Its hotels are the real-life Fawlty Towers, where guests complain of dirty rooms, broken toilets, and stained bedclothes and towels.
But the Britannia group – dubbed the worst hotel chain in Britain by consumer magazine Which? – has seen its operating profits soar to nearly £20 million, according to its latest accounts.
Founder Alex Langsam, 79, has amassed an estimated £240 million fortune since he founded the company 30 years ago. He lives in a sprawling ten-bedroom former hotel worth £3.4 million in a leafy suburb of Cheshire.
The company’s remarkable financial performance comes despite damning reviews by Britannia guests on ratings website TripAdvisor.
A guest staying at one of the chain’s more expensive hotels – the Britannia Hampstead in North London – described the scene as ‘something out of a horror movie’. The room smelt of ‘stale smoke’, offered stained towels and sheets, and the toilet was broken.
Founder Alex Langsam, 79, has amassed an estimated £240 million fortune since he founded the company 30 years ago
The company’s branches in Manchester fared little better: ‘The hotel is very dated and in serious need of refurbishment,’ wrote one last week about its city centre site.
Another person staying at the Britannia near the city’s airport advised travellers: ‘Do yourself a favour and either spend a bit more or sleep on a bench at the airport.’
An undercover Which? investigator sent to stay at a Britannia hotel found ‘an air of neglect’ to the ‘dated’ property, with stained carpets, a cracked sink and lumpy mattress.
Current prices for one person for an overnight stay midweek range from £100.50 in London’s Canary Wharf to £29.50 at the Grand Metropole in Blackpool.
In June this year the company was fined more than £265,000 for seven breaches of food safety and hygiene regulation at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool – once one of the city’s most prestigious addresses. Kitchen inspectors found live cockroaches, and mice and rat droppings.
City councillor Steve Munby called the establishment ‘an embarrassment’ and added that ‘the way the Adelphi is run at the moment would make Fawlty Towers look like a five-star hotel’.
Previously, Britannia was fined £18,000 for food hygiene offences at its Coventry hotel and £200,000 in 2013 for putting guests at risk of asbestos exposure in Folkestone.
Britannia directors claim that the group offers ‘increasing levels of comfort and service while maintaining its highly competitive prices and reputation for good value’.
The company has received undisclosed sums from the Government to house refugees and asylum seekers. Many guests complained after realising they were sharing their holiday hotel with migrants. The Red Cross said hotel accommodation was ‘inappropriate’ in these cases.
A Britannia spokesman called the Which? survey ‘fundamentally flawed’. ‘We have a wide range of hotels, all of which offer customers excellent value for money,’ he said.
Langsam lives in a sprawling ten-bedroom former hotel worth £3.4 million in a leafy suburb of Cheshire
Inside flagship ‘horror film’ hotel
I APPROACHED my night at the Britannia Hampstead – dubbed a ‘horror movie hotel’ by one guest – with trepidation.
The bedroom carpet was scruffy and the bathroom had a cracked sink, rust in the bath and stains on the floor.
The £12.50 dinner of congealed steak, odd-tasting turkey and mushy vegetables was best avoided, while a £12 bottle of ‘bubbly’ I’d pre-ordered turned out to be perry.
But at least the £80-a-night fifth-floor room was quiet.