The owner of The Townhouse Hotel in Arbroath believes good food, good people and good times are key to lasting success.
It is more than a decade since Graeme Gersok took over the running of the High Street hotel, formerly known as Ogstons, from Fraser Ogston.
While the hotel has become a hub for locals and tourists alike, there have been several challenges to overcome, not least the Covid pandemic and rising costs.
Graeme looked back on his tenure so far and the challenges he’s faced, while also outlining his plans for the hotel.
‘My life changed forever’
And he explained the unique circumstances that saw him take over the hotel.
He said: “I worked with the former owner, Fraser Ogston, here but we parted ways and I went to another job.
“After nine or 10 months they pulled me in for a disciplinary hearing. They didn’t think I was doing a good job.
“I was a smoker at the time and went outside for a break from the meeting.
“My phone rang and Fraser offered me the chance to take on his business. I told him as soon as I was clear I’d come and see him.
“I went back in, successfully argued my case, and went straight to Ogstons to talk to Fraser. Within half an hour I’d shaken hands on a deal.
“In one night I went from a disciplinary meeting to taking on a new business.”
Graeme said the phonecall from Fraser was “fate”.
He added: “I was lucky that at the very minute he called I went outside and my life changed forever.
“It’s a real sliding doors moment. I went from being a regular guy working for someone else to having the chance to shape a successful business.”
Maintaining standards at The Townhouse Hotel
The business prides itself on its reviews, rating 4.5 stars from more than 700 Google Reviews. It is also rated as a travellers’ choice hotel on Tripadvisor.
Graeme praised the 30-strong workforce for their efforts in maintaining high standards.
He said: “There are three things we swear by here – good food, good people and good times.
“I always use the analogy that if Gordon Ramsay food is put in front of you sloppily, then it no longer becomes Gordon Ramsay food.
“People are important to me and my staff are phenomenal.
“I’m born and bred in Arbroath so I know a lot of our customers well. But if I don’t, I take the time to get to know them.”
Challenging time through Covid
However, The Townhouse success story hasn’t been without its challenges.
The impact of the Covid lockdown hit the business hard financially. It also left the owner feeling socially isolated and he sought professional help.
“Covid was a challenge for everyone,” he said, adding. “I’m a sociable person and I really found it hard not being with others.
“I lost myself and I worried too much about the business. I couldn’t just go with the flow and hope it would all sort itself out.
“There were 30 people working for me and for a while I thought they could lose their jobs because of me – even though it wasn’t because of me.”
Graeme eventually sought help from Arbroath-based life coach Robin Geddes.
“Robin taught me to take care of myself and flipped my thinking.
“It is my personality but it’s also my job to make people feel happy.
“I have discovered, through Covid, that there are a lot of good people out there who want to see a good business in Arbroath survive.
“I’ve also learned not to be quite as obsessed with business and to take better care of myself.”
Well-known guests at The Townhouse Hotel
Arbroath darts star Alan Soutar is a close friend of Graeme’s,and a regular visitor.
The Townhouse tartan uniform tie is a tribute to the Professional Darts Corporation star.
Other well-known guests over the years have included comedian Vic Reeves and seven-times snooker world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Even with nine years still to run on the current lease, Graeme is looking to the long-term future of the 11-bedroom hotel.
He said: “I’m looking forward to seeing the current lease out and extending it.
“I hope to have The Open back at Carnoustie and see what kind of tourism benefit the cycle lane will bring to Arbroath. We hope to renovate our rooms and progress our offering in all areas.
“Ultimately though, I just want every guest to leave feeling they’ve had a good time, sampled some good food and met good people.”