Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, says Z Hotels chief executive Bev King, after Premier Inn's launch of its new hub hotel concept
It seems like yesterday that I was sitting in the school hall at the age of 12, preparing to take my first exam. "Hard work breeds success," my father used to say whenever he saw me messing about instead of studying for the tests that lay ahead. He was strict. And I was mad. Instead of playing football outside, having fun with my friends, I suffered what seemed like endless nights of exam revision.
So you can imagine my surprise, anger, and frustration when, during the exam, I saw a classmate, Jonny, next to me blatantly copying my work. While tempted to bring my left arm closer to the page to stop this injustice, I thought better of it. In fact I felt proud that Jonny trusted my judgement. I got 77% (as did he) and was delighted.
It was an important lesson and one that I have taken forward into my professional career. When I opened the first Z Hotel in Soho in November 2011, it was the culmination of days, weeks and years of hard work in the hotel sector. The concept was new, bold and, dare I say it, a game changer. A new breed of hotel was born, offering affordable, compact luxury in prime city centre locations, with an emphasis on exceptional customer service.
Having brought in a fantastic team and recruited outstanding talent into the business, we have grown rapidly in the last 18 months. The Z Hotel Victoria opened last July, while Z Liverpool has been open for only two months and is already rated as the seventh best hotel in the city by TripAdvisor customers. We are looking forward to opening our next regional hotel in Glasgow next April, and our next London hotel in Haymarket next summer. With terms agreed on a number of other prime sites, these are exciting times for the Z Hotels brand.
And so I read with a wry smile the recent press release from Premier Inn announcing its new hub concept offering "value for money and appealing to customers who value price, location and design over space". With luggage storage under the bed, an en-suite bathroom with power shower, free Wi-Fi and a 40in smart screen TV, it sounded uncannily familiar.
I thought of Jonny. A compliment indeed, and one that will benefit the industry as a whole, creating greater awareness and demand for such product offers, and cementing the affordable compact luxury category.
I can still hear the teacher now. "Is he copying you, Bev?"
"Who, Jonny? Absolutely not, sir."