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Our Founder, Nina Basset, Reflects On The Launch Of Spot In The Woods

Our founder, Nina Basset, reflects on the launch of Spot in the Woods

Whilst Hotel TerraVina is no longer and has transformed into Spot in the Woods, my blog which tracks the ups and downs of daily life as an hotelier and the day to day stories of life here in the New Forest, remains.

Albeit I’m not sure I can honestly be labelled an hotelier anymore, and that is a fact that I am wrestling with as having had an “identity” for so many years, suddenly I feel a bit adrift!

Moving ahead

Since closing the doors of TerraVina on the 25th February, we had a hectic one week of renovations and changes. It was hugely challenging but at the same time a great team building experience, with very long days, late nights and hard work, sprinkled with Indian and Pizza takeaway meals, eaten amongst the chaos of renovations and plenty of bottles of wine to keep us going.

Despite the added challenge of unexpected snow, which meant we lost x2 days of trades people being with us, electrics that blew, no heating and not being able to get home for 3 days. This was particularly difficult as Gerard was recovering from his major operation and needed me at home, we still managed to open for business as Spot in the Woods on 5th March and that week of dust, mayhem and broken finger nails was fun and hugely enjoyable.

Coupled with the revamp, I of course added to the stress – well why do anything by halves, by having a whole new booking system and till system installed. As well as a great new coffee machine and all the associated equipment, which means we now have the most fantastic tasting coffee, from a local, Southampton based roastery and apparently, according to a number of our guests, our hot chocolate is the best in Hampshire.

However due to the snow, the new till trainers couldn’t get to us as planned and our team couldn’t come in for training. So on the day we opened the team knew little about the new coffee machine, the new tills or the new bookings system. We muddled through but it was a week of “smile and wave” days!

We were busy from the first day and guests seemingly loved the changes made. Our first Sunday was Mothering Sunday and we welcomed 250 odd guests. It was without doubt the hardest service I have ever endured in all the 30 odd years of being an hotelier and that day I hated what we had become.

In fact whoever said running a café was easier than running a hotel was definitely telling fibs- it’s not easy at all and I am finding I need to adapt and embrace many changes and super fast. The lack of control is hardest.

Times are a changing

As a restaurant we had bookings, we knew who was coming and when and it was relatively easy to manage the services. The kitchen café is a whole different “beast”… we take no bookings, thus we have no clue who will arrive when, will it be a steady stream or a whoosh of guests all at once; (it’s always a whoosh at present!) will there be a busier day than another.

As we are only 6 weeks old there is not yet a pattern to any of it and that is tricky for a control freak who loved being a hotelier and could run a restaurant with not much trouble, but who knows nothing about running an informal and laid back café and it’s a very steep learning curve! The team have adapted brilliantly though and their barista skills are 2nd to none!

Likewise, when we were a boutique hotel I was in my comfort zone. I knew so many of the guests, many were old friends and returned often…, as a B&B, whilst still welcoming many of our regular guests.

And may I thank you all most sincerely for still visiting and loving the changes, we have a different style of guest visiting too. B&B guests are much more transient and we have less chance to build such a strong rapport with them, as we only meet them briefly at check in and at breakfast, and they come and go so quickly. That is something I was unprepared for and I am finding it difficult to not get to know the guests so well, but we are loving being able to welcome four legged friends and they have all been delightful thus far and very well behaved… as have most of the children too!

Team work

Happily, one of the constants remains the team. Our fabulous TerraVina team have become our fantastic Spot in the Woods team.

We had to lose the wine team, all of whom have gone on to very exciting new adventures and are furthering their careers spectacularly, with Lowri, Arnaud and Tom all taking jobs at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, in Bray and Andrea is moving to New Zealand to take up a position of head sommelier in Auckland in the middle of May…. We miss them all, but are very proud of their achievements and they will of course join our many protégés, from both Hotel du Vin and TerraVina days.

And so it is……Spot is currently much talked about, seems to be very popular with the local community and visitors alike and many of our TerraVina regulars too. Now I just need to learn to get to grips with it!

We do hope that some of you who enjoyed TerraVina will come to visit, our B&B rates offer exceptional value for money Our revamped website gives you a flavour of what we have created here at Spot, complete with stylish bedrooms, the relaxed Kitchen Café AND a great lifestyle store, with all the familiar goodies from TerraVina days and so much more, including beautiful gifts and delicious deli goodies to take home.

We hope to welcome you back very soon.

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