Wedding businesses that pivoted during lockdown…
Today we chat with Hampton Manor about pivoting their business, micro weddings, staycations, and how they helped their community during lockdown…
Tell us about Hampton Manor…
Hampton Manor is a neo-Tudor gothic manor house in the heart of England and set within a 45-acre estate. We can offer wedding breakfasts in our glass-roofed courtyard for up to 130. In-house catering only – by our Michelin-starred team. 15 bedrooms for you and your guests.
How have you pivoted your services and skills during the pandemic and lockdown?
We’ve led two initiatives:
Currently: With large weddings closed during July and August, we’ve created an opportunity for 2 night stays at the Manor for romantic weekends away. With 15 bedrooms, a cottage and 3 foodie ways to dine on the estate, many couples are coming to stay on the weekend they were supposed to be getting married because it’s too sad to just let the day pass without remark.
They’ll be welcomed in the afternoon with cream tea in the Nyetimber Summer House – some of our favourite wedding stylists Ava Event Styling are creating a remarkable design for our Courtyard where we usually hold our wedding breakfasts. Our courtyard is a glasshouse built into old stone brick walls and so it seemed fitting for it to be transformed into an indoor garden where you can pick up a picnic hamper or have a Nyetimber cream tea.
On the first night, they’ll dine in the Walled Garden alfresco or in the Smokehouse where we’ll be cooking a relaxed menu of slow-cooked meats and garden vegetables on the wood-fired oven.
On the second day, there are 45 acres to explore in the sun. You’re invited for a forage in the walled garden as we pick veg for your evening meal and a complimentary wine tasting with your hosts James and Fjona. Or you might want to take part in our calendar of craft and food workshops, including florists and stylists Ava who will be leading workshops to create rose bowls. You may just find some hand made elements you’d like to design into your own wedding! After spending the rest of the stay lounging around in your flip flops, the second night is one to dress up for the finale of a tasting menu in Michelin-starred Peel’s restaurant. Drinks on the terrace or in the elegant parlour will round off your evening.
If this sounds all rather delicious, we’ll be opening this up as a micro wedding package for those who don’t want to wait until next year. Whilst you can’t have the quantity in your guest numbers, this is an opportunity to make the quality time with your nearest and dearest really count. So many couples remark that their wedding days are over too quickly – the gift of our micro wedding is the luxury of time spent well together, creating some remarkable memories.
You can view staycation promo HERE
During the last 3 months: As a Michelin-starred wedding venue, we were able to meet a real need for people during lockdown. Whilst movement was locked down, life still continues and there were many special occasions that people didn’t know how to celebrate – birthdays, anniversaries and couples wanting to mark the day that they should have been getting married. So from Peel’s Restaurant, we started Peel’s on Wheels, affectionately known as POW! We were ahead of the game compared to many as we launched the week after lockdown and we were inundated with orders – for the first 2 months, we sold out within minutes every week we launched new menus!
We’ve also found that it’s brought a lot of joy to people – we’re an estate that specialises in helping people creating landmark moments so we followed our in-house philosophy and went beyond just providing food. We snuck in little surprise treats for anyone celebrating a special day and we created date night conversation cards to help create connection and laughter at the table. Our customers really joined in with the whole experience and we were regularly sent photos of beautiful table-scapes with candles and flowers, all dressed up as people claimed back their Friday nights!
How has your business helped the community?
We sent out a free meal to a needy family for every POW box that arrived on a doorstep so we have fed hundreds of vulnerable people over the course of the crisis with some top-notch family meals that beat any ready meal! We’ve had some wonderful stories including families who say they wouldn’t have eaten that night if they hadn’t received our meal.
Its something we plan to continue once the restaurant opens as well – it seems fitting that a food-led venue should be finding ways to impact food poverty in our region.
We’ve also fed the NHS every week (before they asked us to stop cos they were getting too much free food!) and sent out a batch of complimentary 3 course POW box to NHS heroes.
We also we ran a competition for our audience to nominate someone who has had to sacrifice a lot during this time – they will be receiving a complimentary 2-night staycation over the summer as a well-deserved break.
How has your daily routine changed:
I myself have 3 small kids at home and our wedding consultants are in the same boat! Work-hour sharing with our other halves have been really important and lots of evening work!
Our wedding team has always been involved with our couples on a personal level rather than transactional and they have seen the emotional toll on our couples as they have to sit with the unknown. So much of their time has been spent looking after concerns, walking them through to bring reassurance and helping them reimagine their day. It’s really important for us that our couples can keep on dreaming and they don’t feel that they have had to let go of all their vision for their day. I know our couples have very much appreciated the empathy they have received from our team.
As lockdown restrictions start to ease, will you continue to offer this new service or get back to working in the wedding world?
As a homely country house, we’re best enjoyed with exclusive use where our guests can really feel like the whole manor is theirs. We love it when people have time to slow down and really immerse themselves in nature, great food and a real home in the company of friends.
So we do want to develop the micro wedding package and our staycations into a ‘wedding weekend’ as a new service that is here to stay. The wedding day is never enough to connect with all your loved ones fully so a whole weekend provides a beautiful opportunity to make the most of this one-of-a-kind time to gather together. Once we’re back open fully, there’ll only be a limited number of exclusive use wedding weekends per year available where the house is all yours with 2 nights of feasting and gathering to relax into. We’ll be releasing details during the summer.
What have you learned about your business/ life during the pandemic and how will this affect your business/ life moving forward?
Adaptability is key. Despite the distance of contact, I believe our guests have become even more loyal to us. We’ve pressed into meeting some core needs for them and for the wider community in a time when it would have been easy just to shut the doors and wait for it to blow over. New pivots should never about ‘how can we make more money’ – they’re about ‘what do people need at this time and how can are we best placed to serve them with our particular skill set and passions’. That’s the secret of a life-giving business.
What are you looking forward to most when restrictions are lifted?
We miss people! It’s never quite the same talking on the phone or over zoom. The joy in our work isn’t simply the task of producing the food or the beautifully designed spaces or creating seamless service – it’s seeing those things make people come alive and connect together better as they enjoy them. We’ll still miss the hugging though as most of our couples can’t leave without a hug!
To hear more about Hampton Manor or to book in for one of their staycations, you can contact them HERE