51-year-old, Mark Jenkins, is the owner and manager of the Grosvenor Hotel in Torquay. Mark bought the loss-making Grosvenor back in November 2010 and has one summer to turn it around.
Mark was born in Bromley, with the leisure industry in his blood. When he was six years old his family moved to Paignton, a seaside town in Devon near Torquay. His dad was an entertainer, who in the late 40s and early 50s worked the circuit with the likes of Morecambe and Wise. Later on his parents ran a small hotel. In the height of the summer season, Mark and his brother would often have to sleep in the garden shed, to make room for paying guests.
Mark developed a strong work ethic from an unusually young age. At 12 he was a kitchen porter working 60 hours a week in a local cafe, where he could be found operating the dishwasher. He claims that by 14, he had racked up his first 100-hour week and hasn't stopped since. Over the years, Mark has set up and run a string of businesses, making and losing a fortune along the way; from a painting and decorating company called 'Van Gogh' to a fish 'n' chip shop in Blackpool, famed for its twice-battered, 18-inch 'Monster Fish'.
Part businessman, part showman, Mark describes himself as a cross between JR Ewing from Dallas, Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses and Arthur Daley from Minder:
"If people say what's my profession, I would probably say I'm a sales person... who perhaps should have been an entertainer."
Mark's business philosophy at the Grosvenor is to stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap. Most of the year the hotel is full of coach tours on bargain basement package deals. His aim is to give his guests the kind of memorable holiday experiences he enjoyed as a child, which he describes as "a cross between a cruise ship and a holiday camp". Daily entertainment at the hotel includes bingo, inflatable dolphin racing, karaoke and party night - featuring the balloon game ‘Who's got the biggest?'
"What makes a good holiday is when you do things you wouldn't normally do. I remember I once went on a holiday somewhere and I ended up riding a camel. I didn't go on holiday to ride on a camel, but I ended up riding a camel, and it's something I'll always remember. I haven't got any camels, but at least I can try and do something else that they'll remember."
Mark is a perfectionist who doesn't suffer fools gladly. His staff at the Grosvenor rarely meet his high expectations, and Mark is the first to admit he is prone to a little micro-managing. He boasts of having done every single job in the hotel.
"If I had my way, I would actually clone myself into every job in the entire hotel and I would only employ myself. I would be much happier if I could do that!"
Members of staff who don't measure up to Mark's high standards run the risk of being put into his infamous ‘relegation zone' and according to Mark, what ever the Guests want "the answer is always yes AND DO IT NOW."
Mark is divorced and currently lives alone in one of his own hotel rooms.
45-year-old, Christian, is deputy manager at the Grosvenor Hotel. He's been in the hospitality business for 27 years, working all over the country - from 5 star hotels in London to nightclubs in Shropshire. Christian grew up in Falmouth, Cornwall and was drawn back to the sun, sea and palm trees of the South Coast in May 2010 when he moved to Torquay.
In his role as Mark's right hand man, Christian has to wear a lot of hats - from calling bingo and co-hosting the Grosvenor's entertainment events (sometimes in drag), to ‘guest liaison' duties on reception. With so many responsibilities, Christian isn't entirely sure how to define his role at the hotel:
"My role here... if it needs doing, it gets done basically. I mean, the other day Mark introduced me to a lounge full of people... ‘This is Christian. Mm. Christian is, well sometimes he's the manager, sometimes he's the manager-ish, pretty much he's a dogsbody.' That's how I was introduced. But then he did say, every hotel should have a Christian."
Despite the lack of clarity over his job description, Christian has a high opinion of both the hotel and his place within it...
"The Grosvenor is different from other hotels... and I'm not blowing my own trumpet, but I think it's because I'm there!"
Although famous among his colleagues for his ‘moods', Christian's droll humour and immaculate, perma-tanned appearance make him a firm favourite with the hotel's guests. He has left before but Mark has managed to win him back.
"That is what I like about Mark - he's human... and he lets you make mistakes. God knows, he makes enough of them!"
"He's like a tornado. He walks in, he creates havoc, and he buggers off out of the door again. He's almost like Peter Pan. He's never quite grown up."
Christian is currently single, although, by his own admission "he hasn't been a monk for the past four years."
40-year-old, Alison, is the hotel's reservation manager. She has a three year old daughter with Alan, who works in the hotel's maintenance department. After an on-off start to their relationship, the pair have been together for 11 years, and recently celebrated their engagement with a party at the Grosvenor. They plan to get married in 2013
Alison started her career working for Mark as a receptionist, and quickly found herself in his infamous ‘relegation zone' for filing her nails at the desk. When Mark discovered she had previously been a holiday rep abroad, he decided to give her a second chance, took her under his wing, and trained her up to become a key member of the hotel management:
"I was in Division 4. Now I'm in the Premiership - see!"
Alison presides over Mark's low tech, paper-based, manual bookings system. In the absence of computers, she and her colleagues rely almost entirely on coloured pens, tippex, and white boards - but even with his most trusted lieutenant at the helm, Mark still can't resist meddling, which often results in over bookings and ‘heated exchanges' in the office.
"Mark's a nightmare. He's a flapper. That's why I'm now a million times more stressed than I ever used to be."
Alison is famous not just for her upfront manner but also her catchphrases. Her favourites include: ‘numpty', ‘carnage.com' and ‘nice moods'. She reserves most of these words for Mark and in spite of him being her boss, she is not afraid to tell him what she thinks of him: "Sometimes I haven't got a clue why I do this job!"