Making the move from managing one spa to overseeing six comes with a unique set of challenges, as Gemma Barratt found out when she was promoted in April.
When Thwaites hotels’ group spa director Stuart Angus was promoted to commercial director, Barratt quickly transitioned from the role of spa treatment manager at the group’s Leeds-based Thorpe Park Hotel & Spa to spa treatment and group operational support manager across five additional spas.
Since then, she has been tasked with overseeing the operational elements of all six spas. Essentially managing the other managers, she provides support across Aztec Hotel & Spa in Bristol; Cottons in Knutsford, Cheshire; Kettering Park in Northamptonshire; North Lakes in Penrith, Cumbria; and Solent in Fareham, Hampshire – as well as continuing on as spa treatments manager at Thorpe Park “Luckily, I’ve got a really strong team at Thorpe Park that allows me to do what I need to do at the other spas. I’ve been doing audits to pick up on the points where I can help, and it’s really varied”, she says. “For some, it’s diary management, elsewhere it’s recruitment or sales and marketing, increasing footfall, introducing new business avenues… you need someone to overlook the group so everything stays neat and tidy. I’ll be carrying out two audits per year on all the sites.”
Around the same time as Barratt started her new role; the hotels’ umbrella of the group – which also owns inns, lodges, pubs and a brewery – changed its name from Thwaites Hotels to House of Daniel Thwaites. “It fits better with who we are as hotels and spas and what we represent”, says Barratt. “It makes you understand that there’s more to us than just the brewery.”
”Sometimes people settle for a certain treatment because it’s in the package; we want to make it so that guests can tailor-make their experience”
Barratt’s overall goal in these early stages of her new role is to get the spas “as busy as they can be” without affecting the guest journey. “It starts at an operational level, so training is a massive aspect from the outset”, she says, “especially in terms of booking. I’m looking at who is taking the booking and if they know the treatments, and then if the guest can get all the information they need from one person. How many phone calls or internal transfers does it take? On arrival, it’s who is welcoming them – a host or a therapist? Is there someone on the desk throughout the day?” she says. Now, with six spas to think about, Barratt says her task is to learn the nuances of each “and understand that something I do at Thorpe Park may not work at Aztec, for example”.
However, since making the move, the majority of Barratt’s time has so far been taken up orchestrating the introduction of a new core product house across the group’s six spas. “The introduction of Caudalie across the board has pretty much been my life for the past couple of months”, she says.
Bringing on board the French vinotherapy skincare brand has seen Barratt “organising training across all the sites, deciding on the new brochure and getting the websites updated. It’s already been brilliant and clients are loving it”, she says. Although the new partnership with Caudalie was decided before Barratt started her role, she was heavily involved in the process and says it didn’t take long to decide that it was the way forward. “We’d been with Espa and Natura Bissé for years and had been considering streamlining to just one core product house for skin and body treatments, and because we liked Caudalie so much it sealed the deal”, she says.
Keep it consistent
She explains that the spas wanted to have a “cleaner” offer and make the treatments booking process simpler for the reception teams, “so they wouldn’t have to be comparing two facials from different brands against each other, for example. One of the main draws of Caudalie was that the brand has the same family values as we do; we’re a family-founded chain of hotels and they have a similar origin from their vineyards, so we had that kind of connection”, says Barratt.
With the spas enjoying a new lease of life from Caudalie, Barratt will be keeping an eye on how the new treatments are going down with guests. The flexibility to be able to offer them exactly what they want in a treatment menu was another plus point for the group. “We sat down with Tracy [Brasenell, national sales manager for Caudalie UK & Ireland] and discussed what we felt would work for us. We had a popular hour-long back treatment before but the brand didn’t offer something quite similar enough, so we incorporated one into the treatment range”, says Barratt. She gives another example: “There wasn’t a body treatment that included a scalp massage, which has always been popular for us, so we added the signature Cranial Scalp Massage into a few of the deluxe treatments.”
Smooth the way
Caudalie is unlikely to be the only new brand the spas will use in the near future. While she hasn’t actively started the process yet, Barratt says that one of her main focuses is aligning the spas across the group and “tidying up” the brands used for other treatments. “I’m looking at the other brands we use for nails, make-up, and tanning so we’re all on the same page. I always keep my eyes open in the industry”, she says.
Before that though, therapists in all the spas will get branded Caudalie uniforms, an easy way to create consistency across the properties. “The spas are all very similar in terms of facilities and number of treatment rooms, and they all have a pool, sauna, steam, Jacuzzi and gym, so there’s a lot we can offer but I think we need to integrate them better with the hotels”, says Barratt.
She wants to develop the hotels’ packages to incorporate the spa facilities and renewed treatment offer. “At the moment, we focus a lot on day packages, but we need to use how much people want spa now and incorporate it into residential packages more”, she says.
“We’re the busiest we’ve ever been and that’s probably the same with most spas. We need to build on the fact that people can come here not just for the day, but to stay and enjoy all the other facilities.”
Barratt says the group is considering introducing residential discounts to encourage pre-booking, and making it easier for guests to tweak or upgrade the spa elements of packages. “Sometimes people settle for a certain treatment because it’s in the package; we want to make it so that guests can tailor-make their experience. It’s about going the extra mile for the guest”, she says.
Gemma Barratt joins Thorpe Park Hotel & Spa as senior therapist in the same year it opens
Barratt is promoted to spa treatment manager at the same property
Thwaites Hotels wins AA Hotel Group of the Year 2016-2017
The group changes its name to House of Daniel Thwaites. The spas sign a partnership with Caudalie as core product house. Barratt is promoted to spa operational support manager across the spas