How do you turn around a small hotel business to establish it as one of the top-rated guesthouses in Harrogate?
We spoke to Ali and Phil Standen, owners of Acorn Lodge to find out.
Acorn Lodge is a lovely guesthouse in the heart of Harrogate – an area where potential customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding somewhere to stay. To stand out, Ali and Phil have built something special; a family-run guesthouse that always delivers outstanding service and genuinely feels like a home from home.
That focus on the customer has helped them entirely turn around the business they bought 15 years ago, establishing it as one of the top-rated guesthouses in Harrogate and somewhere travellers and tourists return again and again.
But there is no magic dust behind their success. It is down to sheer hard work, commitment, and a passion for customer service.
“The first four years were incredibly hard,” Ali explained. “That was when we were really trying to put our own stamp on the business. There was a lot of renovation work but the small details are important too – the things that guests really value, that make a stay memorable and make them want to come back.”
For both Ali and Phil, taking on a guesthouse was a big career change. Ali was a teacher at the time, but now works full time at Acorn Lodge, as does Phil a former IT customer services manager. They were fortunate, however, to be able to call on the experience of Phil’s family, who run a similar business in Blackpool.
“We saw the benefits from looking at Phil’s family, but their experience also ensured we were prepared for a reality of hard work,” Ali said. “We both felt the need for a career change and liked the idea of working for ourselves. At least then the stresses you go through are for you and your family, not someone else.”
There’s a sense of responsibility too, she adds: “When it’s your business, you have to care. You have to be passionate about it. The experience your guests have is a reflection on you, so you want it to be right all the time. Maybe there isn’t that same connection for people simply employed by bigger hotels.”
That sense of pride is obvious when Ali talks about the things that please her most about a business she and her family have built up over 15 years.
“Our great reviews and the fact that customers keep returning make me feel really good. We have really turned the business around since we took it over. It’s now the top-rated Harrogate guest house on TripAdvisor. That feedback and the happy customers are the real reasons we’ve been successful, but it doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work and sticking power.”
Indeed, Ali’s advice to any budding guesthouse owners reflects that: “It’s so important to remember that things will get better when times are tough, as long as you keep focusing on the customer.”
Clearly, given the premises are the family home as well as its source of income, insurance has always been important to Ali and Phil.
“We’ve never had to claim but having loss of earnings and business interruption cover to protect us if something goes badly wrong is a big reassurance,” Ali said. “It gives us peace of mind and allows us to focus on making sure customers arrive to a warm welcome and, most importantly, leave with a fond farewell.”
You can follow Acorn Lodge in the following ways:
Facebook – @acornlodgeharrogate
Twitter - @acornharrogate
Instagram - @acornlodgeharrogate
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