fri 05/06/2020

A Very British Hotel Chain: Inside Best Western, Channel 4 review - requiem for the hospitality industry? | reviews, news & interviews

A Very British Hotel Chain: Inside Best Western, Channel 4 review - requiem for the hospitality industry?

A Very British Hotel Chain: Inside Best Western, Channel 4 review - requiem for the hospitality industry?

Bizarre reality doc is entertaining for all the wrong reasons

'Creating loyalty through love': Rob Paterson and his Best Western crew

Do TV companies get some sort of financial incentive to use the phrase “A Very British…” in their programme titles? This now-meaningless descriptor has been applied to airlines, brothels, political coups, the Renaissance, Margaret Thatcher, sex scandals, Brexit and lord knows what else. When you can’t think of an original title, you know what to do.

As for Best Western hotels, this company is so Very British that its new UK CEO is a former Aussie Rules football player, Rob Paterson. One of his early key decisions was to outsource the company’s call centre to Italy because most people now book online. “It was the toughest decision of my career,” he gritted.

Anyway, presumably Best Western thought this three-part docuseries (on Channel 4) would be a handy publicity booster for their 265 hotels, with its portraits of the wacky but loveable workforce and the inevitable chortlesome voice-over (by Diane Morgan). But thanks to Covid-19 it now looks more like a message in a bottle, washed up from some long-submerged civilisation.

A winter visit to the Fowey Valley hotel in Cornwall, filmed pre-lockdown, was a chilling premonition of dark days ahead. Rain lashed down, staff had been reduced because of lack of trade, and a solitary pair of guests dined amid a sea of empty tables. Brrr! Scenes of the football-themed wedding of the hotel’s receptionist Jane, with guests wearing Plymouth Argyll football shirts with their distinctive sponsorship from Ginsters pasties, made you wonder if everyone had succumbed to cabin fever.

Mark grins like a cheese-grater and loves his staff to tell him how great he is

Still, a career in the leisure business demands a thick skin and a gift for transmitting unquenchable optimism, and up at Best Western’s HQ in York they have both by the gallon. There are slogans on the wall saying things like “Creating loyalty through love”, “Beat yesterday” and “OWN IT!”, but since all the David Brent jokes about this lot have already been made, I’ll leave it at that.

Mark Stanley, head of hotel development, was seemingly rescued from career-doldrums by his new Australian mentor, though one wonders why. Mark grins like a cheese-grater and loves his staff to tell him how great he is. We saw him revelling in the annual sales, marketing and revenue conference, as staff-members were deluged in pink gunk for charity. “Brilliant!” raved Mark. “Best Western madness!”

They must be doing something right, because we watched superchef Marco Pierre White signing up his Rudloe Arms establishment with BW, complete with his “challenging” porno-esque artworks and giant photos of Marco wielding a huge meat cleaver. Perhaps he’ll use it on Alasdair, the wisecracking but ruthless hotel inspector who loves spot-checking BW hotels and instilling terror in their management. This rather weird show is more fun than you’d expect, though maybe not in ways it intended.

This looked like a message in a bottle from some long-submerged civilisation

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters