The new chief executive of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin hotel plans to open six new hotels, but has called a halt to the expansion of the Bistro du Vin group of stand-alone restaurants.
Gary Davis, who took up his new post in January from his previous role as chief executive of De Vere Group's Village Hotel brand, told Caterer and Hotelkeeper that he intended to revitalise the two brands and make them more distinctive.
"We've not had a new opening for three years because of the recession and are now keen to roll out three of each brand in the next two-and-a-half years," Davis said. "We have already announced a Malmaison for Dundee and are close to announcing three more properties in the coming weeks."
Expansion is expected to be via a mix of lease agreements and management contracts. Davis said last year's sale and leaseback of five hotels with the MWB Group - the parent company of the two brands - had resulted in a reduction in the company's debt to around £180m and meant that the company was now in a position to move forward with its growth. He has already held meetings with 12 developers keen to work with the two brands.
"The two brands carry a market premium and there is no shortage of partners who want to do business with us," he said.
In a bid to enhance the identity of each brand - the boutique/sexy feel of the larger city-centre Malmaison hotels with more than 100 bedrooms, primarily aimed at the corporate market, and the smaller Hotel Du Vin brand (40-50 bedrooms) with a hint of quirkiness and high-quality food and wine - Davis has altered the management structure, giving each brand its own operations director and chef director in place of the former regional management approach.
The 91-bedroom Malmasion Dundee will open in 2013 within the city's £1b Waterfront development. "It will have the Malmaison DNA running through it, but it will be the future of boutique hotels and will be very much at the cutting edge," Davis said. "We expect the design will become the blueprint for future Malmaison properties and we are likely to refurbish the Malmaison in London along the same lines soon after the Dundee hotel opens in 2013."
With regards to Hotel du Vin, Davis intends to look back to the origins of the brand launched by Robin Hutson and Gerard Basset in 1994 for inspiration. "Of course we will move the brand forward with the introduction of more technology, but in developing new hotels we want to ensure the classic French menu and superb wine lists are in place - alongside the high-quality furnishings - which originally created the huge success for the brand in the early days."
Davis confirmed that his expansion plans would not include Bistro du Vin. Former chief executive of Malamison and Hotel du Vin Robert Cook - now in Davis's old job at Village Hotels - announced that he planned to open 10 Bistro du Vin restaurants within five years at the time he launched the first site in Clerkenwell in April last year. A second Bistro du Vin opened in August 2011.
"High-street restaurants are not our core business and I would sooner that we were concentrating our efforts on opening hotels," Davis said. "The two existing Bistro du Vin restaurants will remain open, but will probably be brought more in line with the restaurants within Hotel du Vin."
Davis's background includes stints at Hard Rock Café and Planet Hollywood as well as looking after the hotel assets of Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Holding Company. He said that he had been proud of his five years at Village Hotels, during which time he grew the brand from 16 to 26 properties, but was eager for a new challenge.
"I was attracted by Malmaison and Hotel du Vin as they are two great brands and I believe that I can make a real impact on them - both on their development and commercially."
By Janet Harmer
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