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The Big Brand Report: What top hotel groups have planned for 2022

big brand report

Keeping an eye on what chains, large hotel groups and global brands are up to will help form your own strategies and expansion plans. We ‘check in’ with some of the biggest UK hotel groups to see how they have performed over the last 12 months and discover their plans for 2022.

The Ned

The Ned opened in 2017, a partnership between the Soho House Group and Sydell Group. It is found right by Bank station in a building that previously served as the headquarters for Midland Bank. The 11-floor, 250-bed hotel features six restaurants that are open to the public and a few more that are members-only. In 2022, the hotel will launch its first sibling in New York City.

How has business been this year for The Ned?

Gareth Banner, Managing Director says: We have seen a noticeable pick up in trade since the beginning of September, with City staff returning to the office. As well as dining in the restaurants, they were booking rooms again, after almost 18 months. The summer was predominantly reliant on leisure business, particularly at the weekend, in line with the demand for staycations and weddings – from September we started seeing the midweek business return.

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How is post-Covid recovery going? What differences have you noticed in consumer habits?

Post-Covid recovery has been very encouraging in many ways, with some areas of the business outperforming 2019’s performance. That said, with uncertainty creeping in due to concerns about the latest variant, who knows what the beginning of 2022 will look like.

Restaurants have proven to be very resilient and the growth across the ground floor dining has been impressive. We’re still experiencing a slower start to the week with many people opting to work from home on Mondays, but the festive season has addressed the softer Friday demand pattern that was evident in the early autumn.

We’ve also seen a significant week on week increase in corporate booking activity over the last few months. There’s been a distinct uplift in enquiries for our private event spaces as well as residential groups.

Have supply issues impacted your hotel this year and if so, how have you navigated this?

Yes. We’ve navigated this by finding suitable replacements where possible, ordering well in advance where we can and anticipating business needs which means holding larger stocks on site. In some cases, we’ve had to amend our specifications and in the case of wine, we’ve also had to delist some items.

Across the board, there is real cost inflation which has not been possible to mitigate.

We are in the midst of a staffing crisis in hospitality – what is your employee culture like and how do you think the hotel industry can tempt workers back?

It’s really interesting; in the earlier part of the year, everyone was just relieved to be back at work and no longer on furlough and now, we have a lot of tired bodies doing a lot of extra hours. UK employment is in a real pickle and there’s no overnight solution on the horizon either.

We’ve tried to keep morale up with a number of initiatives – this is a crucial part of employee culture at The Ned. So far 2021 activities have included weekly gym classes onsite, weekly surprise treats such as ice cream vans and coffee deliveries and a pool party for staff held on the roof at the end of the summer.

We’re providing our workforce with greater security by guaranteeing everyone minimum hours and offering more flexible shifts. We have also reviewed wages so that every employee earns more than the London Living Wage as bare minimum which is a real statement of intent.

Have you invested in development this year?

We’ve launched a new jazz and cabaret club called The Parlour as we’re seeing members and guests crave a more immersive experience. Live entertainment is a big part of going out in London.

In the last couple of months, we’ve put on live performances by Boy George, Pete Tong, Annie Mac, Sister Sledge, Mica Paris and Alfie Boe to create moments for our guests and Ned’s Club members.

We’ve also launched a new membership called Ned Friends, which gives access to some new members spaces and member rates in the spa, ground floor restaurants and bedrooms.

Membership is £200 for a year, and it’s ideal for those who visit us a lot and want to get to know us better.

What are your plans for 2022 with your hotel portfolio?

2022 is very much about international expansion for the brand which is very exciting. Set to open its doors this summer, The Ned NoMad in New York will be the first international site to open following the launch of The Ned London in 2017.

Located in The Johnston Building, the former NoMad Hotel in Manhattan, the property was built in 1903 as a store and office building. The original architectural features will be honoured, with interiors designed by the Soho House Design team.

The Ned NoMad will offer a mix of members-only and public spaces, including 167 bedrooms, a public bar and restaurant, and ‘Ned’s Club’ – a member’s club giving access to a rooftop bar and terrace restaurant and mezzanine bar.

We’re also going to be announcing another new opening for late 2022 which will further underline our ambitions for the brand.

The Hoxton Hotels

The Hoxton bills itself as a series of ‘open house’ hotels across London, Europe and North America (there are currently three operating in the capital). The hotels form part of hospitality group Ennismore, founded by entrepreneur Sharan Pasricha, and are wildly popular among discerning Londoners, known for their hip design and great F&B offerings.

How has business been this year for the group’s UK hotels?

COO Rob Andrews says: Overall, we have seen better bounce back than we anticipated for The Hoxton. Over the last couple of months, our London Hoxton hotels have seen pre-pandemic occupancy levels which is very positive! Our restaurants and bars are seeing great trends too. Seabird, our rooftop restaurant in Southwark was a real hit over the summer, while Rondo La Cave in Holborn is seeing sell-out nights with its latest three-month pop-up, Four Corners.

How is post-Covid recovery going? What differences have you noticed in consumer habits?

Inevitably, we’ve seen a lot more domestic travel than ever before. We are all about local and encouraging guests to get out and explore our neighbourhoods, so we are big believers in having a holiday on home soil. We have got neighbourhood maps, bikes to borrow, and no shortage of local tips from the team so guests can explore new areas of London like a local.

Have supply issues impacted your UK hotels this year and if so, how have you navigated this?

We’ve always prioritised local sourcing, especially across our restaurants with produce, as well as brand partnerships and amenities, so we are lucky not to have faced the issues many others have.

We are in the midst of a staffing crisis in hospitality – what is your employee culture like and how do you think the hotel industry can tempt workers back?

Like everyone else in hospitality, we are also feeling it. Reopening with better occupancies than predicted has certainly had its challenges, but we pride ourselves on the culture we have fostered at The Hoxton, offer some great work perks, and have amazing opportunities to move and grow across our brands and locations, which is something we actively encourage.

What are your plans for 2022 with your UK hotel portfolio?

2022 is our biggest year yet for The Hoxton with four openings and counting, including Shepherd’s Bush. It will be our fourth hotel in our hometown of London; we have got some exciting things in store including a new ‘Hideout’ room category and great retail space.

Hyatt

Hyatt Hotels Corporation, is a leading global hospitality company. As of 30 September 2021, Hyatt’s portfolio includes more than 1,000 hotel and all-inclusive properties in 69 countries across six continents, and the acquisition of Apple Leisure Group added 96 properties in 10 countries as of 1 November, 2021. Hyatt’s luxury brands include Park Hyatt, Andaz, Destination by Hyatt, JdV by Hyatt, The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, Alila and Thompson Hotels.

How has business been this year for the group’s UK hotels?

Arnaud de Saint-Exupery, Area VP of Hyatt, UK & Ireland and GM at Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill says: Despite the Covid pandemic having a continued impact on hospitality and tourism, 2021 has still been a very exciting year for Hyatt. UK-inbound arrivals were low, but demand from the domestic market, for all our Hyatt properties throughout the UK, has exceeded our expectations.

In addition to buoyant occupancies, 2021 saw two new UK arrivals to Hyatt’s portfolio. In June Hyatt announced the opening of Hyatt Place London City East, the first Hyatt Place hotel in Central London. And in October we celebrated the UKs first Hyatt Centric property, located in the sustainable district of Eddington, it’s the result of a pioneering collaboration with the University of Cambridge.

How is post-Covid recovery going? What differences have you noticed in consumer habits?

We have seen changes in travel patterns and the expectations and needs of travellers. As you would expect during a pandemic, there was a heightened need to instil confidence through advanced safety and hygiene measures. Our guests are travelling less frequently, but are staying for longer, and we’re seeing more families staying in our hotels too. Increased demand for family rooms, coupled with the worldwide increase in people working away from the office, has led to a greater demand for creative yet luxurious communal spaces for relaxing, connecting and working.

More than ever before, guests want to experience the distinct identity of the hotel’s location, so our independent collection of hotels, which bring their own story and experience, are more important than ever. Ultimately, people’s fundamental desire to seek out personal connections and experiences hasn’t changed, and that is what our industry does so well.

Have supply issues impacted your UK hotels this year and if so, how have you navigated this?

The impact of Brexit compounded by the pandemic has continued to be seen throughout the year. Like others within the industry, we’ve noticed compounded issues affecting product and service supply chains, and the much publicised nationwide skills and labour shortage.

By turning our attention to local suppliers we’ve circumnavigated some of the issues surrounding the haulage crisis. With regards to the skills and labour shortage, never has the old adage of ‘prevention is better than the cure’ been more fitting. Guided by our purpose of care, Hyatt has placed huge emphasis on retaining colleagues and developing the teams already in place. We’ll be sharing more on our plans soon, but people are at the very heart of Hyatt.

Globally, throughout the brand, we have tried to directly attend to caring for our people, so that they can be the best.

We are in the midst of a staffing crisis in hospitality – what is your employee culture like and how do you think the hotel industry can tempt workers back?

At Hyatt our purpose is to care for people so they can be their best. This is at the core of everything we do. Much emphasis is placed on retaining colleagues and developing the teams we have in place. Our happy, contented colleagues are our best ambassadors.

Uniquely, within the UK, tourism and hospitality haven’t always been perceived as having the best routes for career progression, but we want to change this. Hospitality is for everyone. Hotels are places where remarkable talent, regardless of age, gender, background, or experience can thrive. We’re excited to showcase our industry and the career opportunities that are available for everyone. Different to other industries, hospitality offers a wide range of entry level positions that can lead to fulfilling careers. How better to illustrate the career progression that hotels offer than by looking at the example of Hyatt’s Group President, Peter Fulton, who famously started off his career as an apprentice pot washer.

Have you invested in development this year?

Our ambition is not to be the biggest, but the most preferred hotel brand. Thanks to our hybrid business model, we are an agile organisation, we can make decisions about where and how to invest or innovate. Our commitment is to listen to our owners, our guests, and our World of Hyatt members, and to grow our portfolio with new and exciting brands in the desirable locations that matter most to them.

On that note, just this week, Hyatt introduced plans for seven new luxury hotels throughout Europe and the Middle East, in addition to 24 luxury properties in stunning destinations throughout the U.S., Mexico, Morocco, Greater China, Thailand.

We are committed to catering to high-end travellers through a strong pipeline of diverse brands, including Alila, Andaz, Park Hyatt and The Unbound Collection by Hyatt all which deliver outstanding experiences and world-class offerings in some of the world’s most desirable locations.

What are your plans for 2022 with your UK hotel portfolio?

We are looking forward to continuing to strengthen Hyatt’s place in the UK hospitality landscape in 2022. Emphasis will remain on raising the awareness of our 10 distinct UK Hyatt properties especially in the Domestic market, our key clientele as we are still operating in an unstable international travel situation.

We are excited to move through 2022, we have already announced that the UK Hyatt footprint will continue to grow, with the return of our luxurious Park Hyatt brand with the Park Hyatt London River Thames in 2023 and then our fourth Hyatt Regency at London Olympia will be opening in 2024. At this moment, I can’t disclose the details, but there are even more UK announcements to come!

Our growth is always underpinned by our purpose of care, “we care for people so that they can be the best” so recruiting and developing our team will remain an essential objective – so that we can continue to care for our teams, our customers, and our guests.

The Gantry by Hilton

Part of The Curio Collection by Hilton, The Gantry is a boutique-style offering that opened in November 2021. The hotel is situated nearby to key East London attractions including the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Westfield shopping centre, while from the vantage point of some rooms, you can see out to the City and beyond.

How has business been this year for the group’s UK hotels?

Saurabh Kukreja, Managing Director, says: Business in most of our hotels has been better than expected. Most UK hotels (especially non-London locations) have seen strong demand from the domestic markets. Since late summer European travellers have also started coming back and staying at our hotel again. Overall 2021, after a slow start in Q1, has been recovering well, though it is still far behind pre-pandemic business levels.

How is post-Covid recovery going? What differences have you noticed in consumer habits?

We opened The Gantry at the beginning of November 2021, and so far we’ve seen a really great pick up, despite the fact we were initially set to open in Spring 2020.

In terms of consumer habits, one of the main trends for the past year has been staycations and with our location being so close to Westfields, the Olympic Park, and only six minutes from Kings Cross station, it’s been great to see so many locals and domestic travellers come through our doors. Plenty of parking facilities in the area and good connections into the rest of London is a big draw for Stratford.

Tech has also played a key part in the shift in consumer habits. For example, our guests can order in-room dining seamlessly through their phones.

Have supply issues impacted your UK hotels this year and if so, how have you navigated this?

Of course, being a large hotel with 291 rooms, it would be difficult for us not to have been affected. We’ve pared down our menu and really focused on buying local British ingredients from South East England. We have also had to change our buying patterns and order much more in advance and have back up options as most suppliers are not able to meet all our requirements.

We are in the midst of a staffing crisis in hospitality – what is your employee culture like and how do you think the hotel industry can tempt workers back?

I try to instill a fun work environment at The Gantry and I want each member of my team to feel valued. Even while we were in full swing preparing for our opening, we planned our Team Member appreciation week in October 2021 with lots of activities to build on our culture of having fun at work.

We regularly do workshops and training sessions where we all get together and work through any issues to ensure we make our guests’ experience as enjoyable as possible.

At The Gantry, we want to create a community feel, so much of our workforce are young and live locally.

It’s been great seeing their progression from training them up from scratch and we hope they’ll be with us for some time to come.

I think fair pay and a nice environment to work in is key to getting hospitality workers back.

Have you invested in development this year? If yes, please elaborate

We have some exciting developments going ahead in 2022, when we will open an artisanal food market on the ground floor with an integrated cafe.

We wanted to create a space where residents and non-residents could drop in and pick up high-quality grocery items such as fresh baked goods, which makes The Gantry stand out from other hotels in the area.

We’re also thrilled to be opening the sky bar and restaurant on the 18th floor next year, which is set to be East London’s highest rooftop venue with panoramic views across the city.

What are your plans for 2022 with your UK hotel portfolio?

In 2022, we’ll be focusing on key owner relationships and growing with the existing owner base. There are several new deals in the pipeline all over the UK and some key openings of new and existing brands in Glasgow and Blackpool scheduled for 2022.

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Eamonn Crowe

The author Eamonn Crowe

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