Mollie's Motel & Diner brand gears up for expansion with Manchester site to open next year

16 August 2021 by
Mollie's Motel & Diner brand gears up for expansion with Manchester site to open next year

Mollie's Motel & Diner brand, designed by Soho House, is gearing up for expansion following the opening of its second site in Bristol's Cribbs Causeway last month, with a third lined up for next year in Manchester and 10 further locations earmarked.

"They're getting close and we know where we want to be," Mollie's chief executive Darren Sweetland told The Caterer. "They're major locations that everybody would expect and they're the right locations to get the brand on the map and be getting good coverage of the UK."

The ‘budget-luxe' brand, inspired by 1950s American motels and diners and offering stays from as little as £50 a night, launched in 2019 with a 79-bedroom motel, diner and drive-thru in Buckland, Oxfordshire. The Bristol site (pictured), representing a £15m investment, features 123 bedrooms, a 195-cover diner and heated terrace, and a communal workspace.

An even larger hotel and dining concept will follow in the former Granada TV Studios in Manchester in 2022 – the group's first city centre site – with a Soho House member space and rooftop pool located in the building's top floors.

"The concept works really well with Soho House," said Sweetland. "As we expand, I do like to think we could do more of those."

Differences between the venues will be more influenced by their locations and the history of the buildings in which they are situated than whether they are roadside or city centre locations. Although, as stays in the Manchester city centre site are expected to be longer than the stop-offs typical at the Oxfordshire venue on the A420, the Manchester Mollie's will have more than 20 suites, something Sweetland said he believed for which there is going to be an increasing market.

The brand plans to expand into multiple types of locations as well as internationally in the long-term.

"We're actively searching for multiple different types [of sites]," said Sweetland. "We're searching for freehold land, ground-up new-build developments. We're also looking at conversions and refurbishments, and indeed we're looking at mixed-use opportunities as well. All of those really come together to rapidly scale this footprint over the next two to three years."

He added: "We're even looking at group purchases and portfolios to convert into Mollie's too. We're really keeping it quite broad because we know that to build a pipeline and to have a rapid expansion plan, we need to have a broad remit, otherwise we're not going to get it. It's fair to say the strategy will be both roadside and city centre: we want to do both."

Sweetland was confident in the brand's proposition, with its Oxfordshire site hitting occupancy levels of 80%-90%, and was full on some weekends, while Bristol was approaching 60%-70% six weeks after opening. Although he said the brand had not been immune to the impact of the ‘pingdemic', he said Mollie's had coped "tremendously well", which he partly ascribed to being an "up and coming" brand.

Mollie's was founded and conceptualised by Soho House chief executive Nick Jones, and initially launched under the Soho House brand umbrella, but was spun-off as an independent entity last year. It is now backed by majority shareholder Javad Marandi (who is also an investor in Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire) along with co-shareholders David Elghanayan, co-founder and managing partner at investment firm Nema Capital, and Sweetland, former EMEA finance director of Soho House. Mollie's venues continue to be designed by the Soho House interiors team.

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