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This has been an interesting year, and we have found many delightful surprises on our travels - including some brave and promising start-ups - but a particular problem has raised its head over and over again. Whatever has happened to our standards of service?
So many otherwise agreeable hotels and restaurants are letting themselves (and their potentially excellent staff) down by poor training and supervision. We’ve seen it everywhere this year from pubs and cafés to five star hotels and leading restaurants, and it kept reminding me of Francis Brennan, as he could be just the man to fix it.
Purchasing a former railway hotel in deepest Kerry must have seemed like madness in the recessionary 1980s, but Francis Brennan was no ordinary buyer. Opened as a five star haven of luxury in 1985, the Park Hotel Kenmare soon became the national phenomenon that it has remained ever since - but, right from the beginning, it not only wowed an appreciative public but also made a unique contribution to Irish hospitality by acting as a sort of unofficial hotel school.
The Park is renowned for its outstandingly friendly and professional staff and the highest standards of service were central to its success from the outset. Many hundreds of staff must have benefited from a sound training under Francis Brennan’s eagle eye by now - and, while he was an obvious choice for the ‘At Your Service’ programme that has made him and his younger brother John into household names, it would be wonderful to see him applying his unique training skills to a wider audience.
Francis has also quietly given his unique services in many other ways, notably as a tireless ambassador for Irish hospitality - we applaud him, and trust that he has no thoughts of retiring just yet.