Mark Lane finds out why the Park Head Hotel in County Durham is racking up awards and commendations and how it has turned itself into a popular venue for local businesses

In a world where the hospitality industry is often dominated by corporate hotel chains and their economies of scale, smaller hotels can still thrive. A great example of this can be found in County Durham in the form of multi award-winning North East England Chamber of Commerce member, Park Head Hotel.

The family-owned venue, which is styled on an 18th century coaching inn and incorporates an eye-catching courtyard, is located in New Coundon, just off the A688 between Bishop Auckland and Spennymoor. It offers 32 en-suite rooms, a spacious bar, two restaurants and two function rooms, as well as meticulously-maintained gardens and a large free and secure car park.

Experienced husband and wife team Claire (pictured left) and Tony Gibbons purchased the hotel in 2008 and have been racking up awards and commendations ever since. Claire started her career in the pub and nightclub industry over 32 years ago and Tony began his career in the bingo industry even further back, going on to run several large successful leisure companies.

Asked to outline some of the Park Head Hotel’s strengths, Claire cites location, outstanding customer service, good wifi strength throughout the property and high quality locally-sourced food. She adds: “Our customers who stay with us say its like home from home and they love the fact we are not a large corporate hotel following a script. Our customer service is genuine and tailored to suit the needs of our guests.”

Focusing on these staple strengths, the Park Head Hotel has had great success in attracting business-related clientele.

It has hosted many local and national business meetings and conferences for clients including the NHS, Durham County council, Britain in Bloom, North East England Chamber, education authorities, training companies, Durham Wildlife Trust and Bishop Auckland Business Club. The hotel also hosts many local community and networking meetings every month; it is home to the Bishop Auckland Rotary Club and Inner Wheel, the international women’s organisation.

“We get a lot of regular and repeat business as our business customers appreciate the way that we look after them, always going that extra mile and making their experience as comfortable as possible,” says Claire.

Proof of the quality of the Park Head Hotel as a venue can be evidenced through an impressive roster of awards and commendations. In recent times it has been awarded the coveted Trip Advisor Award of Excellence, a World Host Award, a Durham Works Achievement Award and a Northumbria in Bloom Silver Gilt Award. Recognition has also come in the shape of two accolades from the Durham County Council Environment Awards – category winner for ‘Greener Business’ award and also the ‘Outstanding Award’, of which only three were awarded across the whole of County Durham.

For the business customer, there is great flexibility for accommodating events from a small meeting room to a theatre- style presentation for up to 100 people. Overnight delegate packages are always available and food menus can be tailored to meet individual needs, all at a location with easy access and no need for struggling through the city centre traffic which decreases the value of many alternative venues.

The Park Head Hotel’s popularity is due in large part to its well-earned reputation for excellent food. Claire says that the hotel’s chefs source as much produce as they can locally, including meats from nearby farmlands and breads from a local artisan bakery.

Sunday lunches at the hotel have become particularly popular, featuring a four-roast carvery and a free dessert with every meal.

The company is a longstanding member of the North East England Chamber and Claire points to the many benefits of membership. She says: “We enjoy attending everything from networking to dinners and interacting and doing business with other chamber members. We have also hosted chamber events.”

She adds: “The Chamber does a great job of keeping us well informed with details of changes, new legislation and updates in the business world. We always find dealing with the Chamber staff very easy and we have found all of their events to be very professional, so there is a great synergy with our own business.”