Over the past year, Eric, together with his wife Suzanne, who have both been in the trade for over thirty years, provided over 200 meals a week to their local community, during the first lockdown, through a Covid19 Food Resilience Group.
Eric de Venny, landlord of The Eagle Hotel in Dornoch, and Maccallums Pub in Inverness says: “To be successful in a hospitality business in rural Scotland, you need to be innovative and understand the needs of your local community and try to fulfil them best you can!”
They kept both businesses afloat and performing well, they have also managed to pick up an SME award for Best Family Guest Inn and Restaurant in the Highlands, for The Eagle, and recognition from Star Bars, their landlord, as community champions.
Eric said: “It’s great to be recognised in this way, and of course it’s not just about me and Suzanne, this is very much a team award for all my hard working staff who have also had a pretty rotten and most challenging year.
“We’re on the up now though, and at the end of the day the pandemic experience was all about giving something back to the community, and making sure we are still in business with everyone still gainfully employed.”
Eric explained that many of the people he helped in the local Food Resilience Group were elderly and had to shield.
He said: “Some of them were not out the door for months.
“In addition, we stepped in to provide meals to the nurses at the local hospital in Golspie, as their normal provision was interrupted due to Covid restrictions.
“It’s good that things are improving now, and we are looking forward to a busy summer here in Dornoch.
“I’m used to thinking on my feet – you have to be in this game – and for Brora FC, I came up with the idea of buying a cask of whisky, bottling it with a special label commemorating the match against Hearts, and selling it to raise funds for the club.
“Having given them the £2k donation of the stock, I sold the rest to recover my outlay.
“It certainly helped them out after a tough financial time.”
Eric and Suzanne are similarly keen to help other hospitality businesses recover at this time, by sharing their experiences of bringing in specialist consultants to The Eagle.
“Like many hotels, it was a problem when guests didn’t pay for their accommodation, prior to their arrival, as was overbooking guests,” said Eric.
“It was during a meeting with my Regional Director at Star Pubs that The Accommodation Services Trading Company was mentioned, as a specialist outfit to which we could outsource the day to day running of our reservations, giving us time to concentrate on other things.
“We started working with them in July 2020, and have not looked back.”
Eric explained that ASTC enable hotels to access a dedicated & experienced team in room bookings, with guests receiving a professional experience when they book direct.