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Eight years after the financial crisis of 2008, we are still feeling its effects. Business confidence has not fully recovered, productivity has barely caught up to its pre-crisis levels, and consumers have not rediscovered what the great economist Keynes called their “animal spirits”. We are spending, but we are doing so cautiously, not least because few of us have had a decent pay rise for years. 

Brexit, the fall of the pound, and the impact on finances

And then there is Brexit. Whatever your personal views on the result of the referendum, one undeniable outcome has been the fall in the value of sterling by around 10 per cent – a fall which seems to be here to stay for the foreseeable future. This has made foreign travel more expensive: air fares are rising, as is the cost of driving aboard because of the increased cost of fuel, while tourists are finding that their pound simply buys less at the bureau de change and when making purchases abroad. 

There are also dark forces at work in the world. The Tunisian beach massacre of 2015, the attacks in Paris, Nice and Brussels: these have helped to create a sense that “abroad” is risky.

The rise of the staycation and holiday parks in the UK

As a result of all this, we British are increasingly turning our backs on foreign holidays and opting instead for what has become known as the “staycation”. The number of foreign trips Britons take is 16 per cent lower than it was before the recession, according to data from Visit England, the country’s national tourist board, while holidays in England rose by 12 per cent between 2008 and 2013. Research from suggests that one in six Britons say weaker sterling is putting them off going abroad. Many UK hotels and hospitality companies reported that 2016 was one of the best ever for business, while this year’s August Bank Holiday saw 5.1 million people holidaying in the UK – an increase over 4.7 million last year, according to Visit England.

UK holiday destinations

Butlins holiday parks

And where are we taking those UK holidays? In many instances, we are going to holiday parks. Now, in case anyone has any residual memories or images of knobbly knee contests or draughty chalets with Tannoys waking “campers” at the crack of dawn for compulsory communal calisthenics, things have moved on. Butlins’ complex in Minehead, for instance, has undergone a makeover, with rainbow-hued chalets with landscaped gardens in a lakeside setting. In the old days, cold running water was considered a luxury; now, the hot tub has become a fixture at many holiday parks. And at Cheddar Woods Resort & Spa in Somerset, lodges have super-sized Apple televisions and all kinds of up-to-date connectivity for your family’s electronic devices (though there are also more vigorous activities on offer such as archery and fencing).

The origins of holiday parks

Warner holiday chalets

Holiday parks have their origins in a great British institution that goes back more than 100 years: the holiday camp. In the late 19th century, camping was becoming a leisure activity and in 1894 one of the first organised holiday camps was launched by Joseph Cunningham, a staunch Presbyterian, and his wife Elizabeth, on the Isle of Man, offering working men an active outdoor holiday. Cunningham’s Camp, as it was known, was initially an all-male affair, and campers were accommodated in a tented city accommodating up to 600. The holiday camp was born, and as time went on the tents gave way to huts and chalets. 

As working people earned more, and began to get more leisure time, holiday camps mushroomed across the country. By the 1930s the first of the Warners chain had opened on Hayling Island in Hampshire and Billy Butlin was launching the first of his camps, at Skegness. When war broke out, holiday camps proved ideal ready-made accommodation for the services, so many of them were taken over by the government to become bases for service personnel (some were also used for internment). After the war, many of them reverted to their previous function. 

1960’s and 1970’s holiday camps

Hi Di Hi TV series - UK holiday parks

In the 1960s and 70s holiday camps found it hard to compete with the new cheap foreign holidays; also, as a society we had become more individualised, less willing to take part in communal activities, and more demanding as consumers. But some camps survived and thrived, carving out a niche by offering inexpensive family breaks in chalets or caravans with activities for the youngsters and access to facilities such as swimming pools, water slides and the outdoors. 

These days the term “holiday camp” is no longer used; most call themselves holiday parks, holiday centres or holiday villages. At Butlin’s, staff are discouraged from using the words “chalet” and “camp”; instead, they use “accommodation” and “resort”. Entertainment at today’s camps can be of a very high standard: Ronan Keating and Atomic Kitten are among the pop stars who have appeared at Butlin’s resorts, while the dance group Diversity will be appearing at Butlin’s throughout 2017. Butlin’s also offers themed musical weekends: soul, Seventies, Ibiza, and so on.

Butlin's retro postcard

Short stay holiday parks

Many of us use holiday parks not for a full two-week vacation but for a short break, in addition to our main holiday. Hoseasons, for instance, says that for the company, 2016 has been “the year of the short break”, with a surge in three- and four-night bookings across its UK lodge, park and boating locations. 

Center Parcs - a pioneer in the holiday park business, and one of the key businesses in the revival of the holiday park, having spread the idea from Holland - has built its business model on the short break, encouraging families and couples to pack their activities and enjoyment into a few days. 

Center Parcs has also been raising the bar, quite literally, with the introduction in the past few years of its luxury tree houses, available at its parks in Sherwood Forest, Elveden Forest and Longleat. These tree houses are actually elevated accommodation complexes set among the trees, offering facilities such as pool rooms, saunas and hot tubs, with rooms connected by elevated walkways. 

And the tree house trend is spreading: Forest Holidays, a holiday park in the Forest of Dean  which offers secluded lodges in bucolic locations in this area of outstanding natural beauty, has sprouted its own tree houses; accommodating up to 10 people, these are aimed chiefly at groups of friends or extended family on short breaks. Hot tubs, too, are part of the package.

It’s all a far cry from the porridge and bacon, the “Good morning, campers”, the “Hi-De-Hi”, the cold running water and the glamorous gran contests of yesteryear.

Related reading from our news and media resource:

1 - Active parks help business bring in business

2 - Sports club furniture gives joggers a resting place


For as long as there have been human beings, there have been clubs: associations of like-minded people getting together to socialise, drink, eat, and talk about whatever it is that binds them. In ancient Greece and Rome, most clubs were religious or political. Fans of a particular god or goddess would meet up to worship him or her (and, in some cases, show their devotion in gatherings that basically turned into orgies). Supporters of certain politicians would do the same – and some of these clubs became hotbeds of conspiracy and were closed down.

Clubs and associations in the 17th and 18th century

A club of gentlemen by Joseph Highmore

Fast-forward to the 17th and 18th centuries, when social clubs were becoming popular in Britain, growing out of London’s thriving coffee-house scene. (The word “club” in this sense derives from its other use – a stick used as a weapon – as these were places where people would gather in a club-like mass.) Over the years, these institutions have given us the club sandwich, club soda, club-class travel – and possibly the world’s most famous quote, from Groucho Marx (“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member”)

21st century clubs in Britain

This sporting life

Over the years, British clubs have added greatly to the cultural wealth of the nation, but some of them have also become notorious as bastions of exclusivity, snobbery and boorish behaviour. Today, though, in the 21st century, some clubs are beginning to move with the times – across all the social classes (we’ll leave to one side the very different world of nightclubs and clubbing culture).

The upmarket Garrick Club in London still refuses to allow women to become members (though they can be admitted as guests), but it is one of the last of London’s private members’ clubs to do so. Earlier this year, meanwhile, Royal Troon golf club in Ayrshire voted to allow women members – this followed the earlier decision that Muirfield golf club would not be considered as a host venue for the Open golf tournament because of its male-only membership policy. 

Rugby clubs hitting the headlines

And then there was the story that hit the headlines in 2014, when members of the rugby club at the prestigious London School of Economics handed out a controversial leaflet which described women as “mingers” and “trollops”. A couple of decades ago this kind of thing might have gone unnoticed, but not today: the LSE subsequently disbanded its rugby club.

A change of attitude in British clubs and associations

england womens rugby

This kind of change in attitude seems to be taking place in the clubs that form part of the backbone of sporting Britain – the hundreds of rugby clubs in towns and villages across the country. Here, the times are changing. The rise of women’s rugby has changed the character of many clubs – the boozy, macho atmosphere portrayed in Lindsay Anderson’s 1963 film This Sporting Life would be considered over the top these days. And the body that oversees English rugby union – the Rugby Football Union – now hands out awards for clubs that have demonstrated “community engagement”; this means bringing the sport of rugby to a wider public, rather than its traditional “blokey” demographic.

Rowdy behaviour, drinking, singing and dancing

Of course, this doesn’t mean that rugby clubs and other sporting clubs have become like monasteries: rowdy behaviour, drinking, singing, dancing, men dressing up in women’s clothing – these things are the bedrock of British life. But these days there is more to a night at the rugby club than getting plastered, singing rude songs and necking a bottle of aftershave (there were famous occasions in the past when rugby stars were seen drinking the free aftershave that was left out on their banqueting tables, with very nasty results). 

Generation Abstemious and the evolution of clubs

For one thing, young people are drinking less alcohol than ever before. These are the people who have become known as “generation abstemious”: they like a drink, but they don’t want to get blotto. So any self-respecting bar will serve a decent selection of non-alcoholic and low-alcohol drinks. Likewise with women: their tastes are different. Most women don’t want to spend an evening downing pints of ale (though admittedly there are some who will happily do so). A choice of wines, spirits, mixers and cocktails will therefore be greatly appreciated. 

Many rugby clubs and similar establishments also top up their coffers by hiring their premises out for wedding receptions, parties, and so on – so it will help if they can create an ambience, an atmosphere that is friendly and inclusive. Today’s customers want more than a cavernous room and a bunch of barstools; they want a comfortable, friendly, attractive environment.

Club furniture and furnishings

Which brings us to the issue of buying club furniture. Whether a rugby club is attractive or off-putting can be determined, to a great extent, by something as simple as tables and chairs. An empty hall with a smattering of functional stools and bare tables will simply not do: there are some who are happy to stand up all night, but others like to sit in comfort, recline, relax, and have a good chat and a laugh. Good quality chairs will help enormously, as will tables of sturdy construction and decent size (and without wobbly legs!). 

The benefits of mixing and matching club furniture

There’s also a widespread superstition that furniture in a bar, a club or a pub has to be matching. This is nonsense. Mixing and matching furniture will give a place a much more homely, organic atmosphere. A nice big old sofa placed up against a wall with a low table can be complemented by an array of more contemporary tables and chairs, with perhaps high stools up at the bar. Armchairs – or, perhaps more appropriately, club chairs - can be scattered around, too. And although this might sound like heresy, there could even be room for furniture with fabric coverings, rather than the usual leather and its substitutes.

Making the most out of sporting events

farnham rugby club watching on the big screen

A popular attraction at rugby clubs these days is the big-screen showing of live sporting events. TV screens are now available in mightily impressive sizes, so that a hall full of people can see the action at events such as the Six Nations (coming up in February). It might pay, therefore, to invest in a decent number of sports bar furniture like stackable chairs that can be stored away when not in use and brought out for the big games.

Chairs at the front of the hall could be complemented by tables and chairs towards the rear. And maybe food and drink could be “themed” according to the teams playing, which could lead to some interesting combinations: Scotland v Ireland (smoked salmon and Guinness); England v France (English beer and French cheeses), Italy v Wales (Italian wine and Welsh lamb). And so on.

Image credits.

'A Club of Gentlemen' by Joseph Highmore (1730)

'Women's rugby is becoming increasingly popular. Next year sees the Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland'

'Lindsay Anderson's 1963 film 'This Sporting Life' with Richard Harris depicted the macho world of Rugby League'.

'Rugby clubs such as Farnham are installing big video screens in their clubhouses to show major sporting events'.


Antony Barnett, head of props at the Royal Opera House:

“As you’d expect, we use a variety of suppliers to stage all of our productions. The items that we received from Trent were exactly what we need for this new ballet production.”

“The speed at which the furniture arrived was great, they came a month before the production is even planned to start which is great!”

The Royal Ballet purchased loopback side chairs and a bentwood table for use in a new ballet production named Strapless.

See the case study here.

With the restaurant industry being one of the most fiercely competitive business ventures in the world, it’s vital that your branding and theme are consistent and powerful. One of the most important and underrated pieces to this puzzle is the furniture; using the right restaurant furniture can set the mood in your restaurant perfectly.

High-end restaurants and minimalist design furniture

Modern high-end restaurants should embrace minimalist design with their furniture to draw attention to the exceptional taste of the food and the scenery. Leather chairs could be used instead of more traditional wooden restaurant chairs; leather restaurant chairs are often largely covered in one singular block colour making them extremely versatile to any colour scheme. Cream or white leather chairs can be used to open up the room with their light designs, whilst darker greys or blacks can fit in with the typically dark interiors of high-end establishments.

Metal restaurant table legs fit superbly within a modern high-end restaurant, when combined with either a chrome or granite coated table top they can add character to the dining experience. The granite coating in particularly provides an easier to clean solution over more traditional wood tables.

Lighting, colour scheme and music for setting the tone

Aside from the furniture: lighting, colour scheme and music are all important factors to take into account for public eating environments. With a higher end establishment you should use your location as a main factor for your design. If you can offer impressive views you’ll want natural light from windows and light colour tones such as creams or whites. Natural wooden chairs may work better than leather chairs in this example.

If you’re down a city street with nothing exceptional in front of your restaurant then you’ll have to use dark colours inside to create an intimate atmosphere. In higher end restaurants music should be subtle, with the atmosphere primarily being created by your colour scheme and cuisine.

Casual dining tips and advice for business

For a laid-back casual themed restaurant you must embrace comfort with homely furniture and a friendly dining atmosphere. Old fashioned large armchairs, wide coffee tables and booths providing areas that customers can relax in for longer than the usual restaurant experience. Using soft brown colours for the restaurant chairs and surrounding them with wooden tables and panels will provide a warm, casual atmosphere similar to that in coffee shops.

Casual restaurant chains such as Frankie & Benny’s do this superbly. Within the restaurant you’ll find large amounts of booths and comfortable and convenient seating options such as double sided padded leather seats. By separating the restaurant into sections like many successful casual restaurants you’ll allow free flowing conversation between guests and a happy customer experience.

Music should be used, with some casual dining chains even having their own radio stations to be used nationwide to ensure their theme is kept consistent. It helps add atmosphere to restaurants that are often distracting with their busy turnover of tables and high levels of waiting staff. Particularly in family friendly restaurants this should be embraced as a useful distraction for children. Selected Buddies restaurants have a train track running around the restaurant with portable TVs playing children’s shows on, a novel idea that attracts families to their restaurant.

When family friendly is your main concern there are lots of crossovers with casual restaurants. Comfortable booths and restaurant chairs are a must, with kids known for their unlikeliness to sit still in public places. Colour scheme is also important for family friendly furniture, bold colours (such as red) should be used to draw attention and provoke a fun atmosphere. Family friendly restaurant tables need an easy-to-clean top, such as laminate, to prevent any damage, as accidents easily happen in family friendly restaurants.

Bistro restaurants

When bistros are mentioned, elegance, modesty and remarkable home cooked meals spring to mind. In terms of design simplicity is vital; whereas modern restaurants embrace fully bodied leather chairs, bistros tend to prefer traditional wooden chairs and small wooden tables. Known for their rustic looks and small spaces, bistros have to make the most of their furniture so you’re unlikely to see long banqueting tables taking up the corner of the room. If you’re trying to style a bistro, stick with dark wooden furniture and you can’t go wrong.

With bistros the use of natural light should be embraced as much as possible, wooden furniture works better with sunlight as opposed to artificial lighting. Similar to high-end dining, music should be subtle or non-existent. In small restaurants you don’t want overpowering or loud music ruining the dining experience.

Transform your pub into the perfect wedding venue

The wedding season is now upon us, and many couples are turning to bars and pubs as the perfect setting for their special day. The internet is full of successful wedding stories, and pub weddings are becoming more popular as intimate venues compared to larger destinations such as country halls. All it takes is a little creativity to take your local and turn it into the ideal wedding venue.

Lighten the mood

Colour and theme are one of the first decisions made when planning a wedding and it’s important to be flexible to cater for anything chosen. According to Confetti, the most popular wedding colours of last year were cool pastels, with purple coming in a close second. Rustic themes are rising in popularity, although dark woods and exposed brickwork may be too harsh to fit perfectly within certain wedding themes. Using shabby chic furniture in cream or white could be beneficial and solutions such as organza hanging delicately from the walls with twinkling fairy lights can transform the room simply, incorporating theme and bringing the room together.

Away from the walls, there are many opportunities to lighten up the atmosphere. Tablecloths, place settings and candles are all great ways to integrate theme, brighten the room and add elegance to the pub furniture. In the Wedding Report’s 2016 quarterly, only 14% of people voted that they loved patterned tablecloths, with the rest being indifferent or opposing the idea. Solid-coloured table cloths look great and draw attention to the main focal point of the table, the centrepiece.

Centrepieces are a great opportunity to pull together the wedding theme within your bar. Whether rustic wood combined with roses and tulips or intricate lights, the centre piece creates a central point which ties the whole room together so utilising this is the perfect way to draw away from the pub atmosphere and bring it together to be the perfect wedding venue.

Traditional wooden pub chairs and tables may be too dark for wedding furniture, consider replacing them with traditional Chiavari wedding chairs. In the popular limewash colour the chairs add elegance and lightness that you wouldn’t usually receive with pub furniture.

Finishing the look with lighting, whether bright and bold or intricate and quaint, creates a magical atmosphere within any space. Use lights to subtly transform your bar and wow guests as the day turns into the evening.

Wedding flowers

Stick to what you do well

Your venue would have been picked for a reason, and a big part of it will be down to the fact that you’re good at what you do. Whether that is amazing food or a great selection of ales, the trick is to keep that central to your offering. Don’t try to only offer what you would expect at traditional wedding venues, if the couple wanted this they would have gone there to begin with.

Think of creative solutions to present food, food stations are becoming more popular and getting creative with your delivery can make all the difference. The design of the station is important. Whether incorporating chalk boards to display food items or mirrored plates, the little details here can make the difference to your presentation.

Getting local businesses involved adds a family aspect to the day, whether local ales or locally sourced food you are sure to keep guests happy as well as knowing you’re doing your bit for the community.

Bar stools should retain their purpose, adding a casual feel to the reception. Pub weddings are often chosen for their comfort, so don’t be scared of leaving some of the other pub furniture around, particularly comfortable armchairs, sofas and low pub tables.

Bar weddings, although more intimate, are still meant to be fun. Keep everything light-hearted and you’re sure all of the guests can enjoy the day. Making sure there is space for entertainers, DJ’s or dancing is a sure way to keep guest entertained as well as ensuring your space doesn’t feel too cramped.

Wedding feet bride and groom

Accommodate the children

Kids play an important role at weddings, and as these days can seem long it is important that there are plenty things to do to keep the children entertained. There is a lot that can be done other than separating a table and thinking outside the box can go down well with both the children and their parents.

Space permitting, why not try a cinema room? Bean bags, cushions and a favourite Disney film ensure the kids can remain safe and entertained for a couple of hours. It’s not unusual to have someone there to keep an eye on the children letting their parents relax in the process.

Board games are a great way to keep everyone entertained. Games such as snakes and ladders or handmade oversized games are great fun and get everyone involved.

A kids menu is a must and presentation is vital. Whether you opt for cardboard boxes or brightly coloured plates, keeping it different from the adults will add a sense of occasion for the kids. Serving favourites such as nuggets and chips ensure everyone remains happy and will keep the kids sweet and on your side.

Out of the box solutions keep your venue fresh and encourages people to recommend you in the future.

Social Media Reach

Social media is a great way to promote your pub, and weddings are the perfect opportunity to market your venue in all of its beauty. Get permission from the couple and take quality photos from the day; th?e food, décor and flowers are all things that people are interested in and highlight your venue in the best light.

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