“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf
Food and drink have always gone hand in hand with hotels. Ever since the Romans built road systems, travellers would stop off at an inn for food and rest. As well as attending to the needs of travellers, inns would act as community gathering places; a function that gave rise to the traditional British pub. To open up your arms and invite people in for a drink or a bite to eat is the epitome of hospitality.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our basic physiological requirements include air, water, food, shelter and sleep. In a hotel you are usually able to find all of these things. But all too often, the food and beverage provision is scarce or disappointing. If you’re lucky, you might find a gentrified chain restaurant nearby without any sense of place and locality.
We’re losing the community gathering spaces that were once provided by the inns and pubs of old.
We recently completed the refurbishment of The Comet Hotel. This Grade II listed building has been part of Hatfield’s heritage and community since the 1930s when it was built to commemorate the record-breaking Comet Racer plane.
Rather than let out the restaurant space to a chain who would likely impose their own branding, the decision was made to create Element Bar & Kitchen which would be run independently by the hotel operator Lester Hotels, allowing us to design a restaurant with a strong identity and sense of place.
The interiors have a modern Art Deco aesthetic that suites with the rest of the hotel, combining the 1930s history of the building with the contemporary restaurant branding. A new commercial kitchen was installed complete with a pizza oven to serve fresh Neapolitan style pizzas alongside freshly made cocktails.
A restored Comet Racer is proudly displayed on the forecourt – a symbol of the town’s heritage and a piece that holds great local affection. Artwork of the Comet’s history is scattered throughout the hotel to remind visitors that this place couldn’t be anywhere else but Hatfield.
An investment that can turn a good hotel into a great one.
With the addition of an enticing restaurant, the hotel is accessible and attractive not just to the travellers, but to the locals nearby. It becomes inclusive of the community, a unique offering that can only be found in that specific place. Something for the community to cherish. Somewhere for locals to go for an after-work gathering. Somewhere for a lone traveller to interact with others.
Investing in a great food and beverage facility is not for the faint-hearted. It can come with a serious price tag and requires a lot of planning, designing, preparing and training. But a unique hotel restaurant and bar can send out a wonderful message to both tourists and to the local community – “Everyone is welcome here!” And for me, that’s the true essence of hospitality.