"The capacity and demand for good food is enormous," Cadogan Estates' chief executive Hugh Seaborn told The Caterer, confirming the F&B focus of one of London's largest landowners.
He explained: "Restaurants are the anchor that draw people in, so food is absolutely central to strengthening the character of the area."
The company oversees the Cadogan family's Chelsea and Knightsbridge properties, which include more than 30 restaurants, bars and cafés and nine hotels, as well as more than 3,000 flats and homes, 300 shops and seven schools.
Recent hospitality focus has been on the refurbishment of the 56-bedroom No 11 Cadogan Gardens and the 54-bedroom Belmond Cadogan hotel (below). The latter is reopening under Belmond's management following a £28m renovation and it was announced yesterday that Adam Handling will be in charge of its F&B as executive chef.
Both hotels saw a reduction in room stock to create larger rooms, which Seaborn said gives operators more flexibility to create a variety of formats, as well as ensuring the rooms fit the positioning of the hotel.
Cadogan's restaurant residents include Polpo, Wulf & Lamb, Comptoir Libanais and the Hans' Bar & Grill (pictured), which is opening at No 11 Cadogan Gardens on the former site of Alexis Gauthier's Tartufo this week. Adam England will now helm the restaurant as head chef with Simon Smith as general manager.
"Because we were doubling the size of the restaurant, it went from a restaurant that supported the hotel rooms to a restaurant in its own right, so the team there rightly took the decision to upgrade the restaurant infrastructure, and that involved bringing in a new general manager and head chef," said Seaborn. "It also coincided with Iconic Luxury Hotels coming in as the new operators."
The new restaurant has 106 covers as well as a 20-cover bar and a private dining room called ‘the Curio' with capacity for a further 16.
Seaborn emphasised that the nature and scale of the group allows it to think long-term and curate the offering of the whole area: "If we do something with one hotel or restaurant, it benefits the street and the wider area, so we take that into account in everything we're doing to ensure we've got a range of different types of offer at different price points."
The company also monitors its restaurants with footfall cameras and compares their performance with other areas of London, as well as collecting data on turnover to give feedback. Seaborn said data is increasingly important, and he believes it will become so to restaurants too.
Despite the widely-reported downturn in casual dining, he said the area's casual dining brands do not appear to be struggling.
"The bad weather didn't help anybody," he said. "There's a lot of outside seating, so that was adverse, but otherwise [they are] robust and strong."
The group has a £500m development pipeline which also includes a hotel development at 1 Sloane Gardens in partnership with French hotelier Jean-Louis Costes, the Duke of York restaurant on Duke of York Square, and two more pubs on Kings Road.
The 35-bedroom hotel at 1 Sloane Gardens was originally slated to open in 2016, but is now expected to open at the end of 2019, due to deliberations over the F&B concepts.
Seaborn said the hotel, which will be operated by the Costes management company and is expected to have a rooftop restaurant and basement bar, will create the same excitement as Chiltern Firehouse did when it opened in 2013.
"We're prepared to take time over it to get it right because it has such a big effect on the area. It will bring the glamour that you expect of Sloane Square," he said.
"We've taken that model of management agreements because it gives us more control, we can be more directive about the price points and the quality," he added. Belmond in particular he said was chosen because its hotels are "known for their own personality and character rather than the Belmond brand, so we felt the Cadogan hotel, which has enormous character, deserved that distinction".
The £7m, NEX-designed Duke of York restaurant is set to feature an innovative glass wall that is able to rise and fall depending on the weather, 80 covers and a public roof terrace when it opens this autumn.
"A roof bar or extension to the restaurant would have obvious attractions but it's part of local engagement, community and making it all accessible and open to everybody," said Seaborn. The site was the subject of a design competition, and its contemporary architecture will be a contrast to the area's more traditional buildings. The group is now looking for an operator for the site.
Kings Road will also see the addition of the Cadogan Arms at the end of this year, for which an operator is currently being sought, and a three-year development project which includes the former Trafalgar pub and a rooftop bar at 196-222 Kings Road.