Harnessing a new approach to boutique hotels, The Nadler has carved a hugely successful niche in the market, proving that you don’t need a dazzling F&B operation to provide guests with a fantastic hospitality experience. Zoe Monk caught up with CEO, Robert Nadler, to discuss what’s next for the brand in the coming year.
Robert Nadler has all the credentials to be an intimating, high-flying businessman – his CV boasts experience in small businesses to public companies across a range of professional practises – but what greeted me when I arrived to interview the CEO of booming boutique brand, The Nadler, was distinctly the opposite. Warm, charismatic and oozing charm, this businessman-turned-hotelier clearly has a passion for all things hospitality.
The location of The Nadler Soho is a calm haven safely tucked into a little enclave in the city, away from the hustle and bustle of busy London life. Large revolving doors whisk you into a wall of silence and immediately life slows a pace or two. The beaming staff on the front desk are genuinely friendly – Mr Nadler cites them as an integral part of the experience at each of his hotels – and seem proud to be representing, what has become, one of the pioneering brands of the last decade.
Mr Nadler is rather modest of his achievements when we first sit down to chat, and for someone who never planned a career in this sector – he even had a brief stint as a policeman in Soho in the 70’s – he is delighted to be considered a hotelier now. The Nadler name is represented with three boutiques – two in London and one outside the capital in Liverpool – and Mr Nadler has big plans in the pipeline for expansion, even including ambitious intentions to launch overseas in America and Europe. Sustainability is a big talking point for each hotel and working with local businesses to create a buzz in the area is key; The Nadler pizza is just about to be added to the menu at local eatery, Pizza Pilgrims, and is just one example of how Soho has welcomed Mr Nadler with open arms.
Close to announcing his third London property, which is due to open in the capital in late summer, we spoke exclusively to Mr Nadler about the astonishing journey the brand has taken since its explosion onto the market in 2006 and how he has developed a surprising penchant for Liverpool FC.
Tell me a bit about your background and where the journey of The Nadler brand began
“It’s an odd one; I’m not a hotelier by background, but I’m delighted to be considered one now. I started as an investor in what was going to be a mini-serviced apartment which was going wrong. The other investor basically asked me to go in and sort out the problems it was already experiencing, so I was basically given a free hand to make the best of it. There were constraints of course – it was a project which was halfway through construction, the plans were already laid out, it was a particular type of building in Kensington – but I looked at it and thought how I can make this a success? Plus being given a free hand like that was a little bit of a fantasy in a way. I really tried to tap into what I wanted from a city centre hotel; there are certain elements that are really important so I focused on those and eliminated those things that weren’t important; in a four-star city central hotel, you don’t need a bar, you don’t need a restaurant, you have very good access to them around you. So for me it was about making the most of the good things that I really wanted in the room: the service levels, the amenities in the room and cutting out those other elements, but making sure guests had good access to them in the neighbourhood. This in turn then helps to create relationships with these local businesses.”
The sustainability aspect is a really important part of the ethos of The Nadler brand. What specific practises do you have in place and how do you tailor these values to every part of the business?
“For us, sustainability comes in three parts. It started with environment sustainability – I have children and grandchildren and I am concerned with their future – so it’s genuinely something that I live and breathe. I don’t have a car, I prefer to take public transport, recycling for me is a way of life – but it has to be more than this though and for me, it’s important to take this into my business where I possibly can.
“The second factor is the economic sustainability, and within a business, that’s not only that you have to look after your customers to make sure it’s economically viable for them to use your product, but also for your investors. It goes without saying that if a business isn’t economically viable it’s not going to last.
“The third element is one that is now becoming much more of a theme, and that’s local sustainability and working with the local community. It’s something that a lot of businesses talk about now as if it’s a new thing, but it’s not a big discovery. With Nadler, it was an opportunity to foster that element of social sustainability and work with these businesses local to us.
“Another pet hate of mine is added extras on the bill; I want to know what the bill is when I check in and when I check out, and I want the two to equate. From our point of view, we want happy guests and that’s the most important thing. In an era where the guest experience is very transparent, you want guests to be happy and want them to have an experience they want to tell their friends about.”
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You launched the first hotel in 2006, then came the Liverpool branch in 2010 and finally Soho in 2013 – was there a reason for such a gap in the development between projects and was a regional site always part of the plan?
When we opened Kensington, it was a one-off and I didn’t intend to go into the business, but it worked so well and we had such extraordinary feedback , so we thought, let’s go do some more. We started to look for sites but everything we went for in 2006-07 – we probably bid for about 25 cites in central London – we were always the under bidder. So that’s when we knew we had to start looking outside of London. It wasn’t part of the plan originally and wasn’t our first choice, but we focused on a number of regional sites and found a great one in Liverpool. It was during a time when the city was seeing development and a lot of money was being ploughed into the area. Unfortunately the crash of 2008 brought problems, but we had already committed to the site and the development. But we carried on and built the building before opening in 2010. We learnt a lot and it turned out to be a great opportunity to see if the model worked outside of London, which it did and it’s been a huge success. I think Liverpool is a fantastic city, I love Liverpudlians; I like to think I’m a little bit of a scouser! I support Liverpool FC and when I go there I really feel at home.”
How do the markets differ in Liverpool and London?
“The one interesting area in Liverpool where we struggled more than in London, was breakfast. In London, with our mini kitchens and the option to have breakfast delivered in from the outside, there are very few people who have said, I need a breakfast room. Whereas in Liverpool, more people have an expectation of a breakfast room, even though they realise the concept and know what we’re about. Maybe it’s because the quality of offer in Liverpool isn’t quite as good. It’s seems to be an underserved area. The issue is as well, that most places open at 9am, they don’t open at 7am when a lot of people want their breakfast.”
So where does The Nadler go from here? What does the future hold for the brand?
“We are looking into new cities outside of London, although the capital still remains our focus. We currently have hotel number four under construction in central London, which we hope to have opened in late summer. We are actively looking for new sites and have already made offers on some, but we are yet to be successful. Outside of London, we are looking into London, Edinburgh, Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Manchester – these are our priorities. If we can make these work, we’d look further afield to cities like Brighton or York too.
“When we have the right management personnel on board, we will start to look abroad. Europe has some amazing cities, with some amazing hotels and quality offerings. There are half a dozen cities we’d consider, but I’m conscious that I don’t want to run before I can walk.”