The group general manager is behind two new accommodation models at the Beaverbrook country club in Surrey – a Victorian village and a secret private house
Beaverbrook has recently announced it will be expanding its Surrey estate with two luxury accommodation offers set to launch this Christmas – what can you tell us?
We've developed a Victorian village called Mickleham Village, which is very exciting. The idea was to create a small village that is great for parties and for families. We'll have 21 guest rooms, housed across a collection of 10 cottages, that can be hired exclusively or guests can take an individual cottage, room or suite. We'll also have a five-bedroom private house within the village called the Dower House that will sit in a walled oasis of 55 acres.
Tell me more about the Victorian village
I think I'm right in saying we will be the first property in the UK to offer the opportunity to hire a village. It will include an event space called the Writer's Block, a restaurant called Mrs Beeton's and a courtyard, which will bring everyone together. The feel is relaxed but really luxurious. It should be a lot of fun, whether you're taking the village exclusively or socialising with other families you've not met before.
The village will celebrate the best writers and the artists in the history of the country, so every room and suite is named after a famous writer and artwork has been commissioned to tell their stories. There will be a lot of fun, some mystery and a bit of history. When you walk into these rooms you can immerse yourself in those adventures.
The interiors of the cottages have been designed by Nicola Harding. Every room offers a different experience – some have private gardens, some are designed for families and have bunk beds. The idea is that you could take one, two or three rooms and have a really great holiday with your family.
What can you tell us about Mrs Beeton's?
It will be our fourth outlet on the estate. We already have our Japanese grill the Dining Room, Anglo-Italian restaurant the Garden House and Pizzeria at the Deli. Mrs Beeton's will obviously be inspired by the cook Mrs Beeton, with her dishes interpreted in a modern way.
How will the private house in Mickleham allow you to expand your offering?
It will offer a very quintessential English experience and be one of the most luxurious houses in the UK, with five bedrooms, a private swimming pool, private treatment room, helipad, its own garden and woodland – all the amenities.
There will be no website and no social media. We don't want to say it's just private or exclusive, we want to make sure it is, so we won't be talking about it or marketing it – it will purely be word of mouth and only a very small group of people will know about it.
When guests arrive, we want them to feel like they have walked into a second home, that they can immediately open the fridge and have a snack. We want to create that homely experience, but guests will have total control over what they would like. They can have a butler, they may want a private chef or to cook for themselves. They will have an Aston Martin DBX 707, which they can drive themselves or have a chauffeur. We want guests to feel they can make decisions as they go and there will be a team there to make sure everything happens.
Will it help you increase event bookings?
A lot of our guests have previously shown an interest in taking the estate exclusively, but obviously for us that's not possible as we're a country club with a membership model as well as a hotel. Mickleham offers that possibility, whether someone takes just the house or the combination of the house and village.
If someone took both they could have around 10 people in the main house and 40 to 50 guests in the village.
How do you balance the interests of members with the requirements of running a successful hotel?
I think I'm right in saying we were the first country club hotel that welcomed both members and leisure guests under the same roof.
The club can only ever have 500 members, which for a golf club is a very small number and I think the hotel guests help create an atmosphere and our members enjoy that. It doesn't compromise on privacy and exclusivity – our members and guests would never wait to be seated at a table and we control bookings in a way that means there are no queues.
This expansion will offer members more choice for their own private events and increase the amount of family accommodation we have, which is something our members value a lot.
I don't think it will fundamentally change Beaverbrook, it's an extension of the current setting with a slightly different offer. At the moment Beaverbrook is open to everyone with a booking and that will remain the case. I really enjoy this model. The members are financially and emotionally invested and they want you to do well. For me it's the most successful strategy I've seen in hospitality.
How has the Beaverbrook Town House, which opened in 2021, complemented the business in Surrey?
The Town House has been incredible for us. As an individual property in London it has performed well, but for the brand itself it has been fantastic. We are offering members a London outpost where they can stay, accommodate friends from overseas or host dinners and business meetings, while offering our London-based members and guests an opportunity to visit the countryside. American guests often split their time in the UK between London and the countryside and that's been critical for us. We are only 40 minutes from London so we are the perfect getaway.
Would you look to expand that city offering?
I don't think we would look for another hotel in London, but we've become very good at managing houses and that could translate into a different offering in London – that could be something quite exciting.
In three years you've grown the average daily rate at Beaverbrook from £330 to £800 – how have you done this?
I would love to take credit, but we've done it as a team. We didn't just increase rates, we enhanced the experience, and then it's a question of how much do we believe we're worth? We're very conscious that before growing rates we had to deliver that service and experience. It is a high rate, but we don't charge for extras, so when you book a room you know that will be the only charge on your bill, aside from F&B and spa. Everything else, even the mini bars in the rooms, is complimentary. Then we just shower guests with love and generosity because we think they deserve it. It was a strategic decision – not just about growing the rates but about improving the whole experience and it certainly empowered our team and gave them the confidence to be really generous with our guests.
We have things like the private ice rink at Christmas where you don't have to queue and you don't bump into other people. You can skate for as long and you like and then sit around a fireplace and toast marshmallows and have a wonderful evening with some hot chocolate and lots of treats.
How have you instilled that culture of generosity in your teams?
It's all about the team, because at the end of the day they're the ones making and selling the experience. They need to believe in what they sell so we immerse them in the experience. For instance, when we launch our Wild Kitchen, a dining experience in the Surrey Hills, where guests can choose their menu, the first two events will be for the team, so when they speak to guests they can explain how wonderful it is and believe in that.
What are you seeing in terms of occupancy?
Countryside properties in particular had a huge boost after Covid, and it's a known fact that London had it much harder. I think over the past two and a half years that situation has normalised and is much more similar to what it was pre-Covid, but I don't think it will ever go back completely to pre-Covid times. The pandemic gave the opportunity for the country house sector to show what we can do and how good the English countryside can be. Leisure is slowing down a little bit and becoming more normalised but corporate is coming back – we just have to reorganise.
I was saying to my team a few months ago that for the last few years the wind was behind us and now it's in front of us, so we're having to work harder and smarter to keep innovating and achieve the results.
We've seen cost increases across the board. How do you respond to that while running such a big estate?
Rising costs put a lot of pressure on the team and we have to be really creative about how we manage the business in a way that doesn't have an impact on members. We have a biomass boiler in our spa, which is one of the buildings that consumes the most energy, and luckily, because we have such a large estate, we can recycle a lot of wood and become almost self-sufficient. We can also use the lake when it comes to watering the gardens. In a listed building very few things are automated so we have relied on our team to switch things off and make sure rooms aren't heated unnecessarily. Our team were obviously feeling it at home as well, so we ran sessions on managing costs and finances on both a personal level and a business level.
You run activities in collaboration with other businesses – how do you decide who to partner with and what do they bring to the brand?
One of the key pillars of our brand is fun. We collaborate with people to create unique experiences, for example, we had hot air balloon rides, which I think at the time was the first such experience of its kind and it was magical. We have the ice rink, which has become a signature experience for the brand, and we'll be launching pickleball courts. We've also done collaborations with people like Summerill & Bishop and Château Pétrus. It's important to know there's synergy between two brands and that they have the same principles, but the number one thing is that it's got to be fun.
Reigate Road, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8QX
Owner Longshot Cherkley Court
Operator Beaverbrook Hotels
General manager Jorge de Jesus
Food and beverage The Dining Room, the Garden House, Pizzeria at the Deli, Mrs Beeton's
Starting room rate £610
Beaverbrook Town House
115-116 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9PJ
Owner Cadogan Estates
Operator Beaverbrook Hotels
General manager Jorge de Jesus
Food and beverage The Fuji Grill, the Sushi Bar
Starting room rate £580
Jorge De Jesus' CV
January 2019-present Group general manager, Beaverbrook Hotels
March 2017-December 2018 Hospitality consultant
January 2014-March 2017 Director of operations, Andaz Liverpool Street Station
February 2012-December 2013 Innovation lab leader, Hyatt
October 2004-February 2012 Assistant area general manager UK & Ireland, Hyatt Regency – the Churchill
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