Whilst many of our businesses have been unable to welcome you in person, they’ve continued working behind the scenes to be ready for reopening. 

This week we’re chatting with Shirley and Gary from Le Maître Guest House.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Gary and I have been in the hospitality and leisure business for many years. Gary trained as a chef and went on to become head chef at venues across the country. He also had a stint as a pub manager in Ascot.  I started my career in hotels as a part-time receptionist, and went on to become a hotel manager in Leeds.  It was in Leeds over 20 years ago that Gary and I met.  He’d only planned on staying for a year but by the time we left together to run Le Maître a year had turned into 16. I can’t say it was love at first sight; in fact, on our first shift working together I told him to ‘Never speak to me like that again!’. We are now getting ready to start our sixth season working together in Southport and hardly a cross word is spoken.

man and woman in face masks - man's face mask has a moustache printed on it, and the lady's has a smile

What do you love most about what you do?

After working in branded hotels and restaurants it’s nice to have a little bit more freedom and to be able to give each of our rooms their own personality.  They all have the same facilities, but are different sizes and decorated differently.  Whilst certain things will always need to be done in a set way, each guest is different and we love that we can tweak our operation to make a guest’s stay better without thinking ‘would the company let me do or say that?’.

The best part of our day is getting to know our guests.  Pre-COVID we offered tea/coffee with homemade cake on arrival which gave us a chance to get to know people, and also our guests to know us. Even though we’re not able to offer this now we can be easily found around the property till 7pm each evening if guests need anything.

a garden with a blue sky. Pink dahlias in the foreground and Victorian shelters

What was your average day like pre-COVID?

Gary’s alarm goes off first! Breakfast service is from 7.30am to 9.30am so he’s in the kitchen bright and early to start on the preparations. I’m not far behind him, ensuring the dining room is set and ready to serve our guests. By 10am we’re starting to clear the dining room and clean down the kitchen. Check-out is by 10.30am so there’s a bit of back and forth between the dining room, kitchen and entrance hallway, but we like to say goodbye and check on everyone’s stay before they leave.

As soon as everyone has departed we start airing and cleaning the rooms. It depends on how many departures we have, how often the doorbell rings, and how many loads of washing and drying, but we aim to have all the rooms finished by 1.30pm. Then it’s on to cleaning the public areas before grabbing a cup of coffee and freshening ourselves up ready for our new guests to start arriving from 2pm. Between check-ins we reply to emails, print off registration documents, check we’ve not missed any special requests, do any extra food shopping and baking, and finish off the ironing. 

Around 4.30pm Gary will start preparing any evening meals we have booked in, and I’ll start resetting the dining room and dealing with the admin. We’re usually ready to retire and have something to eat just as our guests are heading out to enjoy their evening. Living on site means we never truly switch off; we’ll still be available for emergencies or later check-ins.

exterior of a guest house with large bay windows and window box of pink flowers

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had left behind in a room?

Generally, it’s the usual things of phone chargers, socks, and even house keys and wallets. We did find a drawer full of new knickers once!

What changes have you made to your business to be ready for reopening?

We are currently doing a little bit of decorating.  We normally try to decorate two rooms a year but with the lockdown lasting so long last year we did four!  Over the next few weeks we’ll have the annual gas check, the fire services company will arrive to check our fire alarms, emergency lighting and fire extinguishers, and an electrician is booked to update some lighting.  We also have a new website ready to launch soon. Despite being closed there’s plenty to keep us busy.

COVID is still at the front of everyone’s mind and we’re following all the guidelines, even when they keep changing! We have registered with the Visit Britain ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme which helps to reassure guests that we have all the necessary measures in place, and their regular email updates ensure that we’re up to date on the very latest rules and regulations. Everyone is required to wear a mask in public areas, and temperatures are checked on arrival. We even check our own temperatures daily. Hand sanitiser is available throughout the property and people are encouraged to use this regularly.

We were keen to still offer the same luxury in our rooms so we bought more cushion covers and throws so they could be washed and replaced after each guest. The laundry is bagged up in the room to stop anything spreading to the corridors, and then taken away to be washed at a high temperature. All our rooms are aired and all cleaning products are anti-bacterial.  We’re currently unable to offer early check-in due to the extra time it takes to clean the rooms, especially as we are kitted up in PPE for the cleaning, but we know that our guests would rather we prioritise their health and safety.

Although many of these changes will stay in place we’re looking forward to being able to remove the masks and see the smiling faces of our guests.

sunset over a beach, taken from a pier looking out to sea

What do you love most about Southport?

We spent over a year searching for a place to buy.  We wanted a busy location for the business, but also a place we would feel safe and happy to live, and Southport ticked all the boxes for us.  The people are friendly and the nightlife is busy but not rowdy. With its wide streets, open spaces, marine lake, large beach and numerous parks all within walking distance the lockdowns have made us appreciate the town even more. It’s made it easier to go outside for exercise, and I love walking along the coast road and beach looking at Southport’s beautiful sky. The sunsets are amazing.   

Le Maitre Guest House, 69 Bath Street, Southport PR9 0DN

01704 530 394 / enquiries@hotel-lemaitre.co.uk




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