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Which? magazine looks at the UK’s best and worst hotel chains

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I was sent a copy of Which? Travel magazine this month because I’m quoted in it.  I very rarely see it otherwise since it is a subscription-only title.

The November issue includes the annual Which? Travel reader survey into the best and worst UK hotel chains.  The results are not hugely surprising but they still make interesting reading.

The methodology, based on reader votes, is complex so I’ll just focus on the overall ranking.

The winner was Premier Inn with 79%.  This is fine by me – I have written before on HFP about how impressive I find Premier Inn on the odd occasions when I need to use them.

Hilton Garden Inn comes second but with only eight UK properties doesn’t really mean much.  Third was Fuller’s Hotels with 75% – a chain I have never used.

Non-UK based readers may be surprised to see Crowne Plaza in 5th place, but the quality of their UK hotels is far higher than you would find in the USA.

Other brands I like – Renaissance, DoubleTree, Hampton and Radisson Blu Edwardian – also do well.

Premier Inn Which? Travel

But what about the bottom of the list?

Of the 32 large chains covered, there is no prize for guessing who comes bottom.  Not only does this chain come last, but it comes last by a whopping margin of 22% from its nearest competitor.

Yes, step forward Britannia Hotels.  Despite having 60 hotels they can’t manage an overall score of more than 35%.  The 2nd worst chain (Old English Inns) manages 57%.

The biggest surprise in the bottom 12 is Hilton, although there are some exceptionally ropey regional properties out there.  Mercure was also a surprise near the bottom although I am biased because the one I see most often is the exceptional Sheffield hotel.  It is less of a surprise to see easyHotel, Park Inn, Thistle and Travelodge down there.

PS.  If you can get hold of a copy, there is also an interesting story about shrinking hotel rooms.  The Which? Travel team visits a London hotel with a 5 sq m room (of which the bedroom is 3 sq m – the single bed touches the wall on both sides) and apparently some easyHotel UK rooms are 6 sq m.  Z Hotel in Soho has 8 sq m rooms which are, impressively, 50% more expensive per square metre than booking a suite at The Ritz ….

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Comments (91)

  • Bill says:

    When booking for 2 adults and 2 boys that seems to rule everyone out apart from Premier Inn and Travelodge ! Most other hotels seem to show photos of a sofa bed and indicate 2 boys will share a sofa bad. At least I know that I’m the premier inn they get a bed each

    • MrHandBaggageOnly says:

      Exactly. It is for this reason alone that Hilton and Accor have lost out on several stays (including one a couple of weeks ago) over the years. If I give the kids a choice (having ensured they are aware of the points and bonuses at Hilton etc.), they’ll still choose Premier Inn every time. I don’t mind though, because it means a better night’s sleep for us as well as there are no arguments! Plus, which other chain has the bonus offering of bubble and squeak at breakfast?!

      • Wally1976 says:

        …and 2 children’s breakfasts are free when you pay for an adult’s at both PI and Travelodge.

  • Andrew Stock says:

    Britannia Hotels, the government uses them to house immigrants!

    Need I say any more.

    • Andrew says:

      Not always.

      I was chatting to an immigrant at a College function last night, he’s staying in the Randolph in Oxford (at his college’s expense) whilst he sorts out a place to rent.

      • Brian says:

        So now we know where all the money that alumni send in response to the begging letters goes!

  • Ian says:

    I’m spending next week at a Premier Inn in Glasgow which I’ve always found to be very good. Whilst I agree that Mercure quality can vary, in Aberdeen we use the Mercure Caledonian which is very comfortable. It’s centrally placed, just off Union Street, but it seems beyond their ability to provide a decent breakfast despite the price they charge for it so eat elsewhere.

  • Shoestring says:

    Malmaison scored pretty much equal on points with PI a year ago, where is it this year?

    They run very keen offers if you book well ahead.

    • Alex Sm says:

      Yes, where is Malmaison, Rob? It’s one of the best chains in the UK

      • Rob says:

        Malmaison is not on the main list because it has too few hotels (it is weird – Hilton Garden Inn only has 8 and is on the main list, because the list is based on hotels owned by the broader group). It scores 70% which, if transferred to the main list, would put it 10th. 70% is the same as Radisson Blu and HI Express.

        Whilst they were very well regarded in their prime, I hear less about them these days and there are few openings – I don’t know if the chain has stopped investing or not, or whether the existing hotels are going down the tube. Malmaison and Hotel du Vin are now owned by a Singaporean long stay apartments group.

        • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

          HdV has been on a slow decline ever since Robin Hutson exited.

  • James says:

    I still can’t figure out why Britannia buys large hotels in generally good (or at least convenient) locations and just lets them rot. Seems like a no-brainer to spend at least a little on refurb.

    • Vasco says:

      Their hotel in Coventry is a prime example of this. One of only two or three hotels inside the ring road, it’s an ugly concrete monstrosity on the outside, and worse on the inside.

  • Dale says:

    Echo the sentiments about Hilton, with Diamond status it beats PI hands down, and I’m guessing that regular travellers mostly go back to Hiltons that they like rather than the random selection that Which? will have taken.
    PI is good – but in London it’s expensive – you don’t get rooms for £35 LOL.

    I also treat Which? with a pinch of salt – they rely on sensational stories to get their readers, it’s not necessarily a representative sample. Be interesting to see how Which? come out on a review of review sites 🙂

    • Genghis says:

      I’m not so sure. I’ve stayed at some dive Hiltons in the UK even as Diamond and they’re still dives. Just a bigger dive of a room. I’ve still got an offer of a free weekend stay at Hilton Leeds which I’ve still not taken them up on as it’s a rubbish hotel; great kippers at breakfast though.

      • Andrew L says:

        The Doubletree in Cheltenham is a horrible hotel.

        • Nick M says:

          We stayed there once and were upgraded to a suite… it was nice enough for a cheap stay using points. Would be happy to stay again if we get the same room for a similar price

      • Dale says:

        Fair enough. I do tend to go back to properties I like, Hilton Wembley for example is very good with a great lounge, and often ridiculously cheap and easy to access on Met line. Likewise DT Tower of London, but agree, there is more variation than with PI.

    • RussellH says:

      Overall I have not been a fan of Which? either.

      I suspect that they are fine when it comes to hardware – washing machines, ovens, vaccuum cleaners and so on where the methodology is clear and non-controversial.
      But for something like hotels, which is always going to be much more subjective and, potentially, dependent on the mood of the staff at the time you visit, coming up with rankings that Which? is so keen on that are meaningful is much more difficult.
      As others have pointed out Premier Inn is very boringly consistent (although even there things inevitably go wrond sometimes) while other chains, particularly Holiday Inn and Hilton can vary enormously.

  • An interesting read. I just checked out the full report on Which as there was no mention of Holiday Inn Express in the article. Having stayed in quite a few of the different chains over the last few years I’d generally agree with the ratings for those that I’ve experienced. However, I’m a little surprised at the rating for HIX in terms of ‘value for money’ – I’ve never paid anywhere near £80 for one of their rooms and breakfast is included in the room rate (as opposed to Premier Inn). Also, whenever I’ve looked for hotels I’ve nearly always found that PI are more expensive than HIX hotels in the same area!

    • Andrew L says:

      From my experience, Holiday Inn Express isn’t a patch on Premier Inn & although they offer a free breakfast, I wouldn’t wish those cheap nasty sausages & powdered scrambled egg on my worst enemy!!

      • I avoid their sausages (and let’s face it, most chains of a similar quality have pretty poor quality bangers) but their breakfast offering overall seems to have improved recently with a better range of options available. A couple of Premier Inns I stayed at boasted breakfast ‘cooked to order’ and you order from a menu, but what’s turned up on the table has quite clearly been pre-cooked food slapped on a plate from a hot storage unit in the kitchen instead of a buffet area. Premier beds are more comfortable but HIX bathrooms I’ve found to be better specified.

  • bill says:

    As a Hilton Gold what breakfast would 2 adults and 2 children get at the Hilton Gatwick ?