Inspections are an occupational hazard that, much like death and taxes (and nearly as stressful) are unavoidable. Even if you don’t aspire to guidebooks and awards, you still have the bog standard environmental health and fire inspections. And even though you KNOW everything is fine, they make you nervous for some reason. (Five stars for hygiene and a tick in the box for fire prevention in case anyone is checking!).

We do seem to have had a flurry of them recently though….we get mystery shopped on a regular basis on behalf of Hook Norton brewery – not as part of some undercover spy operation, but actually for a much nicer reason – their annual brewery awards include ‘Best Customer Service Pub’, which we won in 2014.

I look on inspections as a really useful exercise – the feedback you get is truely impartial and because they are done on a mystery shopper basis, they do give you a realistic view of what your customers see everyday.

So when the AA came calling recently, and introduced themselves after they had paid the bill, I waited with baited breath to see if all the improvements we have made recently (new bathrooms, new carpets, new linen, decoration etc, the list is endless!) had been worthwhile and appreciated. I am pleased to say they definitely were….when we were awarded 4* with Gold Award for our accommodation and for the third year running, a Rosette for our food, with comments that some dishes were at 2 Rosette level. Even better to back up that team work is really what it is all about, is that this was produced on the head chef’s night off – a testament to the procedures and training he puts in place. As they say, you are only as strong as your weakest staff member.

On the beer side, we have also just been inspected by Cask Marque, and were thrilled to be given maximum marks for the two ales we had on at the time. Again – a reward for lots of hard work, and proof that Terence is actually working away in the cellar rather than trying to escape us girls and read the paper down there!