We spoke to manager Jon Stark from The Fleece Inn, who was a finalist for Most Beautifully Presented at The eviivo Awards 2017 about what makes a stay with them so special.

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Can you tell us more about the property?

The Fleece Inn is an award-winning countryside inn with a lovely restaurant/ bistro and very good banqueting facilities. It has quite an enviable view, which we are very proud of. We take pictures of it at dusk and put them on the website so that people can see just how beautiful Yorkshire can be. We also now have a very good reputation as a banqueting venue, especially for weddings. When it’s your wedding day and you’re the bride with that backdrop behind you, it looks stunning for your photos. They stay with us as well, which adds to the whole experience. The last thing you want to do on your wedding day is to be traipsing here, there and everywhere trying for your accommodation. So it’s great for the bride and groom to just tumble into bed after their party, and just chill out. All our rooms are individually furnished, so no two rooms look the same.

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So is there a theme behind your interior design?

Yes, it’s old world luxury, opulence and pamper. It’s an old country inn but it was an old coaching inn years and years ago, so we’ve developed the cottage next to us. The rooms are all individual and they all say that this is you spoiling and pampering yourself – but not having to go to the spoiling and pampering prices- because we’re in Yorkshire.

How important is your website and photography on your website?

It is very important! Design really is the key to the success of the business, especially now with people trolling through websites before they even think about booking anywhere. So you have to set that first impression and you have to stand out. And if they’re looking at a website that’s full of fantastic photos it’s going to entice them to read further. If they’re looking at a website that’s a bit slow, a bit drab and a bit dated, they are really not going to bother. For example, if we’ve created a new dish, the chefs will mock up that dish, we will photograph it and put it on the website. Then we give it to our marketing team who will put it out there on our social channels to let people know about the new dish coming this weekend. Yesterday we made a chocolate sphere with a cheesecake inside. You pour a hot chocolate sauce over the top to melt the chocolate to get to the cheesecake within. Our chef Lee wants to create deserts that have got that ‘oh wow’ factor. We put slow-mo videos of it on our website.

What do you think is the most important thing about running your own accommodation?

The point is that guest experience and it’s taking it to another level. We had a wonderful couple in last night, they’d come for a drink on previously, he introduced himself to us all and we were having fun. He had said it was his girlfriend’s birthday and he’s like to come to The Fleece Inn and treat her. So we showed him the honeymoon suite and it was exactly what he wanted and we did a whole dinner, bed and breakfast deal for them. When he checked in, he’d got her a wonderful necklace and he said hi to all the staff from previously -everybody knew him. He got some photographs of the pair of them blown up, and we put them in a secret little corner. They had a nice little bottle of champagne, a lovely meal and a bottle of wine. Then they go to their own bedroom, that’s individually furnished, it looks beautiful, it’s got a wonderful roll top bath. When they said goodnight, we could see them just watching the sunset. So to have that, it’s the full guest experience. You don’t get that in a chain hotel. You can go to one hotel in Newcastle and go to the same hotel chain in London and it’s all the same. You have to respect everyone individuality and that’s why the rooms are all individual.

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What would you say is the best part of your job?

This sounds like a bit of a cliché but it’s that feeling you get when you get in your car and you’re driving home at the end of the night. That guy and his wife on table 93, they came it was her special birthday, they’ve gone away and I’ve got a kiss off the lady and he’s shaken me warmly by the hand – I’ve even had a cuddle of the guy. That feeling of having done something special and made somebody go away feeling special. That’s why I do what we do.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Being away from my family, and not being able to play golf. But if my wife ever reads this it’s purely the family.

Do you have any funny guest stories?

Apart from the usual things that are usually left behind in hotel rooms like leather bondage whips, it wasn’t actually this hotel, it was a hotel I was managing a long time ago, it was the oddest thing I’d heard off – it was a false leg. The leg was resting against the wall. So, I contacted the guest and they denied all knowledge. I have no idea why, I didn’t notice them limping the night before, so maybe it was somebody with a very weird form of toe fetish. It takes all sorts in this world.

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