Tiina Carr is owner of Brocco on the Park, a neighbourhood kitchen and boutique bedrooms in Sheffield, which opened in November 2014. Tiina has over 25 years’ experience in marketing and communications, together with learning and development. Her skills have a retail and talent focus and she has previously worked with major retailers, including Morrisons, to implement training and development programmes.
“…That freedom to try new things when it’s your own business is amazing…”
Tiina, we last spoke to you back in May. What’s been happening since then?
We did a series of events in May celebrating the week of Chelsea Flower show with our in-house florist, including some bespoke menus, which went down a storm, so we’re looking to do more events in the future. We have another event one coming up in September with a local lady who bakes speciality fruitcakes. She’s looking at different ways that you might eat fruitcake, not just at Christmas.
A very talented tableware designer Nick Munro – who has supplied all our salt and pepper pots and coffee pots – is also going to come and to do an afternoon tea session with us celebrating all things made in the north!
Locally, we won the Westside Magazine Best Newcomer Award and we’re very proud of that and we’ve also been entered for the Sheffield Eat awards. In addition to that we’ve had some high profile journalistic reviews:
The Guardian come to stay and write about ‘Great British Bolt Holes’ and the same week we had Fiona Duncan from The Telegraph who reviewed us and again gave us a large spread in the Travel Section of the Sunday Telegraph. This has generated a lot of interest in people coming to stay, so that’s been a positive outcome for us. During the recent Tramlines music festival reviewers from the London Evening Standard stayed and will be putting in a review shortly that will go out to around 70,000 people in London.
There’s the Maya Angelou quote that’s one of our favourites: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” How does this apply in the hospitality industry?
I think it’s all about your personal experience in a place and where you’re made to feel special, important, noticed, and ‘a person’ – not just someone using a facility. That’s what makes us special. Within the team we’re passionate about making sure all our guests are looked after, thought about, cared about. It’s easier to do this in the rooms as we only have eight, but we try very hard to do it in the restaurant too – we want to build that connection.
We remember our regulars, know their names and develop a good rapport, as well as welcoming new people. I’d like to encourage all ages to feel that it is a place them it is for the local community to come to – it’s called the Neighbourhood Kitchen for a reason.
We look at the detail on offer and aim to make it refreshingly different every time they come, so we won’t have the same flowers every season. We have daily classics on the food menu, refresh and change the menus seasonally.
We think about things on a continual basis. We’re constantly putting new and different things into the place to keep it fresh, so people notice that detail and get excited by it and think: “That’s somewhere I’d like to go,” or “That’s something I’d aspire to have in my own home.” So I’ll do things like change the candles for a night or change the table decorations, the presentation of the food, just to give a new experience.
What has the feedback been like from your visitors?
I think you can probably see that from our visitors’ book and from some of the cards and comments that have come from people that the feedback has been really fantastic. Often when we have functions people write and thank us. There’s a big bouquet of flowers in reception at the moment from a wedding party that just wanted to thank all the team for looking after them. I think that’s just something really special that you just don’t get with the big chains.
It’s all about the little details to create that personal relationship with our customers.
Last time we were visiting we overhead a local woman who lived up the road booking a room for a night purely because she wanted to experience what it was like to stay. Is this when you know you’re doing something right?!
I think there is a fashion now for the one night date night. People don’t want to travel that far, but they do want to have a bit of fun, stay out and stay over, so we’ve noticed people of all ages doing the date night thing and we suit it very well.
How do you stop yourself from becoming complacent and keep improving the experience for your guests?
Because of my background being in retail marketing and communication, I was always having to reinvent ideas for large companies, thinking about their next campaign or the next brand or the next new thing that had to keep them ahead of the competition? I had to advise companies on how to engage customers and the people who work for them to make them feel bought in to the new season, to be excited by it and to want to promote it.
That’s very much attitude I’ve got for Brocco, so whether it’s the new seasonal menu – for autumn it’s going to be pears, plums and apples – how do we make that exciting? How do we get the colours of the autumn into the building? How can we put some nice autumn events on?
I’m already planning Christmas. I’m looking at the campaign for that. We’ll be moving the brand on at Christmas. We’re thinking about New Year. We’re not just going to be putting on a meal for New Year, we’re thinking about how create an event / experience at Brocco.
Christmas is going to be big. We’re going to do all sorts from festive afternoon teas to lunches and dinners, we’ve got a really special menu, which I’ll be publishing shortly. The fire will be burning to create a warm welcoming cosy atmosphere. We’re looking to have a Christmas Fayre and sell some of the design pieces that are intrinsic in the Brocco design. This will take place in November and people will be able to buy our lanterns right through to our bespoke table runners with little birds. There’s all sorts of talented people who have created Brocco.
We’re also thinking about a celebration breakfast that people can have throughout the year so you can expect to hear more about the Brocco Brunch coming up. There’s all sorts of stuff that keeps me going because I need to be creative all the time. That’s what makes me tick. It’s definitely about the experience.
That freedom to try new things when it’s your own business is amazing. It’s been a year of experimentation – trying out things saying, “That didn’t work…” “That did work…” Some of it is trial and error. You’ve got to try it and you’ve got to put yourself out there. You’ve got to have a little bit of a go. Our feedback has been so good that it’s fair to say that most things have worked.
That was the whole purpose of the whole of the first year. We can to keep that momentum going and not to lose that creativity.