When Neil Kedward and his partner Zoe bought luxury hotel the Grove of Narberth over 10 years ago, they knew it would take more than the fantastic location and stunning interiors to secure its long-term success.
“It’s down to having the right people in the business,” says Neil. “We only want people who really care – people who are genuinely concerned about whether guests are having a good time and go the extra mile to make sure they are 100% happy. I think the Welsh are a naturally nurturing nation and hospitable. We love taking care of others, to pamper them and provide comfort so that’s why 80% of our staff are local. It’s what the foundations of our businesses are built on.”
Following the success of the Grove of Narberth, which quickly gained a reputation for its excellent food, Neil and Zoe opened the much-acclaimed seafront restaurant Coast in Saundersfoot in 2014. The Beach House restaurant on Oxwich Beach followed two years later. Both restaurants have been named AA Restaurant of the Year for Wales.
“Our incredible chefs and dedicated managers are our business leaders,” says Neil. “We give them the freedom to use their unique experiences, expertise and aspirations to shape the businesses. We put our trust in them to deliver something special and they do.”
Creating a Destination
The popularity of the three businesses has surpassed expectations, with discerning food fans regularly travelling from as far afield as London or the Wirral for the day, to dine at Coast or the Beach House.
“Any good restaurant can present a good plate of food. Our restaurants have become a destination in their own right because of the warmth of our staff, the excellent service experience and of course, the fantastic food,” says Neil. “Quality is built on reputation. Reputation is built on consistency and you must have consistency to keep people coming back. Delivering consistency is one of the most difficult things to do. We aren’t always perfect, but we work hard to get it right.”
Sustainability and a commitment to locality and heritage is also a strong and sincere component of all the businesses. The Grove grows much of its own fruit, vegetables and herbs in the extensive kitchen gardens, while the restaurants use locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible. The hotel oozes unbuttoned luxury, with Welsh antiques, traditional fabrics and heritage furniture featuring heavily throughout. In another nod to locality, the fine dining Fernery Restaurant at the Grove even features fern leaves on its walls collected from the hotel grounds and pressed by Neil and Zoe themselves.
Unique Opportunity for Wales
Neil believes that sustainability should be part of Wales’ tourism strategy. “Wales has the unique opportunity to develop sustainable tourism and we should grab that with both hands,” he says. “Our country is quieter, less commercialised and less ‘trodden’ than other destinations. We need to retain that charm and character, always remaining sensitive and planning properly for the local constraints.”
“Unfortunately, it is difficult for the hospitality sector in Wales to raise affordable finance right now, which makes it hard for anyone new to enter the market and for even the most established businesses to grow. Despite these challenges we have managed to grow steadily and organically whilst ensuring that we retain our ownership and vision. Every development has been a natural progression and all of our profits go back into the businesses to develop them even further. It’s hard work but great fun. That’s the hospitality sector for you!”
Talking about the service he receives from Thomas Carroll’s local Pembrokeshire office, Neil says: “What has impressed us the most is the attention to detail. We are a business that’s all about the little details too, because we know what a difference they can make. Thomas Carroll unpicked the details of our policies, identifying areas where extra cover may be needed. There is a great range of products available too, so we always feel well-protected whatever our needs and however our business develops.”
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