The Grand Hotel Brighton

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Historic seafront hotel tackles COVID-19 skills crisis with WSET custom courses. 

The partner

The Grand Hotel is a luxury hotel situated on the seafront in Brighton, UK. Established in 1864, the hotel boasts 201 bedrooms, a restaurant, a bar and lounge and a Victorian terrace. Their food and beverage offering includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, room service, afternoon tea and cocktails. The bar is well-stocked with a wide range of spirits and the hotel offers a varied and seasonal cocktail menu as well as a comprehensive wine list.

The hotel is a significant local employer with 316 full- and part-time staff, including 70 food and beverage staff.

“Investing in our teams’ development and ensuring we can deliver the best possible service to our guests is critical to our success at The Grand.

- Andi Hirons

The challenge

Like many hospitality businesses worldwide, The Grand Hotel experienced very high staff turnover due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many new team members, People Director Andi Hirons identified a need for improved service-based knowledge, to give her staff the confidence to deliver the hotel’s impressive drinks offering profitably and with exceptional service levels.

Having previously sent individual team members to their local WSET course provider, Andi found herself needing to train a large number of team members quickly, cost-effectively, and with minimal disruption to service.

Key objectives

  1. Increase skills and knowledge base amongst front-of-house bar and restaurant staff
  2. Improve drinks list confidence to enable profitable drinks service and excellent customer experience
  3. Engage, inspire and retain staff, reducing turnover and boosting team satisfaction

​The solution

Across two days, WSET organised two separate custom courses, the WSET Level 1 Award in Wines and the Level 1 Award in Spirits, for 10 team members each.

The training took place while the hotel underwent some renovation work, minimising disruption to trading. Courses were delivered on site at The Grand Hotel by local course providers Sussex Wines School (Wines) and Mixology Group (Spirits).

WSET worked closely with the hotel and the educators to select the wine and spirits samples from the hotel menus. This had the double benefit of keeping course costs down for the hotel and allowing the team to become more familiar with the products they sell.

The results

  • 20 WSET qualifications were awarded
  • 100% of students passed their exam
  • Students were taken through guided tastings of 20+ wines and spirits from The Grand’s drinks lists.
  • The hotel’s People Director reported an ‘incredible’ uplift in staff confidence and has committed to integrating WSET courses into their training plans.

"20 eager and information hungry members of the team thoroughly enjoyed being guided through these WSET learning experiences. And they all passed with flying colours! The confidence the team has gained is incredible and I am excited to see the impact to both our revenue and net promoter scores.”

- Andi Hirons, People Director, The Grand Hotel

“This course has given me a good base knowledge to confidently serve our menu.”
Lucy, The Grand Hotel