The Gallivant is what I hope will be the first of a small group of hospitality businesses dedicated to making people happy.
We do this by:
- Treating our customers as if they are guests in our own home
- Providing outstanding service all the time
- Serving food that is always seasonal, always hand cooked from scratch and whenever possible, always local – food that is delicious, beautiful and inspiring
- Creating an immediately welcoming environment that is happy, calm and relaxing
- Creating moments of magic for every guest that they will remember us by
As a young company we are always on the look out for people that share these goals and who want to deliver these standards, so if you know someone please let me know. We strive to deliver these standards all the time but also know that sometimes they are not met. If you feel we have let you down or you are really unhappy with what we have done please contact me here, I would love to hear from you.
For those of you interested in a rather long winded potted history of the Gallivant in Camber, please read below.
Harry Cragoe, the owner
The Gallivant, a short history
I bought the site, then called ‘The Place’, in 2011. It was trying to be a chic seaside hotel serving good food but in reality it was suffering from a lack of investment, a directionless team and a kitchen that had more microwaves than ovens.
I had no experience in hospitality but believed I had a reasonable idea of what people wanted. I thought the location was extraordinary, behind a beach that still puts a smile on my face today when I walk onto it. And at the back of my mind I thought that if it didn’t work out it would make an amazing private house, somewhere I could invite friends and family to, a place to relax and unwind and generally have a great time.
The first three years were a real experiment. Trying to understand who our customers were and what they wanted. I reinvested every penny the site produced and gradually became more confident of how we could make the site work, both for our customers and for us commercially.
Three years ago I re-launched the site after a clever friend suggested I call it the Gallivant and I decided to describe it as a Restaurant with Rooms and not a Hotel. As a hotel people arrived with a number of preconceptions of what we were. Some of these, mainly relating to our small size and limited public areas, were always going to be a challenge to live up to. As a Restaurant with Rooms we were being more transparent and it also just felt right.
We were surrounded by incredible ingredients and my passion was always to own a place that served really delicious, great food, so focusing more of our efforts and money into doing just that seemed the right thing to do. We spent a small fortune on completely refurbishing the kitchen and refurbished the bar/restaurant. We hired more chefs and launched a menu philosophy that we still maintain today, sourcing almost all of our fresh ingredients from within 15 miles of us.
At around the same time I had a radical rethink in the way we look after our staff. Working in the hospitality industry is tough. You work long, anti social hours, often standing up and if you’re working anywhere good, it’ll be busy and quite often pretty stressful. Rates of pay aren’t great, with a lot of staff, particularly front of house, getting paid the minimum wage (£5.60/hour if your under 20, £7.50/hour if you are over 25). To supplement this most, but certainly not all hospitality businesses, give their staff a share of any tips collected. Some will also give them a share of the service charge.
In most restaurants service charge is phrased as ‘discretionary’ and can be anything from 10% to 15% on top of the total bill. Whilst most establishments will say they give this out to their staff one is never sure how it’s divided, typically it’s based on seniority and title and not necessarily on individual performance. I felt the whole system was inherently out of date and unfair. It was unfair for the customer, who was effectively being taxed to eat out and it was unfair for a lot of our staff, some of whom weren’t getting a fair share of this ‘tax’ even though they may have been contributing more than most.
In 2016 I decided to stop asking guests to pay any service charge and asked them politely not to leave any tips (our Too Hip To Tip campaign). At the same time I raised the minimum hourly wage to £9/hour irrespective of age, once a team member had completed an introductory period. We were and still are the first hospitality company in the UK to do this. I also introduced an individual performance related bonus scheme that pays all team members a quarterly bonus, made up of a variety of things, one of which was customer feedback. In addition we began things like staff yoga, food foraging trips, wine education courses and subsidised gym membership. Since making these changes I think we have created a significantly nicer place to work, we have a happier team, our customer feedback has been great and we haven’t been busier.
With more guests, revenues have increased and this has enabled us to refurbish more bedrooms, as well as plant the coastal garden and build within it the Beach Hut, our mini spa.
As we continue to grow and think of new ways we can improve the Gallivant experience for our guests we have never lost sight of what we are always trying to do, making people happy. One of the things that has been most rewarding over this time is the feedback we get from many of our returning guests who have seen first hand how the site has evolved and improved over the past few years. It’s a journey that has still a long way to go and it’s lovely that we now have a lot of stakeholders who are sharing that journey with us. All I can say is the best is yet to come!