Having previously owned salons and bars, Robert and Vivien Kyle bought Lochside hotel just before the turn of the millennium. Over the next two decades, they have repeatedly extended and renovated the New Cumnock venue while also expanding their hotel portfolio to six.
They all feature regularly on 5pm's Big Deal and are all hugely popular. As Lochside celebrates 20 years under the stewardship of the Kyle family, we spoke to Aaron Kyle, son of Robert and Vivien and the Sales and Marketing Director of the RAD Hotel Group.
'Before we owned Lochside, my family used to go there regularly for Sunday lunch,' remembers Aaron. 'My parents bought it in June 1999 and one of the earliest memories I have of it is going to a millennium party there and staying overnight. I must have been about eight or nine.'
Much has changed since then. Originally the hotel was a hunting lodge for the Marquis of Bute. Some of the original hunting lodge windows have been retained and they now sit above the reception area of the hotel. The old Marquis is unlikely to recognise much else.
Fire feature restaurant
'We did the first refurbishment in May 2000,' recalls Aaron. 'Originally, the hotel had just six bedrooms but we added the Lochview function suite, a new restaurant and ten more rooms to make it a sixteen bedroom hotel. It was a big project at the time for my parents.
It certainly was not their last. Over 2010-2011, the Kyles expanded Lochside with more garden suites and a spa as well as refurbishing the restaurant. In 2015, three luxury lodges, each sleeping between eight to twelve guests, were added.
One of the most significant projects was the addition of the Glen Cáol Suite (main pic). Accommodating up to 180 guests and making the most of the hotel's lochside setting, the suite was finished in 2004. Two years earlier, the Marriage (Scotland) Act had extended the availability of civil marriages to approved places. Previously, civil marriages were held in Register Offices. The change in the law meant that people could hold their weddings in the Glen Cáol Suite.
As Aaron explains, the new suite helped Lochside become one of Scotland's premier wedding venues:
'We were one of the first hotels to have a purpose-built ceremony room. Our wedding business started to take off from there. Now we do 180 weddings a year and it is all year round although it does get a little quieter in January and November. We only ever do one wedding a day so we can focus all our attention on that wedding and on that couple.'
Of course, providing a perfect day for so many couples means that the Lochside team have to keep on top of changing wedding fashions.
'While most weddings run along broadly similar lines, a lot of people want something different that personalises their wedding,' says Aaron. 'That might be something different in terms of entertainment, the decor or their food options. No-one wants their wedding to look like someone else's.'
One of the biggest changes is the increasing amount that couples will spend on their wedding.
'Budgets are getting bigger although it is not always being spent on the venue. People are spending more on things like the dress or the hen party. A big change is that people aren't looking for a one day wedding anymore. They want to book in the night before and have a party the day after.
'When we added on our lodges, we found that the bridal party would take them for the night before. They often have a pre-wedding dinner and then brunch before the ceremony on the actual day. The next day they often stay over as well. It's turning into a long weekend.'
One of the biggest changes in the hotel business in the last twenty years has been the impact of social media and online reviewing platforms.
'No-one wants a complaint about bad service, for example, on one of the online reviewing platforms,' says Aaron. 'We take the view that good isn't good enough anymore. We need to give an exceptional experience.'
The rise of social media is also having an effect on how much attention the hotel industry is lavishing on its visual appeal. As Aaron explains:
'At Lochside the setting itself is very Instagrammable and social media does influence how we decorate our interiors and rooms. We recently renovated the Glen Cáol Suite and how it would look for pictures was certainly something we considered as part of the renovation. Everyone wants to take a picture.'
While the Kyle family will celebrate the success they have achieved after twenty years at Lochside, they are not resting on their laurels.
'The eventual aim is to turn Lochside into a resort. In the next five years, we're going to invest by renovating the restaurant again and extending the function hall. We're also going to renovate some of the bedrooms. You need to constantly refurb to stay on top of your game.'
The fact that the RAD Hotel Group is a family-run business has been at the heart of its success. Aaron was washing dishes at Lochside as soon as he was old enough to see into the sink and several branches of the Kyle family and their partners are involved in the business.
'The fact that it is a family business is important,' reckons Aaron. 'My mum and dad like to know everyone who works in the hotels. They are still very involved at all levels of the business. It is important to us. We want everybody to feel a part of it and come on the journey with us. Family values matter. My parents don't chase money but aim to succeed. They love what they do. People are always saying to them, "Why aren't you on holiday enjoying yourselves?" My mum's answer is that she loves what she does and would rather be here. She gets a buzz from making a success of their projects and seeing everything come to fruition.'
RAD Group 5pm Deals and Offers
This offer is for an overnight B&B stay for 2 with dinner at Lochside House Hotel and Spa.
Or you could enjoy the spa with this offer on an overnight stay for 2 with spa treatment and lunch at Lochside.
We have three Big Deals running with Hetland Hall: