Alan Bannerman with his team at the Red House Hotel
As the Scottish hospitality sector begins its recovery, a family which describes itself as having “hospitality in its DNA”, has revealed how it coped with lockdown, and how it’s fighting back.
The Bannerman family own and run three separate businesses in Blairgowrie and Coupar Angus, with Alan Bannerman at the helm of The Red House Hotel in Coupar Angus.
He inherited the business, which celebrated its 40th birthday last year, from his father Norman, and late uncle Telford. The two men had originally developed an old potato store & railway yard into a hotel in 1980, having purchased the buildings from Scottish Brewers the year before.
Alan’s younger brother Ian runs the public bar side of the Red House Hotel, whilst another family member, Alan’s sister Susan, will celebrate fifteen years of ownership this June, of Number 31, a popular café and bar in Wellmeadow, Blairgowrie. Just a pub when Susan took it on, it now employs twelve local staff, and has developed a daytime food menu.
Included in the family portfolio is another Blairgowrie based hospitality venue – stylish eatery, The Dalmore Inn – which has been managed since its opening in 2014 by Frenchman Arnaud Merrouche, originally from Dijon. Well known in Perthshire, having fulfilled senior management roles at Ballathie House Hotel, Arnaud came to Scotland over 25 years ago, having also worked at hotels and restaurants in the Lake District, as well as his native France.
“Diners don’t expect to find a Frenchman here in rural Perthshire,” said Arnaud. “I think I reflect the food here though – Dalmore Inn offers a level of fine dining you’d most often experience in a restaurant in a large city, but our prices are certainly more modest, giving our diners the chance to try game dishes, such as pigeon and grouse, cooked with real skill, along with stunning desserts such as pistachio parfait.”
“I’m also delighted to have my close knit team still gainfully employed, including local lad Lewis, who was able to complete his HND in Hospitality Management during the first lockdown.
“He’s now increasing in confidence in the business, taking on more hours, and more responsibility. It’s great to see!”
As Alan Bannerman explains, it has been a huge relief to get all three venues back open, with all staff, many of whom have worked with the family for a long time, retained in their roles. He is keen to pay tribute to Ian, to Susan, to Arnaud, and what he refers to as his entire “family” of staff.
“As a hotelier, we exist to look after guests, it’s what we enjoy doing most, and we missed our regulars very much over the last lockdown,” said Alan. “I found myself still coming into the hotel most days, just because it was something I was used to doing over the past 40 years. I felt at a bit of a loss initially, but there were still jobs to do, and I got into a new routine.
“I am sure Susan, Ian and Arnaud felt the same, it was a very unsettling time as we all missed our staff, as they are like family to us. Now, however, having re-opened, there is a definite mood of optimism in the air – we’ve all got outside eating & drinking areas on the go – and we are slowly and surely feeling more confident about the future.
“We’re picking up from guests that they have really missed all the social interaction that venues like ours provide on a day to day basis for the whole community, not just visitors to the area.
“As a major centre of the community here in Coupar Angus – we are the only hotel left trading after many closures over the past four decades – we host the mobile Covid19 testing van in the car park, too. It’s reassuring for us all to know it’s there if we need it. We’ll support those staffing the facility in any way that we can.”
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