Football legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville have launched a hospitality company with ambitious plans to grow a hotel and restaurant empire, both in the UK and overseas.
GG Hospitality is the parent company of Café Football, which is set to open its first outlet in Westfield Stratford, London, in November, and Hotel Football, which will debut in Manchester next year. The company is also in talks with owners of a number of major hotel brands to operate properties on their behalf on a management or franchise basis.
Giggs, who has just signed a further one year contract at Manchester United and Neville, who retired as a player from the club in 2011 told Caterer and Hotelkeeper that they are not just figureheads of the group, having formulated the idea of the company four or five years ago as they contemplated their retirement as professional players.
"We have lived and breathed every element of this for a considerable time now and have been involved in every detail, every step of the way, said Giggs. "We've stayed in lots of hotels as footballers and often felt that we could do a better job."
There will be a five-a-side football pitch on the roof of the hotel, but Giggs and Neville insist there will be no football shirts on the wall and only subtle references to the game in the design of the hotel and cafe.
Stuart Procter, former general manager of London's Stafford hotel, is providing the industry expertise as managing director of GG Hospitality, and Michael Wignall, who will continue in his role as head chef of the two-Michelin-starred Latymer restaurant at Pennyhill Park in Surrey, is overseeing the food and beverage concept across the two brands.
Other key appointments include Michael Harding as finance director and Brendan Fyldes as executive chef of Café Football, both who worked with Procter at the Stafford. Stewart Davies, currently general manager of the Doubletree by Hilton Manchester, is to take up the same role at the 139-bedroom Hotel Football Manchester, which is located close to Manchester United's Old Trafford ground.
While Hotel Football will cost £20m to develop, Giggs and Neville would not say what the total investment is in GG Hospitality. However, they confirmed they are the major shareholders, along with a Singaporean businessman, while minor investments in the company have been made by friends and fellow football players. Kiam Ho and Andy Yun, businessmen with experience in real estate and food and beverage brands in Asia, have joined Giggs and Neville on the board of directors of GG Hospitality.
Procter explained that the inspiration behind the café and hotel brands is to replicate the bringing together and sharing experience of people of all ages in the world of football. "We believe we are bringing something new to the market which is young, creative, innovative and fun. In Café Football this will mean a casual dining experience with good service and some great, sharing dishes."
The hotel will be aimed at the three-to-four star market with room rates between £80 and £150. Meanwhile, average spend in the 120-seat Café Football, with additional al fresco seating for 40, will be £16 per head for two courses.
Long term plans for both brands are on the cards with locations that have a good footfall in cities with a strong football culture, such as Liverpool and Birmingham, earmarked for future cafés. The hotel concept is expected to expand across the UK, as well as overseas, with Asia being indicated as a specific target.
Neville said he and Giggs expect both the cafe and hotel will be closely judged by not only hospitality critics, but also by the news and sports press. "That is why we have left nothing to chance and are working with some of the best people in the business to achieve our vision."