The Fleece Hotel is one of Cirencester’s newest success stories and received the Cirencester Chamber of Commerce Award to recognise its place in the town. Charlotte Shepherd met general manager Rebecca Smith.
WHEN we meet, the Fleece Hotel’s general manager Rebecca Smith is proving that no job is beyond her remit as she gets her hands dirty pitching in with the beer delivery. “Everyday is different,” she explained. “You couldn’t do this job if you didn’t enjoy it.”
At just 31 years-old Rebecca is relatively young to hold the position of general manager, but she has succeeded in her ambition to be a manager by the time she was 30.
She admitted that the team was shocked but “really pleased” when The Fleece Hotel was announced as the recipient of the Cirencester Chamber of Commerce Award at the town’s business awards earlier this year.
Chamber judges chose to recognise The Fleece because although it is relatively new to Cirencester, having relaunched in Easter 2012 after a £1m refurbishment by new owners Thwaite’s, the hotel has “already secured its place in the life of the town”.
Rebecca believes that there was a gap in Cirencester for a quality hotel. But it is not just tourists who are making use of The Fleece. “The reaction from the town was better than we had ever hoped,” said Rebecca. “We aimed to offer a lot of different things for different people, so put in sofas, high tables for those just wanting a drink, a restaurant and outside spaces.”
Making sure that the hotel is well used by locals outside of the summer tourist months has also been a key strategy for Rebecca. “We wanted to make sure that there was a reason for locals to keep coming back. In summer we get tourist trade but on a wet November we needed to hold events for locals.”
An innovative programme of events including a popular monthly ladies’ lunch with a public speaker and champagne and strawberries during Wimbledon are some of the ways that The Fleece maintains interest from the Cirencester public.
Tapping into the passion for home-grown veg has also been a master stroke for the hotel, with an allotment bartering system, where people can exchange their carrots for money-off food and drink at the hotel.
Cirencester Chamber of Commerce judges also praised The Fleece for its commitment to high standards and the employment and training that it offers. “High standards are down to the hard work put in by the team,” explained Rebecca.
The “team” has grown in size from 18 staff when Rebecca took over as general manager in 2011, to 55 today. “The staff are all from Cirencester and the local area, so hopefully we have made a difference to the employment in the area,” she said.
One-to-one training in the hospitality industry as well as courses run by Thwaites ensures that the staff are at the top of their game. “In the hospitality industry you need people who are well trained and have pride in what they do. Customers will only come in once and have a bad experience. They won’t come in again,” said Rebecca.
Despite the Chamber’s accolade, there is no room for complacency under Rebecca’s watch. She said: “We are always looking at what we are doing and looking to tweak what we do to make it better.”
Rebecca also keeps an eye firmly on the potential competition. “The Kings Head development has always been in the back of my mind but I think if it did re-open Cirencester could support another hotel,” she concluded.
• To contact the Fleece Hotel call 01285 658507 or go to the www.thefleececirencer.co.uk