Est. 1960

BETTYS | ONE17 NOTES MAGAZINE | AUTUMN/WINTER 2018 | ISSUE 9

Ask people for three words to describe Switzerland and you may get something like: clean, efficient, comfortable. A similar exercise on the subject of the Yorkshire institution that is Bettys could well result in comparable terms. Once you know about Bettys Swiss heritage, things seem to fall into place.

- Kevin Drayton reports.

Bettys Tea Rooms are a Yorkshire institution, as Yorkshire as apple strudel, cuckoo clocks and lederhosen. After the young Swiss baker and confectioner Frederick Belmont stepped off a ship on the south coast of England as the 19th century turned into the 20th he then mistakenly stepped onto a train that delivered him to Yorkshire. Why he thought coming to England was a good way to make his fortune we do not know. Where he had intended to disembark is also unclear, but rather like Butch Cassidy arriving in Bolivia, he decided to stay and make the best of the situation. Thank goodness he did.

 

The first Bettys opened in Harrogate in 1919. In 1937 Bettys opens in York, just in time to become a favourite haunt for WWII airmen stationed nearby. The York interiors were inspired by those of the liner Queen Mary on whose maiden voyage Frederick and his wife Claire had sailed the previous year. This suggests that business had gone passably well for the young man since his arrival in God’s own county. Frederick Belmont had aspiration and high standards, something that remains a hallmark of Bettys in all its manifestations to this day.

Bettys Tea Rooms can now be found in Harrogate (town centre and Harlow Carr), York (two venues), Ilkley and Northallerton.

 They all share a clear family resemblance but respond to their particular locations, never succumbing to the dead hand of modern ‘corporate identity’. In each and every one the quality of food, beverages, shopfitting, service and staff presentation is impeccable.

 

So how does this bastion of Yorkshire urbanity maintain such high standards, and such a strong connexion with the character and culture established all those years ago by Frederick Belmont in today’s very different world?

 

Ruth Burke-Kennedy, PR Manager for the company, kindly introduced me to Ian Jackson and Georgina O’Connor who are responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘look’ of Bettys across the estate. Ian and Georgina are so steeped in the culture and ethos of Bettys that they could have been speaking with one voice.

 

They explained that their work on all the tearooms is underpinned by two foundations: firstly the ‘Six Ps’, the values on which the whole business is based. These are Prosperity, People, Planet, Product, Passion and Process; secondly a ‘lookbook’ that Ian and Georgina devised that sets out the principles for the different elements of the tearooms and helps staff maintain the premises as they should be.

“We believe in Swiss precision and attention to detail, lived in relentless operational excellence, with common sense, clarity, simplicity and agility prevailing over bureaucracy.”

With a little thought it doesn’t take long to work out what is meant by most of the Ps (they are defined on the company website) but I was struggling somewhat with ‘Process’ and so I reached for the definition, which could almost stand alone without the other five:

“We believe in Swiss precision and attention to detail, lived in relentless operational excellence, with common sense, clarity, simplicity and agility prevailing over bureaucracy.”

 

Not a bad maxim for life. Nothing is left to chance; there is no aspect of a Bettys tearoom that is not considered, detailed and refined to ensure that it conforms with the company’s values. In the unlikely event that something should crop up that is not covered in the lookbook guidance, a moment’s reflection on the Six Ps' and a familiarity with the principles of the lookbook should enable any member of staff to come up with an appropriate response.

 

Ian gave me several examples of how design and specification choices are made on the basis of the Six Ps'. We met in the recently completed Imperial Room upstairs at Bettys Harrogate.

. It was refurbished in 2009 and prior to that had been closed to the public for 40 years. The cruets and tea service are beautiful silver plated pieces – surely overspecified for intensive catering? Georgina explained that teapots had previously been in elegant ceramic but in the rough and tumble of commercial life they often had short lifespans. The more robust but equally elegant silver substitutes gave exactly the right feel but saved the earth’s precious natural resources by giving service for much, much longer.

 

Bettys Tea Rooms are a Yorkshire institution, as Yorkshire as apple strudel, cuckoo clocks and lederhosen. After the young Swiss baker and confectioner Frederick Belmont stepped off a ship on the south coast of England as the 19th century turned into the 20th he then mistakenly stepped onto a train that delivered him to Yorkshire. Why he thought coming to England was a good way to make his fortune we do not know. Where he had intended to disembark is also unclear, but rather like Butch Cassidy arriving in Bolivia, he decided to stay and make the best of the situation. Thank goodness he did.

 

The first Bettys opened in Harrogate in 1919. In 1937 Bettys opens in York, just in time to become a favourite haunt for WWII airmen stationed nearby. The York interiors were inspired by those of the liner Queen Mary on whose maiden voyage Frederick and his wife Claire had sailed the previous year. This suggests that business had gone passably well for the young man since his arrival in God’s own county. Frederick Belmont had aspiration and high standards, something that remains a hallmark of Bettys in all its manifestations to this day. Bettys Tea Rooms can now be found in Harrogate (town centre and Harlow Carr), York (two venues), Ilkley and Northallerton. They all share a clear family resemblance but respond to their particular locations, never succumbing to the dead hand of modern ‘corporate identity’. In each and every one the quality of food, beverages, shopfitting, service and staff presentation is impeccable.

 

So how does this bastion of Yorkshire urbanity maintain such high standards, and such a strong connexion with the character and culture established all those years ago by Frederick Belmont in today’s very different world? Ruth Burke-Kennedy, PR Manager for the company, kindly introduced me to Ian Jackson and Georgina O’Connor who are responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘look’ of Bettys across the estate. Ian and Georgina are so steeped in the culture and ethos of Bettys that they could have been speaking with one voice.

 

They explained that their work on all the tearooms is underpinned by two foundations: firstly the ‘Six Ps’, the values on which the whole business is based. These are Prosperity, People, Planet, Product, Passion and Process; secondly a ‘lookbook’ that Ian and Georgina devised that sets out the principles for the different elements of the tearooms and helps staff maintain the premises as they should be.

 

With a little thought it doesn’t take long to work out what is meant by most of the Ps (they are defined on the company website) but I was struggling somewhat with ‘Process’ and so I reached for the definition, which could almost stand alone without the other five:

“We believe in Swiss precision and attention to detail, lived in relentless operational excellence, with common sense, clarity, simplicity and agility prevailing over bureaucracy.”

 

Not a bad maxim for life. Nothing is left to chance; there is no aspect of a Bettys tearoom that is not considered, detailed and refined to ensure that it conforms with the company’s values. In the unlikely event that something should crop up that is not covered in the lookbook guidance, a moment’s reflection on the Six Ps' and a familiarity with the principles of the lookbook should enable any member of staff to come up with an appropriate response.

Peter Thompson of York have worked with Bettys for over twelve years. They continue to provide wonderful bespoke interiors with true craftmanship and a passion for perfection.

Ian gave me several examples of how design and specification choices are made on the basis of the Six Ps'. We met in the recently completed Imperial Room upstairs at Bettys Harrogate. It was refurbished in 2009 and prior to that had been closed to the public for 40 years. The cruets and tea service are beautiful silver plated pieces – surely overspecified for intensive catering? Georgina explained that teapots had previously been in elegant ceramic but in the rough and tumble of commercial life they often had short lifespans. The more robust but equally elegant silver substitutes gave exactly the right feel but saved the earth’s precious natural resources by giving service for much, much longer. »

The bespoke chairs on which we sat would have graced the most refined private interior of whatever period, and Ian explained that the quality materials and timeless design meant they would last far longer (and stay looking immaculate) compared with typical cheaper commercial furniture. Georgina also explained how separate areas of the tearooms demanded different types of furniture to differentiate the experience for patrons. It wouldn’t have surprised me if she had told me different tearooms used different types of salt!

 

The estate is varied. Bettys Harrogate (my favourite) and Bettys Northallerton are very different building types and the architecture is always reflected in the interior design. At Northallerton, a Georgian former bank, painted wood and oval motifs can be found. In the entrance lobby in Harrogate there is a mosaic emblem set in the floor that I assumed had been relocated from the original Bettys building in the town. Not so. It was newly commissioned by a local specialist craftsman and was utterly fitting to the building. Plus of course it will last several lifetimes.

 

Typical of the standard of workmanship sought by Bettys is an old friend of ONE17, Peter Thompson of York. They have worked alongside Bettys for over twelve years including contributing to the refit of the Harrogate Imperial room.

 

Local suppliers, local tradespeople, sustainability and longevity. Natural quality materials and ingredients. These are touchstones for Bettys. So are regular trips to Switzerland for staff for inspiration and to understand the company’s heritage. It is a subtle alchemy. Ian and Georgina talked of patrons going on a ‘memory journey’ where emotional attachments are made in the soothing, calming oases of the tearooms. Somewhere to press pause on the tumult of daily life.

 

Next time you visit a Bettys take the opportunity to examine your surroundings and note the effort that has gone into every detail of the interior. And recognise the dedication required to maintain the quality of your experience. Bettys has been serving Yorkshire for over a hundred years. May the family – in its broadest sense – continue to do so for many more to come.

 

www.bettys.co.uk