This includes entrepreneurs in the world of leisure, who have had to cope with challenging conditions amid the recession as well as unsocial hours. This week we hear from a South African veteran of the restaurant and hotel businesses who has developed a business in a scenic but often chilly part of Scotland, with the help of an apparently open-minded bank.


Name: Pete Gottgens.


Age: 46.


What is your business called? Ardeonaig Hotel & Restaurant.


Where is it based? On the south shore of Loch Tay, about an hour’s drive from Perth and Stirling.


What does it produce, what services does it offer? We are a four-star hotel with 26 rooms and three dining rooms and can offer around 75 covers.

We try to source as much food as we possibly can locally and 85% comes from within a 20-mile radius of the hotel.

Our award-winning wine list is the largest exclusively-South African list in Europe.

My family can trace its roots back to Scotland in the 1820s before heading to Southern Africa. When I first came to Ardeonaig, I felt I was somewhere in Southern Africa.

We have the start of our own vineyard and the quality of the vines so far has surprised many a viticulturist and winemaker. We will probably start using the fruit in 2011, whether it’s for wine or vinegar we’ll see in due course.

We have our own flock of sheep and a good herd of Highland cattle which local farmers farm for us. I enjoy getting involved with rearing these animals. Next on the list is pigs!

We also have a vegetable garden, raised beds, orchards and the vineyard. We recently took over a local estate and now have access to a further 8500 acres.

With this came some good deer stalking and rough shooting, but we’re also very keen to promote photography stalking, which guests love.


To whom does it sell? We have a strong, loyal clientele and 80% of our guests come from Scotland, primarily Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.


What is its turnover? £1.3m plus.


How many employees? Twenty-seven all of whom are full-time. In a rural location and with a business such as this, it’s important to have full time employees who are constantly up to date with any changes and developments.

We battle to find part-time staff as we are eight and nine miles from the nearest town.


When was it formed? I took over in May 2003 after it had been unoccupied for nine months.

Why did you take the plunge? I think most chefs look for perfection. I had worked for a number of restaurants in my native South Africa and since arriving in the UK. I have had my own restaurants in London since 1996.

It was always my ambition to move north and have my own hotel and restaurant in Scotland.

I was intent on creating a destination venue -- building something unique in one of the many stunning locations in the country, which was relatively easily accessible.


How did you raise the start-up funding? When we were looking for the property, we were outbid by the company that we eventually bought the hotel from in early 2003.

The guy who bought the hotel then approached me to run it for him (not really an option). We agreed to meet at a hotel near Gatwick Airport to discuss how that would work and after nine hours had thrashed out a contract.

We agreed a 30-year lease with the option for me to buy the hotel within a four-year period or revert back to leasehold.

The most interesting part of the deal was that we pre-agreed the selling price. In the next four years property prices went up nicely but we had the chance to buy the hotel at a fraction of the (then-agreed) price.

It was a pretty revolutionary deal set-up that neither the bank, nor my lawyer, had seen before.

When we approached Clydesdale Bank with the contract we had in place, I had very little capital. They hadn’t seen anything like it before but we had four years of growing profits and healthy cashflow to prove we had a solid business model.


What was your biggest break? When I first arrived in the UK, I had to leave the reputation I’d worked to build up in South Africa so was pretty much starting from scratch again.

My first boss, Len Cohen, gave me a job running a 375-cover restaurant in a leisure park in Leeds. Len allowed me to prove myself and rebuild my reputation again.

As did Paul Armogie of Stocks Hotel on the Channel island of Sark, who gave me my first break in the country house hotel business.


What was your worst moment? Not so much my worst moment, but definitely the most challenging was when we reopened the hotel following a £1.6m refurbishment. We reopened with a wedding during the height of the summer season and with a brand-new team in place. This was after the building work was finished more than two months behind schedule and £250,000 over budget.

What do you most enjoy about running the business? It may sound like a cliché but happy customers and happy staff are the most rewarding aspects.


What do you least enjoy? When we don’t produce the level of service I know we can achieve.


What is your biggest bugbear? Being able to attract the right calibre of staff to this rural location -- seven miles from the nearest shop -- is very difficult.

We lease seven cottages from local farmers for our staff and provide three cars for staff to get in and out of town as there is no public transport. Some 50% of my staff are from South Africa -- that includes in the kitchen and front of house. I don’t know what it is about people from warmer climates but there seems to be a more relaxed persona combined with a strong work ethic -- the mixture creates a very natural host.


What are your ambitions for the business? Through my relationship with Clydesdale Bank, last year I attended a two-day course called Connecting for Growth run with the University of Glasgow Business School. The course allowed me to learn from other businesses and inspire me to grow my own company. It also taught me the value of building your own local networks.

Financial growth is obviously important but my main ambition is to maintain a high level of consistency in the product. Ultimately, we want to be known as the best small hotel in Scotland.


What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help? From a Westminster point of view, lowering the VAT rate to single digits for the hospitality industry would be hugely beneficial.

From a Holyrood perspective, greater assistance, or at least affordable assistance to help develop small businesses.


How do you relax? I love to travel around Scotland because the scenery is as good as anywhere I have ever been in the world. I enjoy getting to know more about Scotland, especially the highlands and islands. Salmon fishing is another pleasure.