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ABTN spoke to Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel General Manager Anthony Stewart-Moore
The Grosvenor House is finally reaching the end of its four year, ”100 million renovation, and next Monday 8 September will be rebranded as Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel. Well known for its huge events rooms The Great Room and the Ball Room, it has several new restaurants, including an excellent brasserie ” Bord”eaux with Olliue Couillard (La Trompette, The Square, Chez Bruce and Tom”s Kitchen) and a new fine dining restaurant from Richard Corrigan opening in November.
Why has the refurbishment taken so long?
It was a very complex refurbishment, and a great deal of the delay was related to the fact that when you deal with an old building, you discover things you weren”t expecting such as pipes that need replacing or loose asbestos which brings in further health and safety issues.
What benefit does the JW Marriott brand add to the Grosvenor House?
We say informally that the Marriott brand is geared to the achiever, while the JW Marriott brand is geared towards the accomplished achiever, someone who says, I”ve made it, I”ve done it, and who wants luxury on their own terms, and that”s what we hope to offer. These guests don”t want super formal, so that”s why we have a brasserie as one of our restaurants. We see CEOs coming down in the evening wearing a sweatshirt and jeans. There”s a lot of pressure on these people, but they want to put their iPod on, or have a steak and frites. So we try and offer something that is culturally authentic, and we have very knowledgeable staff, and then there are the linens and the hours of service and the number of restaurants - everything from a small caf” to the new fine dining Corrigans, when it opens in November.
Isn't it only a JW Marriott because Ritz Carlton has an agreement with the Ritz Hotels in London and Paris and Madrid not to open in those cities?
Well, that is agreement is there, so it is a JW Marriott and it has always been intended as such. I”m not sure it would have been a Ritz-Carlton. We have a lot of rooms and large conference rooms so I”m not sure that would fit as a Ritz-Carlton.
Where will your guests come from next year as a result of this rebranding?
I expect we will see more coming from Asia Pacific where the JW brand is very well known and very well expected, and from the Middle East, where the brand is known because of properties in Dubai and Kuwait. It is gaining in reputation and awareness in the States, and guests are beginning to choose between JW and the Marriott brand and understand the difference between them. JW has been around for quite a few years, with the first one in Washington DC, but it is in the last few years that there has been a major push on it. They will also see the physical change to the property which has come about because of the refurbishment, and of course there is the position of the hotel. Probably somewhere around 35 per cent of rooms have Hyde Park views, and 30% of our meeting rooms look out into the park.
Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel
Will room rates go up as a result of the rebrand?
Well they will go up as a result of the refurbishment, yes. We have spent in excess of ”100 million on the property, so there is an expectation. The pricing on the new rooms as they came on board has gradually increased the rates, but even during the renovation, when for a few months we were down to only 160-odd rooms, the shortage of rooms allowed us to maintain the rates. What we”ve also done is put a great deal of focus on the guest side of things, it was the critical element for us. Guests have a choice: they can stay in London at a hotel where the room costs ”100 each night, or can they stay with us where the cheapest rack rate room is ”350. And what they are buying with the extra money is insurance, among other things, the insurance that nothing will go wrong with their stay, and if something does go wrong, it will be fixed quickly.
Grosvenor House is well known for its conferencing facilities.
The conferencing revenue alone makes up 30 to 35 per cent of our revenue, not including the guest rooms rental that comes as a result of it, and though that percentage will change when we have a full complement of rooms, it”s clear that it will remain a major source of our revenue.
We are a very good meetings hotel, and going back to where we expect our guests to come from, you can divide it into group and non-group bookings. We do a lot of small corporate meetings, the majority of which will be US companies. We get a lot of global partners meetings business. London is an ideal location to bring in your partners from all around the world, so it will be a US corporation booking the business, maybe through their London office. That group business will be 50 per cent U.S corporate business-driven, but worldwide in attendance. And then 30 per cent will be typically three-day UK business, and the rest will be the rest of the world.
The non-group business, which makes up a total of 70 per cent of our room business, is 25 per cent from the US, and 15 per cent from the Middle East, though that Middle East business tends to be concentrated into a two or three month period over the summer, and then the rest is the rest of the world: Europe and Asia, and quite a bit from India.
Our meeting facilities at 86 Park Lane, although fully completed, will not launch until April 2009 because of ongoing works on the apartments in the same building as the Grosvenor House hotel, though these works cause no disruption to guests. The building is two towers joined by our lobby. On the southern end as you look at it from Park Lane we have the meeting rooms, so the basement, ground and first floor are the hotel”s, while from the second floor up to eighth floor there are about 120 apartments which are being refurbished. Because of that we cannot yet open our meeting rooms during the day, simply because there”s a risk of noise problems. They are fine in the evenings, and of course there are many days when there is no noise at all, but the works on the apartments will be finished next year and so we will be able to market the function rooms.
What other works still remain?
Marriott is the largest spa operator in the United States, and so towards the end of 2009 we will have a spa of around 15,500 feet ” there was always a health club in that space in the hotel and there”s an existing 20 metre swimming pool. Having a spa today on Park Lane is no longer a differentiator it”s a qualifier, a prerequisite.
For all the money spent on the refit, there is always more to do. Although there is high speed broadband in the rooms (for ”19 for 24 hours), there is no wifi (it is in the public areas). Not doable because of the thickness of our walls, but now there is new technology so they are looking at it.
For more information, visit www.marriott.com.
Grosvenor House's newly refurbished lobby