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Which? magazine unveils the best – and worst – UK hotel chains

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Which? magazine has brought back one of its regular highlights – the best and worst UK hotel chains, as voted for by its readers.

You can see the full article on the Which? website here.

There is, of course, no surprise over the winner of the UK’s worst hotel chain. It may be 18 months since the last set of awards but nothing ever changes here ….

the best - and worst - UK hotel chains

Yes, yet again Britannia Hotels has won (or lost).

Based, admittedly, on a relatively small sample size, Britannia was rated one star out of five for bathrooms, bedrooms and wi-fi, and two stars for categories such as cleanliness, customer service and value for money. This is a poorer showing than February 2022 when it only scored one star in one category.

(What I don’t quite understand is how Which? finds anyone to vote for Britannia. Surely all of their readership must have been put off by now, given that Britannia has won this title multiple times?!)

Travelodge came second from bottom, which is not surprising. Whilst it is pushing ahead with selected refurbishments – and recent openings look quite smart – much of the estate is in a bad way.

More surprising is who came third from bottom – Accor’s Mercure brand. Mercure was actually 2nd from bottom in February 2022 so this counts as an improvement. This is probably because my view is coloured by the Sheffield property (below, website here) which is arguably the best large hotel in the city centre. Perhaps it should be rebranded before it is dragged down by its siblings?

Worst hotels in Britain

Who was voted the UK’s best hotel chain?

The UK’s best large hotel chain

The ‘large chain’ winner was Hotel Indigo, part of IHG One Rewards.

This is not hugely surprising. I have often said that a Hotel Indigo is usually the best branded hotel in a regional city, and new openings such as Bath which I reviewed here are impressive.

Second and third spots were taken by Premier Inn Hub (the city centre variant with smaller rooms) and Premier Inn respectively.

I am a big fan of Premier Inn – ‘consistent’ is the best way to describe them – and happy to use them if I’m in a town with no high end options. Premier Inn actually won the overall title in 2022.

Crowne Plaza, which came 4th in February 2022, dropped to 14th! I predicted this in 2022, as the best London hotels were leaving (Kensington, The City) and some dubious additions had been made (eg Sheffield).

From fourth onwards we have Wetherspoon Hotels, Ibis Styles, Sofitel, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton, Holiday Inn Express and Marriott.

(Sofitel should arguably not have been on the ‘large chain’ list given that it only has three UK hotels. One of these is a smart property in St James whilst the other two are at Heathrow and at Gatwick.)

The UK’s best small or medium hotel chain

In the ‘small and medium chains’ category, the winner was Brend. This is a name I didn’t know, but it is a group of resort hotels in Devon and Cornwall, including the Saunton Sands Hotel.

Second was Coaching Inn and third was Inn Collection Group. It’s worth noting that all three of these scored higher than the winner of the ‘best large chain’ title.

Hotel du Vin, website here, dropped to fourth after winning in February 2022.

Warner Leisure – not really aimed at the HfP demographic, but arguably closer to the typical Which? subscriber – came fifth. I was a little surprised to see Q Hotels and De Vere following on, ahead of Malmaison.

You can read the full article on the Which? website here.

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Comments (80)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • HampshireHog says:

    Spoons doing well caught my eye. Not had the pleasure before and was not exactly looking forward to a forthcoming stay in Shrewsbury with unabated enthusiasm but perhaps it’ll be fine?

    • Ken says:

      99% of people who hate ‘spoons do so because of the owner (admittedly irritating) and probably haven’t been in one.
      The beer (very cheap) is always better kept than most pubs, the toilets always spotlessly clean and while I haven’t eaten there, the kitchen hygiene ratings rarely drop below 5

      I’d imagine the rooms are fine.

      • RussellH says:

        I certainly dislike the boss of Wetherspoons (more than just irritating), but over the years have visited a fair number – the first was on Newcastle’s Quayside looking for a cheap breakfast – we went back every day of our stay. Not “fine dining”, but most certainly value for the money.
        Beer, wine and coffee all good too. If the boss would just stick to running a pub chain…
        While usually I try to boycott businesses whose owners say or advocate things I find unacceptable, I have had to make an exception here.

        • Ali B says:

          So your principles are poor. I dislike the regime in China and would never visit despite the fact I know I would enjoy it

  • Jenny Reed says:

    I wouldn’t describe the Sofitel St James as “super-luxury”. We stayed there for a long weekend in London for our 10th wedding anniversary in a suite. The sofa was broken, the sheets had holes in and the breakfast had some of the worst croissants I’ve ever had, which is appalling for an allegedly top 5* French hotel.

    • Rob says:

      Fair enough. I’ve never actually been beyond the lobby and restaurant. Will not repeat that comment!

    • JDB says:

      I think Sofitel feels much more 4* than 5* and Accor hotels generally feel like they are run by Trusthouse Forte, the hand of death. The group doesn’t really seem to have the aptitude to manage its better brands – Fairmont is at best patchy and The Savoy is a shadow of its former self. They will probably manage to ruin the Raffles name ere long.

      There’s a fast growing chasm between the big chains that have a few luxury hotel brands as part of a big portfolio and the smaller luxury only groups and independents that only operate at the top end.

      • RussellH says:

        As I remember it, Sofitel Vienna had tiny rooms, just like the CPs I have mentioned above.

        But they did look after me when I arrived at around 08:00 (off the sleeper from Frankfurt) – profuse apology for the room not being ready, please help myself to whatever I wanted for breakfast, and the room was ready after breakfast.

        Nicest place I stayed in Vienna was the Marriott – all my colleagues were saying how nice it was years later – usually when stuck in a Mercure. [Choice of hotel entirely down the the Autrian Tourist Board’s budget at the time, I assume.]

      • direttore says:

        I stayed in St James as a gold accor member in the spring.
        Service was excellent. Welcome was excellent.
        Room was upgraded one tier.
        Breakfast was a highlight.

        Was £450 a night for 2 nights mid-week.

        Last week I stayed at T5 as a now platinum member.
        Service was very good. Welcome excellent
        Welcome was excellent.
        Room was upgraded 2 tiers and the platinum lounge happy hour was run superbly.

        Used points and paid £25 including parking for 2 nights.

        Then I went to the Novotel in Canary Wharf.
        Got no upgrade, service was decent but not wow.
        But I enjoyed sitting in the sauna three days on the trot and love the view.

        (I’ve also done Pullman St Pancras, TRIBE, Novotel Wembley, Mercure Oxford/Paignton and a couple of IBIS places this year)

        Accor are all over the place. The key is to find the ones you like.

  • tw33ty says:

    The more and more I travel for work, the more I realise just how bad the cp Sheffield is.

    It’s hotels like cp Sheffield and cp John Lennon that really destroy a brand.

    • Rob says:

      The problem with Sheffield is that someone decided that doing up the rooms was all that you needed to do to change to a CP. Other little issues like the weak breakfast, small dining room, small lobby, lack of business facilities etc etc didn’t seem to come into play when the decision was made. What you’ve now got is very modern bedrooms and a Victorian interior elsewhere.

      I have stayed there once since the swap (someone had punched a hole in the wall of my room which was an interesting feature) but the time before that I was at the HIX next door and perfectly content. Assuming I lose Diamond next month as expected then it will definitely be the HIX going forward.

      • tw33ty says:

        IIRC the hie and cp are owned by the same guy (along with a load of shoddy student properties in Sheffield), was it a case of loosing both hotels to another brand was a worse thought than having neither hotel?

    • ianM says:

      I stayed in the CP Sheffield last month and thought it was excellent value, breakfast was very nice indeed with great friendly service, and a lovely historic victorian railway hotel.
      Okay the elevator is like something out of the 20s and worryingly creaky but it’s only 3 storeys.

      • Rob says:

        I don’t think anyone is saying it doesn’t have charm, but it does have what you expect from a high(er) end business-focused hotel? Compared, say, to the Mercure, which is better in every way and even has a pool?

        • TD says:

          The two Sheffield Mercure hotels are an object lesson in inconsistency. The Mercure Kenwood Hall (not the one Rob is talking about) has nice grounds and great staff, but really, really needs renovation.

        • ianM says:

          Personally if I am using a hotel on a business trip I don’t have time to worry about swimming pools, it’s somewhere to sleep!

          In London I value an Executive lounge where I can sit and work during the day, so I love the Wembley Hilton, it’s £110 if there’s nothing on, great breakfast, accommodations, lounge, and just one stop on Metropolitan line to Baker St

          • direttore says:

            Anywhere else you like in London?

            Membership of Home Grown is looking rather attractive compared to trying to find somewhere to sit with a laptop. But I’m finding I spend less and less time with a laptop now. To the point where I don’t even take it into London any more.

  • R2 says:

    The indigo rating was a surprise to me, I find them to be quite hit and miss. The one in Newcastle is truly the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Yet, one of the Indigo’s in London – one of the best!

    • tw33ty says:

      The indigo in Newcastle, other than the small rooms, the hotel is nice, I’d say it’s more the area of the city it’s in and the target audience who stay.

      The indigo Cardiff is the same.

      Where as the indigo in Durham York and Stratford upon Avon are all excellent, Durham being the best.

      • RussellH says:

        Agree that the Indigo Stratford upon Avon is excellent (it was our base when looking to move house during covid) and it was a great price on points too.

        Indigo Newcastle we always found very pleasant – not least because the staff never seemed to understand that they were not supposed to give us breakfast included when we booked room only. Generally excellent breakfast too – some of it cooked to order.
        And I am sure that the rooms were significantly bigger than the CPs in Zürich, Gatwick and Manchester Airport

      • NorthernLass says:

        The Indigo Durham is fabulous. It’s more on a par with the Manchester Kimpton than the Newcastle Indigo.

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