Nigel Way, Dartmouth Connections
Congratulations on your 25th anniversary - How will you be celebrating it?
On the 22nd April, we are holding a public display of fireworks from the Dart and it will be open house in the hotel that evening. We are also planning a reunion of past and present staff a little later this year and hope to have at least 200 of our old friends there. Finally, we are putting together an archive of material, most probably on a website, of any information relating to the hotel these past 25 years – plans of the building, staff records, press cuttings etc
Has the business developed in the way you imagined 25 years ago?
Well, when Anne and I bought it, it was losing money and we planned to turn it round and move on after a few years. I didn’t expect to still be here 25 years later but Dartmouth has, as usual, worked its magic on us.
What makes the Royal Castle special?
Unusually, it is a privately-owned “hotel of the town”. This gives us the freedom to focus on hospitality not just the bottom line and I think we’ve been able to get the balance right between providing food, accommodation and being a pub.
What are you most proud of in the last 25 years?
It has to be receiving my MBE from the Queen in 2007, but also by delivering on our promise of ‘hospitality’.
What are the highlights of working in Dartmouth?
You only need to walk along the Embankment and look at the River to see why Dartmouth is so special. - and the low points? I think the town often appears too divided, socially and economically. It’s frustrating also that there are disparate ideas on how to make Dartmouth work best for all residents and businesses.
What have been the most positive changes to the town in that period?
It has very definitely “traded up”. The recent storms also served to remind us how grateful we should be for the building of the Embankment in the late 1980’s. I don’t have to worry any more about the spring tides lapping at the door of the hotel. It’s also a great amenity for visitors and residents alike. - and the negative? We are no longer a market town serving the needs of local villages
What has been the most important lesson you have learned in the past 25 yrs?
That you should never think you know everything. Every day I come to work to learn as well as teach.
What do you wish you knew then, when you started, that you know now?
If something is really important, do it regardless of what it costs.
How do you see the business changing and developing over the next 25 years?
Well, I hope it provides me with a good pension! Should we ever sell it, then I dearly hope it will remain in private hands.
What is your personal philosophy of what makes a successful business?
In the hospitality business, it’s all about putting people first, whether that’s customers or staff.
How have you personally changed in 25 years? I’ve put on weight but given up smoking! I also think now I’ve got better at striking the right work/life balance.
When the celebrations are over, is it business as usual?
I plan to do a 6 week course in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and then hope to visit Indonesia for an extended period to do some actual teaching. We have had some wonderful people from that part of the world working with us over the years. I also want to get our Historic Archive up and running, as I am sure it will be of use and interest to Dartmouth residents and visitors, present and future
What does Nigel Way do when he is not working?
Walking the dog, poodling up the river and tending the garden.
First published April 2008, By The Dart