Douglas Dale, Operations Director at English Lakes Hotels, Resorts & Venues is our longest serving member of staff, and has just celebrated forty years’ dedicated service with the company. He started his English Lakes career as General Manager of The Wild Boar in 1979, living-in with his young family. It's always a pleasure chatting with Douglas who has a huge breadth of experience in the hospitality industry.
Significant milestones in your career?
Completing ten years managing and living at The Wild Boar Inn was certainly a highlight of my time at English Lakes. The children were young at the time, and were keen to get fully involved in the life of the Inn, welcoming guests and helping in the kitchen. I’m sure this helped create the warm family-friendly atmosphere that continues to this day.
Douglas outside The Wild Boar Inn in the early '80s
Daughter, Katie, recalls life at the Inn…
An early memory was being employed to make the toast at breakfast for the guests. Being fairly young and not very tall at the time, I had to stand on a crate to reach the grill. After two weeks I asked for a promotion and went on to housekeeping, leaving the toasting to my older brother!
Helping to plan, design and build Lancaster House between 1989 and 1991 was a pivotal time. To witness something that started as a concept, before plans were even drawn up, taking shape and being built from the ground up was a particularly rewarding experience. There were so many decisions to be made, from the naming of the restaurant and bar, the type of food we would serve, to the colour of the carpets and curtains. Not to mention recruiting a whole new hospitality team. In 2016 it was a privilege to host our 25th ‘Through the Years’ Anniversary, a real celebration of the success of the hotel.
In 1991 it was an honour to take my place as Operations Director on the Board of English Lakes. Other stand out moments were when we took over the management of Storrs Hall in Windermere, and in 2008, the management of The Midland in Morecambe.
I also have fond memories of delighting our festive visitors by Water Skiing into Low Wood Bay as Father Christmas on Christmas morning. I’m also glad to say that privilege is now reserved for a younger generation.
Your proudest moment?
Topping off ceremony at Lancaster House, Managing Director, Michael Berry, (far right)
That would have to be the day we opened Lancaster House to guests. There was just such a huge amount of preparatory work that had gone into the lead up to that day. And then, of course, overseeing Lancaster House for the following twenty-eight years.
What changes have you seen in the hotel industry?
Snail mail has become email! I’ve watched the season of handwritten letters, typewriter, teletext, fax and manual bookings come and go.
The percentage of non-UK employees has certainly grown, from very few in 1979 to being 25% of the workforce to date.
Guest expectations have grown and, I’m sure, will continue to do so. Can you believe that guests used to be quite happy sharing bathroom facilities back in the day? And they wouldn’t have expected a television in the bedroom, being quite happy to join fellow guests in the TV lounge! How times have changed.
Now that worldwide travel has opened up, people have experienced different cultures and a huge variety of food choices. Of course, we’ve had to change our offering to reflect the breadth of this experience.
What has remained constant?
Genuine hospitality and the desire to meet and surpass guests’ expectations will always remain the same.
… and if you had to predict future changes for English Lakes?
I could see us going into food production from a central location. This would allow us to produce high quality, locally sourced food to distribute to all our hotels, cutting down on the deliveries to site, and reducing our carbon footprint. Our onsite chefs would then prepare the food for service.
Could you share any humorous moments from the past?
When I was at the Wild Boar, we used to lift the carpet off the dance floor and pop it in the staff room. At the end of the night we would put it back down. One particular night an off duty member of staff saw the carpet and though it must be going spare so they cut it to size and fitted it in their staff bedroom!!
A newly married couple had left some clothes to be placed in their bridal room. When they came back to collect them we realised that they had been sent to the dry cleaners who were closed! There was no way of retrieving their clothes so that they could go on their honeymoon.
Simon Berry, English Lakes Hotels Managing Director added:
Douglas has given so much to the group with forty dedicated and thoroughly distinguished years’ service with us. It has been an honour to serve together on the Board of Directors where fellow board members benefit from Douglas’ wisdom and vast knowledge and experience of the industry.