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Pregnant Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi leaves Cheltenham & Tewkesbury hotels for The Fixer TV series

By Weekend  |  Posted: February 05, 2013

Pregnant Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi turns her attention from struggling hotels in Cheltenham and Tewkesbury for her new TV series The Fixer

Pregnant Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi turns her attention from struggling hotels in Cheltenham and Tewkesbury for her new TV series The Fixer

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It's Alex Polizzi to the rescue again, in the second series of business remedy show The Fixer. But this time round, the hotelier tells Lisa Williams, she felt she was fighting a losing battle

Alex Polizzi may have been born into money, but she certainly hasn't spent her life lounging around spending it.

Instead, the straight-talking 41-year-old, who is the granddaughter of hotelier Lord Forte and daughter of hotel designer Olga Polizzi, has worked for her family company around the world and, with her husband Marcus Miller, set up a wholesale bakery which supplies high-end retailers like Fortnum & Mason.

She's also forged a successful broadcast career, taking over from Ruth Watson as the Hotel Inspector on Five, and now presenting The Fixer for the BBC.

Sitting amid the finery of Brown's Hotel (owned by her uncle Rocco Forte), to promote the second series of The Fixer, it's clear she's been working on some family business of her own... Tucked beneath her sparkling jewels is a neat little baby bump, where the baking entrepreneur is cooking up a little sibling for her daughter Olga.

"It's very exciting," says an unusually giddy Polizzi, who's due to give birth in early March. "And it's been an excellent distraction while filming. I think it is quite easy to completely forget oneself and get dragged into the lives of the people we're meeting and their problems, but instead I've been able to extract myself and step away."

It's easy to understand how she might find herself becoming over-involved with the people she meets for The Fixer, which sees her tour the country meeting family businesses struggling to stay afloat.

A run-down beauty salon in Essex might not have that much in common with her family's multi-billion pound business empire, but the rules are the same - and Polizzi's business acumen is put to good use among the failing companies.

Sitting back in her chair, she proudly reels off what's happened to the businesses she helped in the first series.

"The bridal shop has been voted best in their region, which is very exciting. Kettley's the furniture store has done so much better, their sales have gone through the roof.

"The bakery in Cornwall is now producing frozen pasties and shipping them around the country, which is very good," she says.

The bakery in the mill, however, had to close - because the tenants' lease expired (the mill remains open) - but Polizzi adds: "The garage in Manchester is doing very well. They've had an upgrade and are busier than ever. And Props And Frocks are doing brilliantly."

This time round, however, Polizzi - who filmed at Cheltenham Townhouse Hotel in Pittville Lawn and Jessop House Hotel in Tewkesbury in 2008 for Hotel Inspector -  is not expecting as much success. She explains: "The recession has bitten. Established businesses have ridden it out for one year, two years, but the third year is really starting to hurt.

"And I think they are just desperate, looking for a lifeline and, as much as I tried to provide it, there is no magic bullet.

"It is emotional because they need help and in at least a few of the cases they need immediate help and none of these things are quick fixes."

Among the businesses she visits in the series are a carpet shop, a chippie, a photography studio and a garden centre.

"I don't get to choose myself, which I'm grateful for, because I would only work with businesses I was really interested in and with people I really liked, and I don't think that would be particularly interesting," she deadpans.

From experience, Polizzi knows that cracks can appear among families when the going gets tough. "Family dynamics don't really matter so much when businesses are going brilliantly. Money is rolling in, everyone has their own little sphere of influence, doing their own thing merrily, merrily, the coffers are full," she says.

"It's when the chips are down that the family relationships become very significant and I feel, really, only the strong survive."

Overall, the second series sees a lot more challenging than the first, with some businesses not even solvent enough to fund the most basic of changes.

Polizzi's proud of her work at a funeral director's, where she suggested they set up a volunteer scheme to help bereaved customers. But, apart from that, her role basically stays the same.

"I don't think my job is to come up with anything inventive, darling," she says in the way which has attracted criticism for being patronising (she swears she isn't and that 'darling' is just a habit).

She continues: "Honestly, I think I deal with a lot of families who've forgotten about the good solid business basics."

She admits she doesn't take a failing business lightly. "When it works and it goes well I feel like a master of the universe. But when it doesn't, it becomes quite emotionally draining.

"I think I have become more sanguine about my failures. I accept they are not totally my fault and a lot has to do with the personality of the businesses I work with."

And with the series wrapped and the diary cleared to make way for her imminent arrival, Polizzi's clear on the message she's sending out to these businesses.

"It's down to personalities and the amount of effort they put in," she says. "I could suggest the best ideas in the world, but I am not the fairy godmother, I am a business adviser.

"So if they don't implement them I am powerless, because ultimately I get to walk away from those businesses. They don't."

The Fixer starts on BBC Two on Tuesday, February 12

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