Charles Oak Discusses ‘Super Boutique’ Hotel The Londoner
We talk to Charles Oak, director of the world’s first ‘superboutique’ hotel, the Londoner, about adapting to all markets and making ’boutique’ bigger.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in July of 2021.
In a world increasingly dedicated to the premiumisation of experience, it was only a matter of time before even boutique hotels went further upmarket. But what exactly does that mean?
So, tell us about the Londoner, Charles.-
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The Londoner is a brand-new concept from one of the UK’s largest family-run hotel groups, Edwardian Hotels London. The hotel is going to be the world’s first ‘superboutique’ hotel and will be launching this September, with over 350 rooms, six different concept eateries throughout the hotel, an exclusive members’ club-style space, just for guests, an incredible floor fully dedicated to wellness, two luxury cinema screens, and an incredible range of meetings and events spaces that the capital has never seen before.
What is a ‘super-boutique’ hotel?
In scale, the Londoner is super. The hotel spans over 16 stores in total – and with room numbers and event capabilities greater than many luxury hotels in the city, we are proud of the size and scale of the project. However, the Londoner is every inch the boutique hotel, at the same time. Our design partners, Yabu Pushelberg, were briefed to create spaces that made our guests feel like they were at home. This boutique energy extends into our carefully thought-through F&B programme, and also our in-house team, who operate as a family on site. There is no other hotel in the world that matches a property this size, with an experience that feels so intimate and personal. This is why we are proud to introduce to the world the concept of the ‘super-boutique’ hotel.
Towards what customers does the Londoner look?
The Londoner is a versatile hotel, and there is not one specific market that will be our focus – we really can adapt and meet all needs. It is important to understand that the hotel – even from its name, the Londoner – is one that embodies the energy and style of London as a city, and London is an incredibly diverse and vibrant city. From the artwork throughout the property to the design details in the rooms, there are continual nods to British humor and sensibilities. However, these flourishes and details will become as appealing to our international guests as they will be to Londoners themselves.
How has it been getting the hotel ready to open during a pandemic?
Any opening is a challenge. An opening of this magnitude and ambition raises that challenge exponentially. Add to the mix a global pandemic, and the task becomes nothing short of miraculous!
How has the last year and a half been for you, personally?
Without question, the events of 2020 escalated in a way that none of us could have quite expected. It was very sad to see the short-term impacts across the hospitality and arts sectors, which are both very close to my heart. However, I have worked in the hospitality sector for 40 years, and we have seen crises before – such as SARS or 9/11 – and whilst this pandemic has been an enormous disruption, I do have a lot of faith, optimism and excitement for the upcoming recovery phase.
What are your expectations for the reopening of the sector? History has shown us that after any period of depression, there is a hunger to enjoy life once again – look at the Roaring Twenties! I see restaurants doing well from the domestic market, but the Continued RESTRictions on Travel and People’s Return to Life-Covid ‘Presents Complications for Hotever, We Are Confident that the approti. Te For DORORTIC Travel is Abs Absolutely There in the Short Term, and we know that our Friends Overseas are itching to return to London as soon as they can – and we are ready for them!
What changes do you expect to see in hotels?
Clearly, hygiene in hotels has always played a major role, but, given the fallout of the pandemic, the emphasis has increased significantly. Very specific cleaning methods and regimes will be critical to reassure guests and colleagues alike.
What changes do you expect to see in customers?
I expect some will have a sense of trepidation, emerging back into the real world. Our job will be to reassure and instil confidence.
How adaptable is the hotel industry?
The hotel industry is constantly adapting and will continue to do so. The desire for people to see the world and explore is completely insatiable. This creates an environment that is constantly evolving, improving and changing.
What are the greatest challenges facing your businesses at the moment?
In the immediate term, our focus is on generating sales – as many of the typical territories that travel to London are not yet able to visit. Another big challenge is recruitment – the combination of Brexit and the pandemic has resulted in many European workers returning to their native countries and not coming back to the UK. This is an issue that is being felt widely across the industry. However, as I said earlier, we work in an extremely dynamic and innovative sector, and I have every confidence that these challenges will be overcome.
Are there opportunities, do you think?
There are always opportunities. We have to adapt and be innovative to disrupt the market. As Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Out of adversity comes opportunity.’
What plans do you have for the next six to nine months?
Well, first and foremost, opening the world’s first super-boutique hotel! I am going to be totally focused on bringing this extraordinary product to market and making the Londoner name synonymous with style, luxury and exemplary service.
AT A GLANCE
LONDONER NUMBER OF BEDROOMS:
NUMBER OF INDIVIDUAL F&B SPACES: 6
NUMBER OF STAFF: 400; 200 front of house, 200 back of house
Read more: Hospitality Ireland Summer 2021: Read The Latest Issue Online!