For Silvana, the art of hospitality has always been in her blood. Growing up in an Italian – Scottish family, hers was one that was filled with flavours and food, customer delight and an acute business acumen that continues to serve her well today.
We interview the other driving force behind The Ollerod, Silvana Bandini, and explore her take on what it really means to leave customers feeling valued and looked after.
Rooted in service and with an entrepreneurial spirit
Born to a Scottish mother and an Italian father, Silvana grew up in South Africa – a country and culture that is no stranger to fantastic food, and superb hospitality. Silvana’s father is an Italian cheesemaker and a key supplier to restaurants and hotels. “When you’re dealing with milk, it’s a 24-hour per day, 7-day a week business, and although I didn’t grow up in the hotel industry, I was definitely no stranger to it”. She tells us that the family business started to expand and that through delivering to customers she’s always had a link into hospitality. “Coming from an Italian family, we were immersed in good food and the culture of food bringing people together,” she adds.
But Silvana’s first choice of career was far from the one she follows today. “When I finished school, I was set to become a lawyer. I’d worked hard, and was ready to study Law – but, as with most young people about to embark on their career path, I woke up to the fact that my life had a different calling.” And that’s how she ended up studying hotel management at one of the most prestigious hotel schools in South Africa, The International Hotel School in Johannesburg.
Heckfield Place and the meeting of a lifetime
Through a series of fortunate meetings, which included joining the global hospitality software provider Micros Fidelio (now Oracle Hospitality) and joining their UK division, Silvana found herself living and working in the UK. It was after working in London for a few years that she was offered a position at the very prestigious Hampshire hotel, Heckfield Place, which is also, as it happens, the place where she met Chris and a lifelong partnership began.
Over the course of a number of years, Silvana & Chris’ careers eventually led them both to Bath, and Silvana was quickly snatched up by the Pig Hotel Group to join them as Assistant General Manager. But the innate entrepreneur inside was ready to grow once more, and at that point, Chris and Silvana decided to take the leap and do it for themselves.
The blooming of The Ollerod
“We were at that stage in our careers that we were ready to take a jump onto the next thing,” she says. “I grew up in a very hard-working family and always thought in the back of my head that one day I would have my own business. I remember one occasion when I was living in London that a schoolfriend of mine reminded me of a declaration I’d made many years before, that one day I’d own my own hotel. I don’t remember saying that at all, but it’s obviously been ingrained in my psyche somewhere,” she adds. Silvana has learned how to take risks, and that you have to think big to be able to grow. Growing up in a family that lived and breathed their own business, she has learnt that failure doesn’t mean giving up. It means that you carry on, and try something different. “Fear is what stops a lot of people from taking a leap to the next thing,” she says. “And Chris and I were ready to take that leap.”
Happy Birthday to you!
The Ollerod, as it stands today, is about to hit its first birthday, and we ask Silvana about the year that’s just passed. “I’ve certainly learnt how to be patient – with myself. I’m naturally a ‘do-er’ – and want everything done immediately. I’ve realised that delivering a memorable experience to our guests trumps my desire to instantaneously fix little things that I can see, but which don’t affect the guests. From the feedback we get, we’re delivering that, and that’s extremely important to me,” she says.
Read reviews about The Ollerod and most of what you will see encompasses 2 critical experiences: The incredibly well-prepared food that you eat here, and the levels of service you receive from the moment you arrive, to the moment you leave. Silvana’s hospitality has filtered through to her team – from the moment they check you in, to serving you your favourite drink and even ensuring you have freshly-baked biscuits in your room.
“Building a team that can deliver service resulting in these kinds of reviews is completely dependent on how Chris and I function. If we’re not delivering good service, how do we expect our teams to do the same? We truly care about our staff, and try to support them in all aspects of their lives. In hospitality you spend a lot of time at work, and so we try to make this a nice place to be! We’re here all the time, and we’d never ask our team to do something that we wouldn’t do.”
We ask her what she’s most proud of, and after careful thought, she tells us that it has to be the collaboration of the incredible food served, and the levels of service that The Ollerod prides itself on. “We want The Ollerod to be known for being real, authentic and warm. Our ethos is that nothing is too much trouble. If someone is in the mood for a jacket potato, and we have a potato in the kitchen, we’ll make it for them. So, the combination of putting out amazing food, with great flavours, but without an ego that sits behind it, is what makes us a warm, friendly, approachable experience, and has people coming back regularly.”