Series 5 - The Swan, Norfolk

Alex poses with Robin Twigge, proprietor of The Swan

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Alex visits the 14th-century Swan Hotel in Norfolk. With 15 empty bedrooms and a deserted restaurant, the Swan is struggling to stay afloat. Can Alex breathe some life into this lame duck?

Robin Twigge bought the 14th-century Swan Hotel in Harleston seven years ago. Despite 30 years of experience in hotel management, Robin has failed to turn this ugly duckling into an elegant swan. Still unrated by Visit England, the Swan has never managed to turn a profit. With 15 empty bedrooms and a restaurant that is lucky to get 30 covers a week, only Robin's bustling pub trade is keeping the establishment afloat.

A filthy entrance greets Alex on her arrival at the hotel, and her first impressions of the rest of the Swan are distinctly underwhelming. Inside she finds an unmanned reception, no guest lounge, threadbare carpets and urine stains on the bathroom floors. At breakfast in the pub-style restaurant, Alex quickly discovers the reason few customers are willing to eat there - with 30 dishes on the menu there is no way the food can be fresh.

Alex sits Robin down and tells him the unpalatable truth - he needs to decide whether he wants to be a landlord or a hotelier. By ignoring his 15 rooms, and letting the restaurant drown under the weight of such a huge menu, Robin is turning his back on two potentially profitable areas. First, he needs to start focusing on the guests' experience at the Swan by cleaning and checking the rooms on a regular basis. Next, Alex will create a new guest lounge and give the restaurant a facelift. Finally, his menu needs to be pared down and he must begin to use fresh, local produce.

On her return, Alex is pleasantly surprised by the hotel's spruced-up exterior. She also discovers that Robin has halved his menu, which now features local dishes such as Gressingham duck. The hotel inspector then reveals her plan for taking the business forward. It is essential that Robin achieves a three-star rating in order to increase the number of guests. Once the restaurant has been redecorated, Robin must organise a launch to showcase the new menu and revamped surroundings. Alex's plans leave Robin with a lot of food for thought...

Unfortunately, when Alex returns for the relaunch the Swan is in chaos. The restaurant has only just been completed, and with 30 invited guests - as many in one sitting as the restaurant normally gets in a week - the kitchen descends into pandemonium. However, whilst the kitchen is in crisis, the graceful front of house ensures the guests do not notice the confusion next door. The restaurant relaunch and refit is a huge success - but the hotel must now achieve the all-important three-star rating...

Alex arrives for her final visit to discover that the Visit England assessor is already at the hotel, investigating the revitalised rooms with Robin. But a forgotten alarm call, missing newspaper and dirty bedding could scupper everything. Will Robin get his three stars? Or is the beleaguered manager destined to remain a publican with a hotel, rather than a hotelier with a pub?


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