The fifth and final part of our 2012 look-back featuring our top 10 most-read stories of the year investigates the impact the Channel 4 show Hotel GB had on the industry and asks why the opening of bars with table tennis tables in has seemingly grabbed the industry's attention.
From the outset, a TV show which tasked Gordon Ramsay, Mary Portas, Gok Wan and various other Channel 4 stars with running a hotel was going to attract interest both from within the hospitality industry and outside it. Some questioned why celebrities with little experience of the hospitality industry (save Ramsay) had been drafted in to coach unemployed trainees in the ways of hospitality, while others welcomed a focus on the industry. BigHospitality's visit to the launch found that the celebs were hoping to make a difference to youth unemployment and transfer worthwhile skills to those who had signed up. However, when the show aired many took to Twitter to express their dislike of the show, criticising its flippant approach to training staff. However, as our story shows, industry charity Springboard, which does some worthwhile work in finding work in hospitality for unemployed and disadvantaged people, was a beneficiary of the show and there were also other benefits, as Zekra Rahman outlines below.
Comment from Zekra Rahman of Midas Public Relations
In a twist to the reality TV format, Hotel GB offered more than the funny factor and got the UK hospitality industry thinking critically. It raised thought-provoking questions among hotel owners - were they doing enough to help the UK unemployed? Were they spending enough time and money on training their staff? Is customer service highly valued?
It taught staff exactly what not to do on the job and it equipped those wishing to join the industry with a valuable insight into running a hotel and since the show, companies have launched new management training programmes to improve the hospitality industry's customer service standards.
As well its positive impact on the industry, the show boosted the profile of the real Hotel GB, The Bermondsey Square Hotel operated by Bespoke Hotels. With prime-time coverage led by Channel 4 and promoted Tweets, the hotel experienced unprecedented levels of national media exposure.
A complete re-brand with celebrities and camera crews injected it with a new personality, generating word of mouth marketing as ‘the real hotel that Hotel GB was filmed at’ and genuine interest and curiosity to know more about the show behind the scenes. Ensuring the hotel was projected positively on TV and maximising on the opportunity after the show relies heavily on a well considered public relations and risk management strategy. A calculated risk managed smoothly impacted the hotel positively, and highlighted the possibility of location filming to other hospitality businesses looking for alternative forms of income generation and national exposure.
It may be hard to believe, but the combination of ping-pong with food and drink proved to be of huge interest when we revealed table tennis player Dov Penzik and All Star Lanes co-founder Adam Breeden's plans to open a new venture which did just that. Another story about a new venture called PING , which also mixed table tennis with dinner and dancing, was also high up on our most-read list, indicating that readers were interested in a concept which is just that little bit different.
Comment from Ros Shiel of Shiel Porter
Hard as I try, cocktails and ping pong just won’t sit together in my brain – and I expect it’s down to footwear: I just can’t see myself sipping a cocktail in anything other than killer heels. And a pair of 4” stilettos isn’t going to do anything for my game which is, at best – and in flats – only average.
Personal dress code aside though, I can only admire Ping and Bounce for trying something different, challenging established thinking and taking a punt on there being sufficient demand from customers wanting to add a new dimension to their dining experience. On the face of it, table tennis, as a sociable sport, would seem to be eminently suitable as a pre-drinks or dinner diversion, in much the same way that tenpin bowling is - as witness the success of All Star Lanes.
The desire to be entertained before or during your meal by something other than the food on the plate and the conversation of your table companions isn’t terribly new: the Victorians dined while watching troupes of dancing girls, for example. Interestingly, burlesque entertainment is being staged by a growing number of restaurants and pubs as operators look to differentiate their offer.
For customers in London and other major cities, the options for entertainment while you eat or drink seem almost limitless, certainly if you factor in pubs as well as restaurants. If sport’s not your thing, how about theatre, stand up comedy or just about any genre of live music? Then there’s more participatory activity such as the ‘stitch ‘n’ bitch’ groups that have revived ‘dead’ trading times and brought non-typical customers into the pub.
Ping pong with prosecco is surely only ever going to appeal to a fairly narrow audience, but we should applaud the Bounces, Pings and others for innovating to keep our industry fresh, exciting and appealing to new customers.
You can read all of our stories from our 2012 look-back here .