We convene in The Bastion Bar and Restaurant in The Shankly Hotel, next to numerous treasures that bear his grandad’s name, and Christopher Shankly takes a deep breath – clearly keen to discuss ‘The Carriage,’ the new restaurant at The Shankly Hotel Preston, and soon to be one of the best places to eat in Lancashire.
As we start to converse, it’s clear to see that the co-owner of The Shankly Hotel Preston is passionate about the restaurant that is soon to open its doors to the public – so much so that he cannot refrain from mentioning his excitement.
As he unwinds, Chris remembers his first forays into social media, shares his aspirations for Preston – and reveals why he chose to name the restaurant ‘The Carriage.’
The Name: The Carriage
A sun drenched afternoon casts a long shadow at our table as Chris’ words run. The hotel director is quick to note the importance of stories to the brand he has helped create and, eager to recount one of his own, he explains why he chose to name the restaurant ‘The Carriage:’
“The story behind ‘The Carriage’ is that my grandad signed his contract for Preston North End in a First-Class rail carriage. He’d been at Carlisle United for about eighteen months and was scouted quite vigorously by Preston. So, in 1933, he elected to sign for them and signed the paperwork in a First-Class carriage before he even got there.”
Keen not to take all the credit, Chris admits that someone on social media did suggest the name also, however, even keener to take some credit he adds: “I was glad that someone said, ‘The Carriage’ because I wanted that anyway.” He continued: “The decor of the restaurant and the communal areas around it are themed on a 1930s passenger carriage, the fixtures, the colours, everything.”
Indeed, it’s apparent that Chris already has a vivid picture of the restaurant, with its opulent fixtures and delicious menu, in mind: “The idea is that when you walk into The Shankly Hotel Preston, whether it’s to eat in ‘The Carriage’ or to check into the hotel, you’re surrounded by the same decor that surrounded him when he arrived in Preston.”
He Made the People Happy
On a day when ‘The Carriage’ was supposed to be at the forefront of our discussion, our conversation inevitably turns towards Chris’ famous grandfather and what he would have thought about the restaurant: “I think he [would have] loved it. We know what he was like for being a social whirlwind – and he enjoyed being around people, particularly around people who were having a good time; it’s why the name ‘Shankly’ works in the hospitality industry.”
As befits any descendent of Shankly, Chris can quote his grandad in an instant. “His statue says ‘he made the people happy” he exclaims, before continuing: “What we try to do as a hotel company is to create experiences and make people happy so, anywhere people can come and sit, chat, socialise, enjoy the food, enjoy the company and have a good time – he’d [Shankly] have loved that side of it.”
The Shankly Image
As for The Shankly Preston, Chris is quick to praise Jordan Ebbs – our new bar manager – in addition to his co-workers Melissa and Claire, who we spoke to last week. “You’ve got to impress me to get a job. I mean, we need people with experience in the industry, but, we also want people with character and who have big personalities,” he notes before referring back to his grandad: “People who work for The Shankly need to operate in his image. He loved taking to people, so we need people who are comfortable talking to guests, who are big personalities – fortunately Melissa, Jordan and Claire have been fantastic so far. We’ve seriously tapped into Preston’s local talent.”
Nevertheless, ever the businessman, Chris ends his answer to a question which seems to have been asked a long time ago, by reminding everyone that, “we need entrepreneurial people because, at the end of the day, we are a business, so we need to be constantly ahead of the competition.”
The Resurgence of Preston
That competition which Chris speaks so passionately about is the driving force behind not only The Shankly Hotel Preston, but also Preston’s recent resurgence. Indeed, Shankly is forthright in his love for the area – so much so that he’s keen to note Richard Partington’s article in The Guardian Newspaper which named Preston as the most improved city in the UK.
“We’re so excited to bring The Shankly brand to Preston and give the people something they’ve never seen before and, in turn, boost their visitor economy. We know that Preston is an emerging, up-and-coming place but I’m massively looking forward to it – that’s what appeals to me.”
The Shankly Hotel Preston
As our conversation drew to a close, we asked Chris to simply describe ‘The Carriage:’
“It’s similar to the Bastion Bar and Restaurant, we’re going for that homely feel. He [Shankly] enjoyed being that social whirlwind, but, he was also an intense family man – so, the look and feel of the restaurant reflects that. Some of the best feedback we get is how people feel so relaxed and homely here at The Bastion” says Chris, as he gestures towards the numerous guests who are clearly enjoying themselves in the restaurant, before adding: “so, obviously we’re looking to replicate that in ‘The Carriage.’
“I am proud to say that my grandad’s name has been part of a resurgence of a place that meant a lot to him and played a big part in his career, I know he would have been proud also” says Christopher Shankly, who seems as excited as ever to see not only ‘The Carriage,’ but also The Shankly Hotel Preston open its doors.
We can’t wait to open The Carriage and see it become one of the best places to eat in Preston. If you’d like any more information, contact us today on 0151 236 0166.
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