To the Manor re-born
Restaurateurs and hoteliers Steven and Charlotte Bennett have now become the owners as well as the operators of Healing Manor Hotel, Healing. Caroline Bingham visited as they officially announced their purchase.
Charlotte described the conclusion of their negotiations in May this year as both a relief and an exciting opportunity to really push on with their investment plans for the business.
“We had held the lease here since 2018, so with the renewal due it was the right time to enter negotiations. The last five years have certainly had their challenges but we have worked through them with the help of our wonderful team here of 80 staff. Our bank, NatWest, have been fantastic too, supporting and helping us successfully navigate through the process.
“The hotel was showing signs of lack of investment in 2018 so we made significant changes, remodelling rooms, investing in the kitchen and public spaces. We had a vision for a destination hotel appealing to business, leisure, weddings and special occasion guests as well as building on Steven’s reputation as an award-winning chef for fine dining. The Pig & Whistle pub is a popular hub for local drinkers and diners with a refurbished restaurant and private dining room, the Cure All Lounge, for more intimate occasions.
As owners we have even more exciting plans for investment. Some will be behind the scenes; others will be in guest areas.
“We are installing a new walk-in fridge today which will be a great asset when catering for our larger functions, including the weddings which we host each year.”
There has been a manor house in Healing since Domesday and some evidence of the original medieval manor can be seen in the cellar, where there are some Flemish bricks.
Where the Pig & Whistle is located dates from the 1700s when the building was remodelled, while the main hotel section was built in the late Victorian period by John Maunsell Richardson, a famous Victorian racehorse trainer who moved to Healing Manor and had it extended for his new wife – the Dowager Countess of Yarborough. In 1902 the house and land was sold to Gerald Portman, whose family lived at the Manor until the death of his daughter. Despite plans to turn the Manor into a hotel, it did remain empty for many years and it was not until 2013, when a family from Healing purchased the property, that it was re-born.
Steven and Charlotte have maintained the link to the Portman name continuing to incorporate the Fleur de Lys of the family crest into the hotel’s logo and literature. As locals themselves they have continued their ethos of showcasing locally sourced food and sustainability through the dishes the kitchen creates and their investment in local talent to build their team.
“We have always seen this as the key to the Manor’s future,” said Charlotte, “and we have even more focus now on passing our passion for the hospitality industry to the next generation.”
From field to fork
The menus at Healing Manor always show the skilled touch of a chef who knows his suppliers intimately and has confidence in not just his own skills but those of the kitchen cohort. Steven has created dishes which have local produce at their core but which are perfectly tuned to current tastes and trends. The bar menu has classic dishes such as fish and chips but also ‘world’ dishes such as a Korean Bowl and a Fajita Bowl. The à la carte menu has a nod to the ’70s with Beef Wellington proving to be one of the most popular orders amongst diners. Innovation as well as re-invention keeps the menus fresh and exciting for regular and first-time guests.
As the festive season approaches there will be the launch of the Christmas themed Afternoon Tea and the Festive Menu which will be available until Christmas Eve. The hotel is open Christmas Day and closed Boxing Day. As well as seasonal menus there is a wide programme of events planned including Christmas Parties, Christmas Movies in the bar, Wreath Making and Pop-Up Christmas Carols. For New Year’s Eve, Steven has planned an exclusive Tasting Menu Evening – an 8-course ‘Farm and Sea’ menu – celebrating the best of Lincolnshire seasonal produce. The cost is £95 per person and you can extend your celebrations with an overnight stay for a special package cost of £290 per couple, which includes the Tasting Menu, a standard room and breakfast. See the hotel website for further details.
Inspiring a new generation
Charlotte has built a solid local reputation for her business acumen, winning awards for her entrepreneurship, leadership and championing of the local south Humber Bank area. She is on the board of the GLLEP in the county and her ambition is to spread the passion that she and Steven have for the hospitality industry to the next generation.
“Recruitment and retention of staff is key to the future of any business and we have been exploring many new ways of spreading the message of what great careers can be built in the hospitality sector, as well as having lots of fun along the way,” Charlotte explained.
The Manor’s TikTok account is used to promote the business but also includes reels which shows the human side of hospitality. Staff have been busy creating reels behind the scenes, some in their downtime, spoofing familiar film scenes from movies such as Love Actually or dancing to chart-topping music. With some attracting tens of thousands of views, it is a tactic which engages rapidly with a young audience.
Innovative working schedules, training programmes and apprenticeships are also a key element of the HR approach for all of their 80 staff. “Our staff are offered a four-day working week rota which has proved to be very popular. They are able to enjoy their leisure as well as their working day to a prescribed pattern, which gives a much more satisfying work/life balance.”
Some of this innovation has been facilitated by closer working with suppliers. Some of the butchers and fishmongers who supply the Manor are now doing some of the produce prep off-site, freeing up the chefs to focus on cooking, delivery and presentation of dishes. “Suppliers have been keen to give their staff these added value skills as part of their ambition to engage them more with the business.”
Charlotte officially purchased Healing Manor Hotel in May and have used the time since to consider their business plans for the next five years and beyond. With all of their team’s and their own efforts now focussed on the future, there is little to impede realising their ambitions.