There are hundreds of hotels in Dorset – TripAdvisor lists 1,305 properties and not every accommodation provider is featured on that website. So it’s easy to understand why the team at Shaftesbury’s Grosvenor Arms Hotel is celebrating after being singled out as one of the best hotels in the county.
“We are absolutely ecstatic,” said General manager Kirsty Schmidt. “We are a finalist for the Small Boutique Hotel of the Year in the Dorset Tourism Awards.” That category has been highly competitive. “There were 125 entries with 72 finalists and we’ve made the final four,” Kirsty added.
Businesses nominate themselves and Kirsty says it was important, both for her as the hotel’s new manager and for the Grosvenor’s owners, the Stay Original Company, to put the hotel forward for the rigorous judging procedure. “It’s not an easy process,” said Kirsty. “The questionnaire is very extensive. We were asked lots about sales and the differences year-on-year and if we are doing better. They looked at all of the services that we offer. In the mornings we put flasks of fresh milk outside the rooms. It’s little touches like that that people love.
“On Mother’s Day we give away little presents and we do the same on Father’s Day. We allow dogs to stay and that is a massive thing. We have a specific children’s menu. It’s all about the customer and getting it right. There are lots of aspects which come into it, but it has to be the quality of the rooms, the cleanliness, the decor and the general facilities,” said Kirsty.
The judge booked a room at The Grosvenor and she only revealed the purpose of her visit at the end of her stay. “She booked under her own name, so it’s like a secret mystery shopper. When she checked out she said ‘Hello, I’m from the Dorset Tourism Awards’ and my heart just sank. I thought ‘what room was she in? What did she have for dinner? Who looked after her?’ You think about everything concerning her stay and try and re-enact how it had been,” said Kirsty.
Kirsty believes that the only way to rate a small hotel is to stay overnight. “There are certain things you can’t judge – such as noise in the rooms or how comfy the beds are. You can’t just come in and have a look. It’s about the overall service.”
Kirsty said that being selected for the shortlist is both good for Shaftesbury and for the small company that owns the Grosvenor Arms and four other Westcountry properties. “We’re putting the Grosvenor right on the map of Dorset. For us it’s amazing. The White Hart has won awards. So has The Swan and Timbrels Yard and this could be the time first time that the Grosvenor has an award under the Stay Original ownership.”
Kirsty will join her deputy manager Ellie for the black tie awards night at the Lighthouse in Poole on 8th November. The women will return to Shaftesbury with the judge’s detailed feedback and hopefully an award. “It would be lovely to win but it is a complete shock that we got this far and we’re really happy,” Kirsty said.