Stories of Brave
Creating the perfect experience
Running a business takes courage and determination and at Allied Irish Bank (GB) we are delighted to celebrate the commitment and strength of customers who encounter challenges each day, making brave decisions to help drive forward their business. Mark Higham is the owner of Briars Hall Hotel in West Lancashire and here he talks about his family’s journey since taking over the hotel in 2003 and the recent obstacles facing the business.
“Working in the hospitality industry is very rewarding but it comes with its challenges as we are always looking to stay one step ahead of our competitors and deliver the very best customer service.” Mark explains. Mark purchased Briars Hall Hotel in 2003 with his parents Gerard and Marjorie. After a successful career in engineering, Mark made the move into the hospitality sector and joined forces with his parents who have established backgrounds working in the sector having first started in the pub industry.
“We knew the previous owners of Briars Hall Hotel so when the opportunity arose to acquire the hotel we jumped at the chance. Although my previous background is in engineering, I have grown up in the hospitality sector because of my parents’ jobs. Running Briars Hall Hotel is a real family affair because I work alongside my parents, sister and sister-in-law and we all feel extremely passionate about delivering the best for our customers. In fact, every member of our team feels like a part of the family because we have excellent relationships with them, and everyone enjoys working here.”
Striving to deliver the best is what has driven the Higham family since taking over the hotel and today Briars Hall Hotel has a renowned reputation as a wedding and events venue alongside its popular restaurant and carvery. The pressures of working in such a competitive sector has a myriad of challenges, ensuring all guests enjoy the perfect experience and ultimately become returning loyal customers to the hotel. On top of the day to day challenges of running a hotel, along came COVID-19 which has affected all industries at a level never experienced before.
Not ones to rest on their laurels, Mark and his family took the recent lockdown and forced closure during the current COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to undertake an extensive refurbishment of the hotel. The closure of the hotel was extremely challenging for everyone but thanks to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Mark was able to retain his staff and this gave him the confidence to look at enhancing the hotel to gear it up for the reopening.
“No one could have anticipated the impact of COVID-19. It was a real shock when we were forced to close the hotel and it was a tough time. We had previously been planning some refurbishment work and decided to focus on the positives and take this as the perfect time to commence the work which would be easier to complete whilst the hotel was empty. We have been lucky to receive a finance package from the bank, which without we would not have been able to undergo the transformation plans. The results have been very well received after our recent re-opening.
Externally we have restored the exterior of the building and painted it to bring it back to its beautiful best and resurfaced the car park. Inside the hotel all the downstairs areas have been decorated to bring them up to the standard of the restaurant which was fully refurbished last autumn with a new carvery offering introduced. All 25 bedrooms are being fully refurbished so that they are at their optimum best for the celebration of our upcoming 50th anniversary as a hotel and wedding venue. Finally, we have received planning for a full kitchen upgrade and extension, improving our facilities even more and this will be completed this year also.
Since reopening the hotel we’ve been astounded by the response from our customers. People have really been impressed with the hotel and booking events and weddings for 2021. Our order book is looking great and we have also been able to host events for up to 30 people under the current government guidelines and participated in the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme. This has been such a success that we extended this until the end of September. So, now things are feeling good, but the future is still uncertain, and no one can predict how the next six months and year ahead will look. All we can do is work hard and keep a careful control of our finances and the running of the hotel. Our staff are integral to our success and I’m proud of how everyone has really risen to this latest challenge and shown real grit and determination. Allied Irish Bank (GB) have also demonstrated their continued support of our business and we have been very pleased to work with them since we first acquired the hotel.”
Running a hotel has many obstacles during a normal period but it is business owners like Mark Higham, with his passion and commitment to succeed that make establishments like Briars Hall Hotel special. Working alongside his family and staff, Mark has turned the impact of the pandemic into a positive by using it as a chance to update the hotel and enrich our reputation as a leading wedding and events venue in the North West.
Allied Irish Bank (GB) is backing UK businesses by providing cashflow solutions tailored to their needs. The bank is delighted to be backing the continued hard work and strength of the Higham family at Briars Hall Hotel who have demonstrated great courage since acquiring the hotel seventeen years ago.
AIB(GB) is backing businesses by providing a range of supports and cashflow solutions tailored to your business needs. For further information, visit www.aibgb.co.uk/backing-brave.