Series 6 - Windsors, Chertsey

Mel, proprietor of Windsors, Chertsey

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This week’s instalment sees Alex head to the Windsors Hotel, a hostelry in Chertsey plagued by poor decor, dated furnishings and an unenthusiastic owner.

The Windsors in Surrey is a six-bed hotel run by former air stewardess Mel. Having started life as a wine bar in 1989, the establishment was turned into a hotel a decade later with the addition of the upstairs rooms. Business initially boomed, but occupancy rates have fallen to just 25 per cent. “Bookings just dropped like a stone,” Mel says. Mel now finds herself working round the clock, and has lost her sense of pride in the business. “My stress levels have gone through the roof,” she adds.

Alex’s first impressions are underwhelming at best. “It looks like a wine bar with flats above,” she says of the hotel’s exterior. The rooms fare little better, with too many cushions and chintzy decorations for Alex’s tastes. “Welcome to the knocking shop,” Alex jokes as she enters a room kitted out with deep red furnishings. She is also unimpressed by the lack of attention to detail and the level of cleanliness in the rooms. Her immediate reaction is that Mel should reclassify the hotel as a guesthouse, thereby lowering the expectations of the often unhappy guests.

At breakfast the next morning, Alex is impressed by the service and quality of the food. However, this is offset by the oppressive nature of the room itself, which is blood red from floor to ceiling. “I feel like I’m in someone’s womb,” Alex says. During her feedback to Mel, Alex points out the shabby frontage, which includes dead flowers in hanging baskets, torn posters in the windows, and an inconspicuous main sign. While Mel agrees with Alex about the outside of the hotel, she is less sure about Alex’s criticism of the bedrooms.

To test possible guest reactions to the hotel, Mel asks her husband to act as a businessman and appraise the establishment from a traveller’s perspective. Mel clearly feels uncomfortable with criticism, even from her husband. When he questions the need for the abundance of cushions, her answer is emphatic. “You’re supposed to put them behind your head, you twat,” she says.

Five weeks later, Alex returns to the Windsors. To prove her point about rebranding the hotel as a guesthouse, she and Mel ask members of the public various questions about their expectations when paying for accommodation. The vast majority of the people agree with Alex’s perspective, persuading Mel to apply for a guesthouse rating. In order to justify her current prices, she needs to be given at least a four-star rating.

Having been reinvigorated by her new business plan, Mel sets to work making Alex’s suggestions a
reality – including the redecoration of the downstairs bar and breakfast room. However, it seems Mel is not entirely convinced about the new look. “I just don’t know if we’re going in the right direction,” she confides.

When Alex returns a few weeks later, she is pleased to note that the frontage has been dramatically improved, with a new sign in place. The main downstairs room has been redecorated to look a lot airier, the bedrooms have been cleaned, and much of the chintz has now been removed. However, Mel is yet to have a visit from the anonymous hotel inspector. Any rating below four stars may do her establishment more harm than good. Have she and Alex done enough to ensure a high rating?


  • Series 5 - The Swan, Norfolk

    Alex Polizzi pays a visit to Robin Twigge, owner of 14th-century hotel The Swan. Sadly, it's more of a lame duck. Can Alex galvanise Robin into action?


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