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Devon Life Business & Professional meets Peter Brend of the Brend Hotels group

PUBLISHED: 15:24 08 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:36 20 February 2013

Devon Life Business & Professional meets Peter Brend of the Brend Hotels group

Devon Life Business & Professional meets Peter Brend of the Brend Hotels group

The name Brend is synonymous with hotels in Devon, but what's the family story behind the chain? Christine Megson met the man at the top to find out

Oh brother, Percy would be proud of Peter


The name Brend is synonymous with hotels in Devon, but whats the family story behind the chain? Christine Megson met the man at the top to find out

The majestic sweep of the sands at Saunton is the perfect setting for a family business empire that spans four generations and eleven hotels in eight Westcountry towns. The story of the dynasty built from humble beginnings in Barnstaple is worthy of a Jeffrey Archer novel.


It was told to me by Peter Brend, one of the third generation of Brends to take his place in the family boardroom.

It all started with my grandfather, Percy, who was a butchers boy in Barnstaple. He was a bit of a wheeler dealer but was determined to work his way up and eventually got his first shop on Butchers Row. After the war, rationing was still on and meat was a valuable commodity. Granddad was able to get hold of rabbits and local produce from the farms and traded it all over the country. He made money, but re-invested it into more shops until he owned a chain of butchers. He used the profits from the meat to invest in property. Exeter had been badly bombed and he renovated large areas and built houses.

His affection for his grandparents is obvious, and their story is a milestone in the fortunes of Brends home town of Barnstaple.

Percy married his childhood sweetheart Florence, and they went on to have three sons and two daughters. He stumbled into hotels really. At that time his business was property and garages but he wanted to set his boys up in business so he started buying hotels. He made sure my aunts were okay too, with businesses of their own.

The hotel chain includes some iconic names. The Victoria and the Belmont in Sidmouth, the Royal and Fortescue in Barnstaple, and the Devon Hotel in Exeter, but Saunton Sands is where Percys heart lay.

Granddad watched the hotel being built, and he and Gran would come here when they were courting. He loved it and promised her that one day he would buy it, which in 1977 he did.

Percy died in 1983 of a heart attack, at Crow Point, the most southerly tip of Saunton Sands. Florence moved into the hotel and lived there for the remaining 20 years of her life.

After Granddad died, my uncles got the business and began to expand. At that time, the South West hotel boom had not quite happened, but links to the area were getting better and better. There were strategic properties that fitted our mould very well and it was a good time to buy.

The opening of the North Devon Link Road in 1988 marked a turning point for Devon and Percys sons Richard, John and Peter began to build up the empire. As for Peter, although he was born and brought up in hotels, he is the only Brend who didnt go straight into the business.

I wanted to be a sportsman. It was a toss-up between rugby and athletics, but the track won. I went to Southampton for eight years to train for the 400 metres and ran for Great Britain with the likes of Iwan Thomas.

Just as he was about to qualify for the Commonwealth games in 2002, two things changed the course of Peters life.

I was ranked third going in to the Commonwealth trials and was running really well when I tore a muscle in my back. I tried to come back, but tore the muscle again. At the same time, my father Peter was struggling with his health. I was satisfied that my body had gone as far as it could go so it seemed like the right time to come back.

On his return, Peter set about overhauling much of the hotel operation. He modernised much of the food and beverage operation and now runs the business successfully alongside cousins Justin, Richard and Matthew.

Its a strong team and the boys all work for each other. The relationships with the family are good and we all have our own individual responsibilities. I look after the food and drink buying plus a number of the hotels in the group. My cousins, Richard and Justin, have responsibility for a clutch of hotels each plus the garage business and the company IT, and young Matthew is just starting out, cutting his teeth at the Imperial in Barnstaple.

The family bond between the four boys extends to the rest of the Brend family. There are routinely 60 relatives at most gatherings and occasions, and its that sense of belonging that Peter sees as the essence of the hotels.

We have nurtured long relationships with many of our customers. I love welcoming people and celebrating with them. Some of the best times are weddings and other peoples family occasions. The greatest buzz I get is when they leave happy and you say goodbye to them at the front door. Because youve done it for them you almost feel like part of their family.

The hotel chain is recognised nationally, winning some major accolades over the years including RAC Group of the Year and Family Hotels of the Year for both Saunton Sands and Carlyon Bay. For 2013 the group has a Cond Nast Johannsens Award for Excellence to add to the trophy cupboard. The standards have been set, but keeping them high whilst investing for the future is a constant challenge.

People are spending so much more now on their own interiors. Not just their living rooms, but bathrooms and kitchens. They expect at least what they have at home when they come to a hotel. We are in the process of upgrading our shower systems and installing biomass boilers to cope with the demand for energy. We keep in touch with everything that is going on in other parts of the country so we can fulfil our visitors expectations.

Peter is not alone in his passion for his job the Brends are one of the top ten employers in the South West with a payroll of almost 1,300 people. The hotels enjoy one of the highest staff to guest ratios in the country.

Our staff are our biggest asset and thankfully we havent had to make any redundancies during the recession. We like everyone to think they are part of the family.

Percy would be proud. The family is still strong and there is a fourth generation of Brends coming through. The hope is that they too will grow up to take on the business empire he built up.n


The majestic sweep of the sands at Saunton is the perfect setting for a family business empire that spans four generations and eleven hotels in eight Westcountry towns. The story of the dynasty built from humble beginnings in Barnstaple is worthy of a Jeffrey Archer novel.

It was told to me by Peter Brend, one of the third generation of Brends to take his place in the family boardroom.It all started with my grandfather, Percy, who was a butchers boy in Barnstaple. He was a bit of a wheeler dealer but was determined to work his way up and eventually got his first shop on Butchers Row. After the war, rationing was still on and meat was a valuable commodity. Granddad was able to get hold of rabbits and local produce from the farms and traded it all over the country. He made money, but re-invested it into more shops until he owned a chain of butchers. He used the profits from the meat to invest in property. Exeter had been badly bombed and he renovated large areas and built houses.

His affection for his grandparents is obvious, and their story is a milestone in the fortunes of Brends home town of Barnstaple.Percy married his childhood sweetheart Florence, and they went on to have three sons and two daughters. He stumbled into hotels really. At that time his business was property and garages but he wanted to set his boys up in business so he started buying hotels. He made sure my aunts were okay too, with businesses of their own.

The hotel chain includes some iconic names. The Victoria and the Belmont in Sidmouth, the Royal and Fortescue in Barnstaple, and the Devon Hotel in Exeter, but Saunton Sands is where Percys heart lay.

Granddad watched the hotel being built, and he and Gran would come here when they were courting. He loved it and promised her that one day he would buy it, which in 1977 he did.

Percy died in 1983 of a heart attack, at Crow Point, the most southerly tip of Saunton Sands. Florence moved into the hotel and lived there for the remaining 20 years of her life.

After Granddad died, my uncles got the business and began to expand. At that time, the South West hotel boom had not quite happened, but links to the area were getting better and better. There were strategic properties that fitted our mould very well and it was a good time to buy.

The opening of the North Devon Link Road in 1988 marked a turning point for Devon and Percys sons Richard, John and Peter began to build up the empire. As for Peter, although he was born and brought up in hotels, he is the only Brend who didnt go straight into the business.

I wanted to be a sportsman. It was a toss-up between rugby and athletics, but the track won. I went to Southampton for eight years to train for the 400 metres and ran for Great Britain with the likes of Iwan Thomas.

Just as he was about to qualify for the Commonwealth games in 2002, two things changed the course of Peters life.I was ranked third going in to the Commonwealth trials and was running really well when I tore a muscle in my back. I tried to come back, but tore the muscle again. At the same time, my father Peter was struggling with his health. I was satisfied that my body had gone as far as it could go so it seemed like the right time to come back.

On his return, Peter set about overhauling much of the hotel operation. He modernised much of the food and beverage operation and now runs the business successfully alongside cousins Justin, Richard and Matthew.

Its a strong team and the boys all work for each other. The relationships with the family are good and we all have our own individual responsibilities. I look after the food and drink buying plus a number of the hotels in the group. My cousins, Richard and Justin, have responsibility for a clutch of hotels each plus the garage business and the company IT, and young Matthew is just starting out, cutting his teeth at the Imperial in Barnstaple.

The family bond between the four boys extends to the rest of the Brend family. There are routinely 60 relatives at most gatherings and occasions, and its that sense of belonging that Peter sees as the essence of the hotels.We have nurtured long relationships with many of our customers. I love welcoming people and celebrating with them. Some of the best times are weddings and other peoples family occasions. The greatest buzz I get is when they leave happy and you say goodbye to them at the front door. Because youve done it for them you almost feel like part of their family.

The hotel chain is recognised nationally, winning some major accolades over the years including RAC Group of the Year and Family Hotels of the Year for both Saunton Sands and Carlyon Bay. For 2013 the group has a Cond Nast Johannsens Award for Excellence to add to the trophy cupboard. The standards have been set, but keeping them high whilst investing for the future is a constant challenge.People are spending so much more now on their own interiors. Not just their living rooms, but bathrooms and kitchens. They expect at least what they have at home when they come to a hotel. We are in the process of upgrading our shower systems and installing biomass boilers to cope with the demand for energy.

We keep in touch with everything that is going on in other parts of the country so we can fulfil our visitors expectations.Peter is not alone in his passion for his job the Brends are one of the top ten employers in the South West with a payroll of almost 1,300 people. The hotels enjoy one of the highest staff to guest ratios in the country.

Our staff are our biggest asset and thankfully we havent had to make any redundancies during the recession. We like everyone to think they are part of the family.Percy would be proud. The family is still strong and there is a fourth generation of Brends coming through. The hope is that they too will grow up to take on the business empire he built up.

Peter's Devon

Favourite Walk? Westward Ho!
Hobbies?Anything to do with rugby, and my two racehorses.
Favourite town? Has to be Barnstaple north devon is so underrated.

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