When Jackie Dardis took over as manager of Cave Castle Golf Club in February 2020, she was ‘mortified’ to discover that it only had a 2* hygiene rating – meaning that improvements were required.
The club, within the iconic Cave Castle Hotel, in the East Yorkshire village of South Cave, has always been a favourite haunt of enthusiasts, and has a longstanding, loyal clientele. However, as often happens with seasoned venues like this, it was ready for an overhaul, and Jackie made it her mission to give it exactly that.
The former education worker with extensive experience of running and owning a variety of businesses that require the highest hygiene standards, relishes a challenge. She decided she just wasn’t putting up with a ‘2’ and set about the gargantuan effort of getting the club back on track.
Elliott’s Co-owner and Finance Director Janette, and the rest of our team, carried out a thorough audit and identified a list of urgent changes to get the venue to where it needed to be. These included: remodelling the flow of the kitchen, installing a dishwasher, replacing the standard fridge and freezer with commercial machines, cladding over painted walls in the kitchen area to make them easier to clean; creating a safe and separate area for the storage of cleaning equipment and chemicals; setting up new processes, systems and paperwork for recording cleaning activities for health and safety reporting purposes, and replacing the vast assortment of chemicals used across the venue with a smaller number of more effective formulas that are now used throughout to keep things spic and span.
The list was a long one but Jackie and her dedicated team are nothing if not driven, and set about their combined purpose with gusto, determined to give their loyal customers an all-round better experience. And this commitment took them from a two to a five-‘star’ rating within just over six months!
“It’s been a massive team effort,” explained Jackie. “Everyone has pulled together to scrub floors and walls, clean bins and even remove doors to get the new fridges in. You name it, whatever was needed, they’ve done it without complaint.”
It’s fair to say the timing wasn’t great, given Jackie took over just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced them to shut their doors for six months. The golf course had to be closed from March until 13 May and the club house only re-opened for serving food and drinks on 4 July. But the team were undeterred.
“The pandemic did force us to put things on hold for a while,” added Jackie. “But, in another sense, it made us even more determined, because it means that there really is no room for complacency when it comes to hygiene. It has to be right.”
While the whole exercise has required quite an investment of time and money, it’s been resource well-spent.
“The fact is we were losing custom,” added Jackie. “Some older customers who would traditionally have booked group dinners with us, had stopped doing after seeing the two-star rating. Now, they’re doing so again because we’ve rebuilt their confidence.
“For me, it was a matter of pride and I couldn’t have somewhere I was responsible for scoring anything less than excellent.”
And there have been savings as a result of the changes they’ve made, too: “It takes our team half the time it did before to wash the pots because they were having to wash them by hand and then put them through the steriliser, whereas, now we have a proper dishwasher, it does it all for them,” added Jackie.
“Because we now have the most efficient and cost-effective range of chemicals in place, and are using them at the right doses, we’re also saving money there. Janette also had lots of clever ideas for keeping costs down, like using refillable trigger spray bottles to save on the cost of packaging and protect the environment at the same time.”
The five-star rating was granted following an on-spec check on 25 September this year, during which the inspector judged the golf club to be ‘consistently compliant across all areas’.
Vital piece of the jigsaw
And the changes Jackie and the gang have made to the golf club are part of far-reaching adaptations taking place across the hotel. Previous owner Melvyn Hogarth, who also owned other hotels and regional building firm Hogarth Construction, had owned the Cave Castle for decades when he sadly passed away in 2018, leaving it to his son and daughter, Steve Hogarth and Kate Nicholson. They’re keen to honour their father’s legacy by investing for the future so that the venue can continue to serve the next generation of customers for years to come. Elliott’s have guided the entire team through the process of making sure everything is up to scratch, to support their ambitions.
“Steve and Kate are very driven and have very ambitious plans for the future of Cave Castle. They’ve got a programme of investment and refurbishment in mind that will ensure it keeps its place as one of the county’s favourite venues, including a refit of our restaurant and lounge bar, and updating some of the bedrooms, in the months ahead,” continued Jackie.
“The first step was to take stock of where we were and get the right groundwork in place and this process has been really beneficial in other ways too, as it has really gelled us all as a newly-formed team of staff, and we’re all now working closely together to achieve our collective ambition for the place.”
The hotel scored a ‘three’ in its last inspection in 2018 – which, though classed as ‘generally satisfactory’, the team are keen to improve on. Having been through the process with the golf club, the team are as confident as they can be that there will be more good news for the hotel when the inspectors decide to call again.
“We really feel that we owe it the customers who come back to us, year after year, to give them the best experience possible, as well as attracting new customers here for the first time. We have tonnes of ideas for everything from alternative Christmas and New Year celebrations to creative ways of running weddings, conferences and other events during the pandemic. And we’re very clear that we want to be the best hotel, wedding and event venue, and the best golf club, for miles around,” added Jackie.
Don’t be disheartened
In our experience, achieving good results in hygiene inspections is partly about what you do and the rest is about how you do it. While some adjustments and a little extra attention to detail were needed to get the golf club and, ultimately, the Cave Castle Hotel as well, up to scratch, a lot of it came down to clarity and confidence.
Cave Castle Hotel and Golf Club are like a lot of other well-loved places where, after years in operation, it’s easy for a little complacency to seep in, which leads to details being overlooked. Sometimes, all that’s needed when this happens, is for a company like ours to come along and take a look with a fresh pair of eyes and help put things right. Given the added threat presented by the coronavirus, we believe every business can benefit from a review, to make sure there are absolutely no gaps in what they’re doing that could cause issues and, ultimately, put customers off coming through their doors.
“It was important for the team to have a strategy, for each person to understand the part they play in that, and then to teach them how to implement it correctly. It was these things that were we focussed on above everything else, said Elliott’s Co-owner and Finance Director Janette Elliott.
“Our family have lived in South Cave for many decades and therefore it’s always been a personal dream and aspiration of ours to work with the hugely popular Cave Castle venue. So, when we were asked to do so, three years ago now, we were over the moon.
“As a result of all this positive effort, we now have every confidence that their ‘scores on the doors’ will reflect the changes they’ve made when the next inspection takes place, sometime over the coming weeks or months.”
She added: “The best thing about our recent experience with Jackie and the Golf Club team, was the way she rang us straightaway, on the Friday night, as soon as she received news of the improved rating. This meant the world to us, as it’s the close working relationship we have with our clients that we value most, and sharing the journey towards a positive result with them is what makes it all worthwhile.”
You can read more about our successful collaboration with the Cave Castle Golf Club team in our case study. Next week, we’ll be taking a look at hygiene ratings, why they’re important and how to make yours the best it can be, so watch this space.
If your business could do with an external review of its hygiene practices, don’t hesitate to get in touch for a free, no obligation audit, via 01482 327580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.