The managing director of what is set to be London's most ambitious opening of 2017, the 252-bedroom Ned hotel, has revealed the secrets behind its development.
To appeal to younger customers and millennials, Gareth Banner revealed there would be 15 smaller rooms at 19 sq ft, which he described as ‘crash pads' that will have a sub-£200 price tag.
Addressing a crowd of hotel industry professionals at the Hotel Forum yesterday (20 October), Banner spoke about the design, recruitment and marketing plans for the hotel, due to open in the former headquarters of the Midland Bank at Poultry in the City of London in early April 2017. The Ned is owned jointly by Soho House & Co and US hotel developer Sydell Group, which also owns the NoMad in New York, the Line in Los Angeles and Freehand in Miami.
He said that food & beverage was expected to comprise 50% of the hotel's revenue, supplemented by the members' club, even though the Ned's original F&B plan had changed slightly. After coming up with the original plans five years ago, "what was on trend back then is not necessarily on trend now", he explained. The hotel's original plan of nine food outlets has been reduced to eight, replacing the sushi bar with an Asian-Pacific diner and allowing the outlets more space, some of which will be 24-hour.
In terms of the logistics of running eight restaurants within the open-plan ground floor with a total of 850 sitting covers, he revealed that every outlet would be operated in-house, with some open kitchens, and they had spent "a huge amount of time and money getting the acoustics right". Original banking counters will provide partitions between restaurants, while staff would be marked out by small uniform changes, such as different aprons, to enable customers to know which staff are allocated to which restaurant, but also allowing staff to move quickly to service where demand is highest. "The uniform order was a seven-figure sum," he said.
"This could very easily go wrong," he laughed, but added they had gone through every fine detail, "to give us the best possible chance of getting it right". Banner told the audience they had recreated the planned routes and walked through a simulated service to see how it would work.
"I don't think we've solved everything. When you have opened the doors you will learn very quickly. But I learned the value of an exercise like that," he added.
"It's a massive undertaking and we still have a massive mountain to climb," he acknowledged. "We will between us see every member of staff and we want to stick to that goal - even for a few minutes."
When asked about the importance of experience in hospitality, he agreed that attitude was important, but added that a new opening needed experience too. "While I subscribe to that idea that it's 'all about attitude' to a point we have to have experience and we have to know they have got the stamina.
"The truth of the matter is hospitality experience will be really important. We can't have everybody with trainee on their badges; we have to know we have a high volume of experienced operators."
Banner added that he wanted to bring the City to life at weekends as well as during the working week, arguing that the number of restaurants and hotels opening in those areas shows the City is changing. "Operators want to open on the weekend and to do this we need everybody to work collectively," he said, adding that the hotel would particularly be marketed to the home counties around London, which have easy travel links with City stations such as Fenchurch Street, and that weekends will be an area to focus on.
"There's a huge number of people coming in from the home counties to spend a weekend in London. It could give people a reason to travel in," he added, describing the Ned as "a bit like a resort" in itself. "You could stay for a weekend and only eat in half the restaurants."
"Nothing about this hotel can be mediocre or we haven't done it justice."
•Gareth Banner was speaking at the Hotel Forum on 20 October in Kings Place, London, alongside managing director of the Chewton Glen hotel Andrew Stembridge, chief executive of Springboard Anne Pierce, and RBS senior UK economist Ross Walker. Further reports to follow.