery and hotel, but it is currently failing miserably on both fronts. Situated on the seafront opposite the West Pier, the Artist Residence hotel boasts one of the best locations in Brighton. Managed by 21-year-old student Justin, the hotel features paintings and sculptures made by the up-and-coming artists who live and work at the establishment. “The aim is to create an environment which is full of art in every single way,” says Justin. After a year in charge, however, Justin realises that his business is hanging by a thread. Occupancy rates are near zero, and the hotel is widely derided – with online reviewers dubbing it ‘the worst hotel in Brighton’. Alex Polizzi’s first impressions of the Artist Residence are not good. “It’s pretty grubby,” she says of the frontage. The dirty windows are likely to turn potential guests away, while several bizarre sculptures look out of place. Once inside, the hotel inspector is given a tour of the nine bedrooms designed by different artists, and the gallery space that doubles as a breakfast room. Alex’s bedroom is a brightly coloured affair full of random artefacts. Dirty teacups, dusty carpets and a broken wardrobe complete the look. “This goes against every basic rule of hotel rooms,” says Alex. “I’m really struggling with this as an idea.” The next morning brings with it more unpleasant surprises. The so-called ‘Kandinsky-inspired’ breakfast consists of cheap white bread, basic cereal and bad tea. Deciding she has seen enough, Alex sits down with Justin to deliver some home truths. “I think it’s quite a nice idea,” she begins. “It’s just a shame you’re doing it so bloody badly.” Alex has no problem with the art, but rails against the inharmonious distribution of junk, the filthy, broken fixtures and fittings, and the atrocious breakfast. “At the moment, I don’t think you’re being a very good patron of the arts or a very good hotelier,” she says.

Sunday 25 July, 7:00pm on Fiver

Returning to Fiver this week is the documentary series in which award-winning hotelier Alex Polizzi strives to transform the fortunes of struggling guesthouses across Britain. In the opening instalment, she visits the Astor Hotel in Plymouth, but finds herself in conflict with the establishment’s headstrong owner. For her first challenge this series, Alex visits the three-star, 62-bedroom Astor in Plymouth, owned by the flamboyant Joseph Louei. Having risen from pot-washer to owner of a hotel in 30 years, Joseph is naturally very proud of his achievements. However, in recent years Plymouth has been flooded with cheap chain hotels, so the independent hostelries are struggling against stiff competition. In the nine years of Joseph’s ownership, the Astor has never made a profit. Its woes are compounded by a raft of terrible online reviews from dissatisfied customers. As Alex goes up the stairs, she notices that the landings and corridors are filthy. This, she believes, gives guests a negative and lasting impression of the hotel. Upon entering a selection of the hotel’s rooms, she spots one of her pet hates – towels piled on the bed instead of on the bathroom rack. “Every shit hotel has towels piled in the middle of the bed,” she opines. She is equally unimpressed by the overthe- top nature of the rooms and their idiosyncratic decoration. “A really good three-star hotel does not need this crap,” she says, gesturing at the assorted chintz patterns on the bedspread. Alex comes to the opinion that lack of attention to detail is a real problem for the Astor. Simple touches such as matching hangers in the cupboards, a smart welcome pack and a clean, bright reception can make or break a hotel. All of these touches are sadly missing from the Astor. Alex is also sorely disappointed by the hotel’s buffet breakfast, which she feels is the last chance a hostelry has to leave the customer with a good impression. When she raises these points with Joseph, he is evasive and unwilling to change his methods. “How many more layers of denial can you add?” asks a frustrated Alex.

Monday 24th August 9.00pm

The fifth series of the hotel-renovation show concludes this week. In the last episode of the current run, Alex Polizzi checks in to Liz and Michael’s guesthouse in the Swiss Alps. The British couple emigrated a year ago – but their hopes of a restful retirement have been destroyed by an avalanche of work. Can the hotel inspector help keep their dream alive?

Liz and Michael Callis bought the 14-bedroom Hotel du Repos in the beautiful Swiss Alps a year ago. But despite running a successful bed and breakfast in London for ten years, the couple have an occupancy rate of just 35 per cent in high season. “I woke up this morning and thought ‘What are we really doing here?’,” Liz admits. Faced with disgruntled staff, the couple hired a new front-ofhouse team, but they are still snowed under by the amount of work required to keep the hotel going.

When Alex arrives, a look at one of the bedrooms leaves her feeling positive. “The whole room looks appealing. I like it,” she says. However, her experience at dinner is not so encouraging. Alex is not impressed by the unprofessional appearance of the staff, nor by the largely unused formal dining room. A chat with some of the local workmen also reveals they are unhappy with a recent price rise for the set menu.

Alex sits the couple down for some uncomfortable truths. “What you’re doing is employing a dog and barking yourself,” she tells them. “With short-term staff, you have to lay down the rules immediately.” Alex goes on to outline her vision for the future of the hotel. First of all, the staff must all wear uniforms. Next, the couple need to reconsider the rise in the set menu price, which is putting off the local clientele. Lastly, the unused dining room must be turned into a cosy lounge area for guests to relax. “What I would like to see is low tables and couches and not make it so formal,” she instructs.

Inspired by Alex’s suggestions, Liz and Michael call a staff meeting. Liz begins well, by attempting to introduce smart waistcoats for all the waitresses. However, at the first signs of dissent, she buckles and allows the girls to wear their own clothes. When she returns a month later, Alex is frustrated by the couple’s lack of progress. Not only have Liz and Michael failed to enforce uniforms, their attempt to turn the dining room into a lounge consists of a couple of small chairs and a tiny sofa. “I’m feeling a bit frustrated at the moment. They’re still empty and they’re still being relentlessly cheerful!” Alex rants.

The hotel inspector decides to check out the local competition – and is interested to note that nearby guesthouse the Hotel Communal offers lunch for two francs less than the Hotel du Repos. However, when Alex tries to talk some sense into the couple, Michael claims he is going to seek out an entirely new client base. “Talking to him is like trying to grasp hold of water,” Alex snaps.

Back at the hotel, Alex again tackles the issue of the lounge. She shows the couple her designs, which include low sofas and coffee tables, and a banquette for one side of the room. Michael seems excited by her ideas – but once Alex is back in the UK she receives an email from him, altering the plans. Deciding that ignoring Michael is the best policy, she arrives back at the hotel several weeks later with a van of furniture. “He can like it or lump it,” she says.

When the lounge is finally finished, even Michael is happy with the result. Alex then sets up a meeting with a representative from a winter adventure company, who is looking for hotel rooms for his clients. Though he seems happy with the guesthouse, he decides to check with his partner before making any bookings – leaving Liz and Michael with an anxious wait. In the meantime, Alex decides the pair should set up a drinks party for the local customers in order to drum up some trade.

When the day of the party arrives several weeks later, Alex is pleased to find the staff are looking and acting more professionally. Liz and Michael have also introduced a new 15-franc set menu. But have they done enough to win over the frosty locals?

Monday 17th August 8.00pm

Continuing on Five this week is the fifth series of the hotel-renovation show. In this instalment, Alex Polizzi checks in to Glangrwyney Court in the Black Mountains. Despite a five-star rating and a reasonable occupancy rate, the guesthouse is bleeding cash at an alarming rate. Can Alex get to the bottom of this money pit?

Christina and Warrick Jackson turned their home, Glangrwyney Court, into an eight-bedroom guesthouse 14 years ago. Christina gave up her job in banking to run the establishment, but when former doctor Warrick also retired, the extent of the couple’s financial problems could no longer be ignored. Despite an occupancy rate of 57 per cent, Glangrwyney Court is rapidly going under. “We’ve never made a profit. We’ve only just managed to keep going,” Christina admits. Without Warrick’s steady income, the couple are in danger of losing not just their business but their home. And with their daughters also employed at the hotel, the whole family could soon be facing unemployment.

When Alex arrives, Christina quickly outlines the Glangrwyney’s woes. The hotel inspector is taken aback by the low prices Christina is charging for the rooms. “You seem to be on the cheap side,” she tells her. Alex checks in to the bridal suite, but is not impressed by the plastic doll in a cot – nor by the vast amount of clutter in the bedroom and bathroom. “There’s not one place to put something down. There’s just too much stuff,” she says. But the clutter is not the only problem – Alex is also astonished by the number of erotic paintings and ornaments Christina has on display. “I find her taste for nudes rather strange,” she admits.

The following morning, Alex and Christina examine the Glangrwyney’s figures together, and Alex is appalled by what she finds. Christina’s average room rate is just £58, and she is making a loss of £10 every time she rents out a room. “You’re doing all this work and you’re not making any money!” Alex exclaims. She also tackles Christina’s decorative choices. “You have to make a man feel like he’s not waking up in Barbara Cartland’s underwear,” she insists. Overall, however, Alex believes there is hope for the hotel. She leaves Christina and Warrick with strict instructions to declutter before she returns in a month’s time.

To hammer home the message that Christina and Warrick are undervaluing their product, Alex sends them to stay in a nearby hotel. Despite providing a similar level of service, their competitor is charging £134 per night. “It definitely makes me feel that we could justify putting up our prices,” Christina says. She also gets to work cutting down on the amount of ornaments and furniture in the Glangrwyney.

When Alex returns, she is delighted to see that Christina and Warrick have raised their tariff by £20 per night. Christina has also decluttered some of the rooms – but Alex still feels there is more work to be done. After a manic clearing spree, the hotel goes from overly stuffed to stylish. Alex even persuades the couple to have a car-boot sale to raise some much-needed cash.

Next, Alex talks Warrick and Christina through her plan for saving the business. She believes that if the couple target the lucrative corporate market, Glangrwyney Court has a chance of making a decent profit. A representative from a teambuilding firm arrives to look at the hotel, and she is pleased with what she finds. “I’ve got no doubt that she would be a really good host,” she says of Christina. The rep is so impressed, she decides to book out the hotel for a team-building exercise.

Worried about the Jackson family’s chances of success, Alex arrives to mastermind the event. She is concerned to learn that Christina has decided not to charge for drinks. “Think money, think bottom line,” she warns her. The day runs smoothly – but when the evening arrives, Christina begins to lose control of her team. With no clear plan, the meal nearly grinds to a halt. “The whole household is completely barking mad,” says Alex. Can she rescue the eccentric Jackson clan from themselves?

Monday 10th August 9.00pm

Continuing on Five this week is the fifth series of the hotel-renovation show. In this instalment, Alex climbs aboard floating hotel the African Queen. With the boat running at just 30 per cent occupancy, owners Bonny and Andy are at breaking point. Can the hotel inspector throw this beleaguered couple a life jacket?

South Africans Bonny and Andy Cowley previously ran a successful hotel and restaurant on the Isle of Wight. When they bought 85-year-old Dutch barge the African Queen they were full of hope for their new project. “We thought, ‘We’re gonna fly!’ but it didn’t work like that,” says Bonny. The eightbedroom floating hotel is failing to turn a profit – and even when the couple have guests, the heavy workload of running the boat is taking its toll.

“It looks rather like a floating Portakabin,” comments Alex upon arrival. Her tour begins below deck with the guest accommodation, and she is pleasantly surprised by the standard of the rooms. “The minimum requirements are being met,” she admits. With the rooms passing muster, Alex decides to check out the service, and settles down for a traditional South African dinner. However, although Bonny’s cooking is excellent, Alex finds Andy’s hosting skills a little too enthusiastic. “He hovers over everybody while they’re trying to eat,” Bonny sighs.

After 24 hours, Alex is ready to deliver her verdict. Firstly, she tells the couple that Andy must leave the guests some more time to themselves. Next, Bonny must devise some extra touches to add value – such as extra towels and a thermos of hot water in the bedrooms for tea and coffee. Lastly, the pair must spruce up the boat’s scruffy exterior and put more effort into their marketing plan. Andy is full of enthusiasm for the changes. “My whole livelihood depends on it,” he says.

Alex leaves the couple with clear objectives to take the business forward, but she is not convinced that her advice about Andy’s hosting skills has sunk in. The hotel inspector decides to send two undercover guests onto the boat for a romantic anniversary visit. Initially, Andy appears to be holding back. But the temptation to chat to his guests is soon too much for him, and he joins them in the lounge. When Alex reveals all to Andy and Bonny the next day, the ‘guests’ admit they did find Andy overbearing. “I think he’s very self-indulgent about this boat. He has to focus less on what makes him happy and more on what makes his guests happy,” Alex says.

With spiralling debts, Andy and Bonny have no choice but to listen to Alex’s advice. The couple decide on a nostalgic 1930s colour scheme of red, white and black for the exterior of the boat. New blinds and soft furnishings complete their vision. They also hire a former waiter from the QE2 to assist Bonny with cooking and cleaning. On her return, Alex is delighted with the improvements. “That looks so much better! I love all the red,” she enthuses. Alex then takes the pair shopping for a smart new blazer for Andy.

In the first step of their marketing plan, Andy and Bonny take the boat for a cruise up the Thames in order to advertise their product. Unfortunately, the Easter holidays mean the area is very quiet, but the two are delighted when a passer-by makes a booking for ten people for a 60th birthday party. “That’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!” exclaims Andy.

The final stage of Alex’s plan is to invite travel journalists and representatives from local businesses for a launch party. Although the Queen is certainly looking regal, Alex is distressed with Andy and Bonny’s hospitality – particularly when Andy begins telling his guests about various boating disasters. The hotel inspector is forced to pull the deluded captain aside for some stern instructions. “Don’t tell them everything that’s ever gone wrong!” she insists. Bonny’s cooking is soon winning the press over – but is Andy’s performance about to send the African Queen into troubled waters?

Monday 3rd August 9.00pm

Continuing on Five this week is the fifth series of the hotel-renovation show. In this instalment, Alex visits the 14th-century Swan Hotel in Norfolk. With 15 empty bedrooms and a deserted restaurant, the Swan is struggling to stay afloat. Can Alex breathe some life into this lame duck?

Robin Twigge bought the 14th-century Swan Hotel in Harleston seven years ago. Despite 30 years of experience in hotel management, Robin has failed to turn this ugly duckling into an elegant swan. Still unrated by Visit England, the Swan has never managed to turn a profit. With 15 empty bedrooms and a restaurant that is lucky to get 30 covers a week, only Robin’s bustling pub trade is keeping the establishment afloat.

A filthy entrance greets Alex on her arrival at the hotel, and her first impressions of the rest of the Swan are distinctly underwhelming. Inside she finds an unmanned reception, no guest lounge, threadbare carpets and urine stains on the bathroom floors. At breakfast in the pub-style restaurant, Alex quickly discovers the reason few customers are willing to eat there – with 30 dishes on the menu there is no way the food can be fresh.

Alex sits Robin down and tells him the unpalatable truth – he needs to decide whether he wants to be a landlord or a hotelier. By ignoring his 15 rooms, and letting the restaurant drown under the weight of such a huge menu, Robin is turning his back on two potentially profitable areas. First, he needs to start focusing on the guests’ experience at the Swan by cleaning and checking the rooms on a regular basis. Next, Alex will create a new guest lounge and give the restaurant a facelift. Finally, his menu needs to be pared down and he must begin to use fresh, local produce.

On her return, Alex is pleasantly surprised by the hotel’s spruced-up exterior. She also discovers that Robin has halved his menu, which now features local dishes such as Gressingham duck. The hotel inspector then reveals her plan for taking the business forward. It is essential that Robin achieves a three-star rating in order to increase the number of guests. Once the restaurant has been redecorated, Robin must organise a launch to showcase the new menu and revamped surroundings. Alex’s plans leave Robin with a lot of food for thought…

Unfortunately, when Alex returns for the relaunch the Swan is in chaos. The restaurant has only just been completed, and with 30 invited guests – as many in one sitting as the restaurant normally gets in a week – the kitchen descends into pandemonium. However, whilst the kitchen is in crisis, the graceful front of house ensures the guests do not notice the confusion next door. The restaurant relaunch and refit is a huge success – but the hotel must now achieve the all-important three-star rating…

Alex arrives for her final visit to discover that the Visit England assessor is already at the hotel, investigating the revitalised rooms with Robin. But a forgotten alarm call, missing newspaper and dirty bedding could scupper everything. Will Robin get his three stars? Or is the beleaguered manager destined to remain a publican with a hotel, rather than a hotelier with a pub?

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