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Knockderry House Hotel Aims to Become a Food-led Hotel Experience

The award-winning 15 bedroom Knockderry House Hotel is situated in Cove on the banks of Loch Long, close to Helensburgh, Loch Lomond and the National Park.

In addition to business guests, the hotel attracts a wide range of leisure visitors and is a popular wedding and event venue, with exclusive use offered.

A robust approach is taken to supplier selection and food sourcing, with seasonality of produce, quality and provenance of foods at the heart of the dining offer. Scottish, regional and local suppliers are in use and the team have engaged well with suppliers to ensure consistency and quality at all times.

Locally, the hotel is seen as a ‘special occasion’ venue. However, many of the current leisure guests are specifically visiting the hotel for its food reputation. This gives rise to opportunities to develop new products that would provide a reason for these ‘foodie’ guests to return on a regular basis and also help develop a more food-aware local clientele.

The hotel recently signed up to receive 1-2-1 expert advice and business support from the Experiencing Scotland food and drink project, to help establish its position as a food-led hotel experience.

Beth McLeod, Owner at Knockderry says: “The 1-2-1 support from Experiencing Scotland has reinforced our belief in the need to ‘shout’ more consistently about the fine local and Scottish foods we offer and, more than that, has provided us with a range of practical and workable ideas for doing so.”

Keen to offer a food-led hotel experience, a robust approach is taken to supplier selection and food sourcing, with seasonality of produce, quality and provenance of foods at the heart of the dining offer. Scottish, regional and local suppliers are in use and the team have engaged well with suppliers to ensure consistency and quality at all times. While this has not always resulted in the closest supplier geographically being used, it does ensure consistency of standards.

Working with and highlighting local food suppliers

For example, meats are supplied from MacBeth’s Butchers in Moray because of the high and consistent standard of product supplied. Glasgow based Fresh Foods are able to source seasonal vegetables representing the best of Scotland, e.g. Eassie Farm sea kale, Arran herbs and local soft fruits in summer months.

An excellent suppliers’ page has been developed for the website, featuring the companies who supply the hotel, but there is an opportunity to make more of this on menus by providing the provenance of core ingredients, together with a description of cooking style or recipe where this is traditional, regional, local or Scottish. This will be a key factor in meeting the hotel’s current aspiration to achieve VisitScotland’s Taste Our Best accreditation.

Telling great stories via Scottish produce

There are also a number of food stories on the website that would translate well to menus, e.g. unusual species such as sea urchins, squat lobster and spider crabs; ‘Orchard Pig’ reared at Geddes Farm outside Nairn; the Isle of Lewis, home not only to Stornoway black pudding but also to Murdo MacLeod, one of Knockderry’s owners.

Locally, the hotel is seen as a ‘special occasion’ venue. However, many of the current leisure guests are specifically visiting the hotel for its food reputation. This gives rise to opportunities to develop new products that would provide a reason for these ‘foodie’ guests to return on a regular basis and also help develop a more food-aware local clientele.

Experiencing Scotland’s Catering Consultant Sandra Reid says:

“The current Wine Lovers dinner product could be extended to feature other suppliers, e.g. smoked or foraged foods dinner. This could easily be developed into a foodie group or club with like-minded businesses and suppliers in the area. Likewise, a programme of exclusive ‘foodie’ weekend breaks for groups could be rolled out, to include, pre/post-dinner presentations, foraging, supplier visits and sampling *.

“Wine and food matching is already strong but this could be extended to beer and soft drinks matching. There are a number of artisan and microbreweries in the area who might support this through training, events and sampling. A partnership with Loch Lomond Brewery is currently being explored.

“Working with other businesses in the area to develop a regional food trail would link well with the team’s plans to create ‘days out’ trails via an app, which could incorporate a food feature as well as other strengths of the local area such as walking and heritage.

“While food standards at Knockderry are consistently good, the team recognises that service with a ‘wow’ is the main way to ensure repeat business. It’s therefore important that front of house and waiting staff buy in to the food and provenance strategy. This could be achieved by pre-service briefings for waiting staff; having tastings of key menu items included as an integral part of staff training and development; and arranging learning journeys to individual suppliers to ensure full understanding of the process **.

“As the hotel has aspirations to offer a food-led experience to visitors, there is an opportunity to emphasise its ‘foodie’ credentials more strongly in marketing materials and on the website.

“The chef’s blog on the website is an excellent social media tool and more regular blogging will attract followers and potential customers, particularly among the foodie community that Knockderry wants to attract. Blogs and photographs can also be reposted on sites such as Pinterest and tumblr. Foodies tend to be bloggers and internet-savvy, so guests should be encouraged to reblog their choices to ‘build the noise’ about the quality and provenance of the food offer.

“The launch of Scotland Food & Drink’s new video channel, www.scottishfoodanddrink.tv, provides a fantastic promotional channel for the team who could post a monthly video feature to the site, focusing on a particular supplier or ingredient. Again, this would help to build the noise about the hotel’s food and drink offer and raise its profile as a food destination”.

Update

*Since Sandra’s visit, Knockderry have partnered with local outdoor adventure company Wild by Nature to provide a foraging-based ‘country excursion’ for guests to the hotel.

** The hotel has already created a food and wine training programme with a range of external providers involved, in addition to in-house tasting sessions.

To find out more about the one to one support offered by Experiencing Scotland click here.

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