A much needed escape to The Pig near Bath gave us the perfect opportunity to see how this industry-leading group of hotels has responded to physical distancing requirements and check how much the overall experience has been affected. Having been here twice before, we were primed to compare and contrast.

I have to say we were very impressed.

What the team have done so well is respond to all of these health and safety requirements in a way that completely feels in tune with the rest of the hotel experience. They don’t feel like bolted on, alien interventions but rather a genuinely considered set of changes embedded into the fabric of the place. It is clear that a huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes to make this happen. Here are the main points we noticed:

Check in/out

  • Payment for the room is taken upfront on booking as opposed to previously paying on departure. Clearly this provides immediate cashflow and minimises cancellations.
  • When checking in, we were shown up to our room, but not taken in. The key had been left in the door, so the member of staff did not have to touch anything by handing us the keys. An extra sign had been hung on the door to confirm that the room was ready for us.

  • In our room, there was a detailed letter explaining the changes that had been made and a “Personal Safety Kit” including Bramley hand sanitiser and face masks.

  • On check out, we simply left the key in the door and walked out of the hotel. Our final bill was emailed to us with a link to make payment. This actually felt like an improvement over the usual process.

The restaurant

  • The tables had been noticeably spaced out to allow the extra room required between covers. There were no screens used to divide tables and overall the space felt very normal.
  • The only screen used was a reclaimed timber panel which separated the waiter station from one of the tables. It was only at breakfast the next day that I realised this screen was a new addition clearly added for this purpose.

 

  • There is a newly built covered seating area adjacent to the main restaurant which allows them to maintain their previous level of covers. Whilst clearly temporary, there has been a lot of time spent on making sure this doesn’t feel like a poor relation to the main restaurant and as you can see from the photo inside, it has a very similar feel overall.

  • The restaurant was full in the evening we ate there, including the new outside seating area.
  • The menus and service were all identical to previous visits as far as we could tell. I don’t think there was anything different in how the orders were taken or our food/ drinks brought to us throughout the evening.
  • For some reason The Pig is not taking part in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which we were a little surprised about. I am not sure what the logic is behind this.

Breakfast

  • There is no self serve buffet breakfast, instead you can only order off the laminated menu. Whilst losing the buffet dynamic is a shame, it did not really affect our overall experience.
  • Breakfast times are staggered in 15 minute intervals with only 3 rooms allowed to book at each slot. This avoids creating any busy periods, meaning that the staff can ensure guests are able to relax and order breakfast items in a staggered way, similar to how they might go back to the buffet several times.

Communication and physical distancing

  • The Pig has done a great job of maintaining their usual tone of voice throughout any new signage. From the exit sign by the restaurant to the door hangers on your room, it felt like everything had been considered.

  • The use of plants and crates to divide up outside tables was a very nice touch.

  • The requirement to wear masks in public areas felt quite confusing; you don’t need to wear them outside, or sitting in the restaurant, but you do if you go to the toilet or walk up to your room. You don’t need to wear one sitting in the bar, but you do if you walk up to the bar and if you are sitting in the lobby areas not eating/ drinking. As a result, there seemed to be a sort of well intentioned patchy use of masks by guests.
  • Interestingly, none of the staff wore face masks in the hotel in contrast to some other venues we have visited.

Massage treatments

  • The fact that the treatments are held in Potting Sheds accessed through the kitchen garden means that these were already well removed from other guests in the hotel.

  • On arrival, there is a new form to fill in and my temperature was taken. They also tell you what your therapist’s temperature is on the form in case you are concerned.

  • The treatment itself certainly had some restrictions as the guest has to wear a mask throughout and no work can be done on their face, neck or hands. The therapist wore a mask during the treatment also.
  • There is no doubt that wearing the mask in here had a negative effect on the overall experience, simply by the fact that it feels slightly harder to relax when you have something constrictive around your nose and mouth.

All in all, it was a very impressive and relaxing experience that shows how hospitality can be delivered to a high standard even with Covid-19 restrictions in place.

 

This post was written by David Chenery

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