The owners of an 18th century coaching inn, hotel and eatery in the heart of the historic market town of Machynlleth are investing in staff development as the business bounces back from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Charles Dark and his wife, Sheila Simpson, from The Wynnstay, are confident of a busy summer ahead now that lockdown restrictions are being lifted. They hope that the predicted UK staycation boom will see a repeat of record business last August when takings were 40 per cent up on 2019.
The couple have owned The Wynnstay, which has 24 bedrooms, for a total of 23 years in two spells. This week, they saw four members of their 20-strong staff enrol on apprenticeships with Welshpool-based Cambrian Training Company to develop their skills and roles in the business.
Rhian Davies and Grace Edge have signed up for a Foundation Apprenticeship in Hospitality Services, Adrian Avadani will be working towards Foundation Apprenticeship in Professional Cookery and his sister, Irina, the hotel manager, is seeking a Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4) in Management. Grace is set to be fast-tracked to Higher Apprenticeship in Management within 18 months.
“We have always invested in training our staff but it’s more important than ever now that there is a national recruitment problem in the hospitality industry, which is a shame as it can lead to serious, sustainable and well paid careers” explained Charles.
“We are committed to training the developing our staff, most of whom live locally.”
Chris Bason, Cambrian Training Company’s head of hospitality, said: “We have a long-standing relationship with The Wynnstay and, in the current climate, it’s nice to see the business supporting apprenticeships.
“Charles and Sheila always want the best for their team to develop The Wynnstay which is at the forefront of hospitality in Machynlleth.”
During the series of Covid-19 lockdowns, Charles and some of his staff have been busy redecorating and improving the hotel, including installing new ground floor toilets, a new kitchen for head chef Gareth Johns and his team and new cooling and alarm systems.
The main ground floor room has also had a complete makeover, which entailed removing layers of wallpaper and paint spanning 200 years. The improvements cost £100,000, supported in part by a Welsh Government grant.
The rear of the hotel has also been transformed with a new seating area and pond with a feature cast iron fountain.
“We have invested to improve the product and have the strongest team in place that we have ever had,” said Charles. “We are looking forward to welcoming back our local customers and visitors, the majority of whom come from England.
“The main thing that I noticed last summer, when we were allowed to open, was a sea change in the type of visitors that we were attracting. Their average spend was way up on previous years.
“It takes a while to get going when hospitality reopens, but I am confident that it’s going to be a very good summer . Machynlleth and the Dyfi Valley is multi-faceted, and people come here for a myriad of reasons.”
The Wynnstay makes an excellent base for exploring Machynlleth, the Dyfi Valley and surrounding area which make up the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere Reserve.
Charles is a director of MWT Cymru, an independent organisation that represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd region of Gwynedd. The Wynnstay is a member of MWT Cymru.