Overall ranking: 4 (new entry)
Hotelier ranking: 1 (new entry)
From opening an unassuming private members’ club in London’s Soho in 1995, Nick Jones has gone on to create a global phenomenon, comprising 18 clubs, 43 public restaurants, 15 spas, two standalone hotels and the Ned, possibly the most ambitious city centre hotel ever to launch in the UK. A hospitality career was on the cards for Jones from when he took on a summer holiday job in his teens as a waiter at the French Horn in Sonning, Oxfordshire. He learned his skills on a Trusthouse Forte training scheme before working for Pasta Mania and Maxwell’s bar and grill in Covent Garden. His first solo restaurant venture, Over the Top, didn’t work out, but it did provide him with the experience of how to run a business, which paved the way for Café Bohème (now part of the Soho House & Co portfolio), followed by the original Soho House on Greek Street.
What we think
While the scope and scale of Soho House & Co impresses, it is his success in shaking up the way hotels and restaurants look and operate today that has earned Jones the fourth spot on our Top 100 list. From the outset, he has been something of a maverick, going against convention, not for the sake of being different, but simply because he wants guests and customers to feel comfortable and enjoy themselves.
Jones recognises that his dyslexia has probably played a significant role in helping him to think in a creative way. When he won the Hotelier of the Year Catey in 2015, one of the judges said: “His fresh thinking, creativity, innovation, refusal to stay in a box and ability to make a space exciting and vibrant has made our industry sexy again.”
Jones has always been a disruptor, long before the term was ever applied in the hospitality sector. With Babington House, Jones kicked off the concept of laid-back luxury mixed with glamour in a country house setting; at Soho Farmhouse he created a unique resort-style concept, with rustic cabins and extensive leisure and eating outlets; and in the City, the 252-bedroom Ned has been somewhat of a game-changer for the capital.
There is undoubtedly much demand for Jones’s distinctive style. The group’s most recent set of financials for 2016 show a 44% growth in global membership to nearly 70,000 and a 32.4% hike in turnover to £293.4m.
Over the years, Jones has sold shares in Soho House & Co to fund expansion. American investor Ron Burkle now owns a 60% stake, acquired for £250m in 2012, and 30% is held by one-time clothing retailer turned restaurateur Richard Caring. Jones holds the remaining 10%.
However, this may all change, as it has been widely mooted that Soho House & Co is heading for a flotation on the New York Stock Exchange for $2b (£1.42b). For a company that has been refinanced several times to support its ambitious growth, the flotation will create some welcome stability as it looks to expand.
Indeed, there is much on the horizon for Soho House & Co. Just this month it launched White City House within the former BBC TV Centre in west London, with a future opening planned in Brighton, and overseas launches are set to take place in Amsterdam, Paris, Los Angeles, Austin (Texas), Hong Kong and Mumbai, to join existing properties in Barcelona, Berlin, Istanbul, New York, Chicago, Miami, Malibu and West Hollywood.
Back in the UK, Jones has overseen the creation of the Soho Home range of furniture, enabling guests to replicate the look of the properties at home, and Soho Works, a creative workspace concept. There are also plans for a roadside motel brand called Mollies. Jones is unlikely to slow down for some time to come.