Game changer

Apex Hotels have recently announced the appointment of Create (a division of The Concerto Group) as the Food & Beverage partner for their London Hotels. If successful, Create will become Apex’s partner across their entire Hotel Portfolio. Angela Vickers, CEO of Apex, and Adam Elliott, CEO of Concerto, spoke of their shared ambitions.

What does this new partnership bring?

The outsourcing of F&B operations to contract and restaurant groups has led to mixed results over the years. It has often struggled with the difference in culture although there are a number of key success stories over the years.

Apex Hotels has been one of the great success stories for British Hotels in the last decade. They have often been admired as being a well-run and forward thinking hotel group. The group has averaged impressive 98% occupancy levels and they would be the first to admit that they have focused on rooms over their F&B provision. The partnership with Create and The Concerto Group is a bold move. They are partnering with an expert that adds a distinctive and engaging F&B offer within the hotels and the view of really progressing the overall offer.

The CEO of The Concerto Group, Adam Elliott, was previously the COO of The ONE Group in the UK. The flagship operation was the STK restaurant and Radio Bar at the ME Hotel in Aldwych which has been a success for both parties. Adam has been an expert in outsource management, previously having been the CEO with Lindley Group/ Centerplate UK and a Managing Director within Elior.

“I am very excited by the partnership that we are entering into with Apex Hotels,” commented Adam Elliott. “They have been very supportive and open to ideas and innovation. We have really strived to change the approach that existed previously and develop offers that will engage the local customer audiences and build revenues.

I do think what is most impressive about the partnership is that Apex have been open and have worked with us to create tailored exciting concepts to work for their customer base.”

Angela Vickers agreed, “It was an interesting process as we met a number of possible partners and options but I think the difference with Adam is that he really understood our challenges and has worked hard to build an offer that works for both of us. We were not experts in F&B and we did need someone that really felt a passion for Apex Hotels to make sure that we could take the jump and agree the partnership. It is hard for two cultures to come together and work as one but the foundation has been we have had a shared vision. That is how it should be – two experts with a shared dream for what we are both striving to achieve.”

“We are very conscious that we have developed a very strongly performing hotel offer but we wanted to go to the extra level and build restaurant operations that would engage our guests and also the local community. Apex has always been founded in strong values and as community hotels.

Our belief is that the restaurants will enable us to play more active roles within the local business  communities.” It is clear as one talks to both that they clearly get along well and share common values as well as vision.

“I am passionate about great restaurants that engage and excite customers,” noted Adam. “I believe that there is real opportunity for great F&B operators to work with hotel operators successfully. Of course it is not easy. One is working with someone else’s property and has to take due care for the privilege that we are being extended. It is for this reason that a good partnership can really only be developed if there is a meeting of minds, culture and vision as both sides have to work so closely together. There will be many hoteliers who will not wish to outsource their restaurant and bar operations but the counter argument is that it is very hard to be an expert in every discipline – rooms, restaurants, bars, reception, conferencing and spas. It is quite natural to bring in an expert but only if the operator shares a passion for the hotel and it’s potential.

“The customer today is very demanding and has high expectations. There are some exceptional operations across the London restaurant scene and we need to compete against them.

“The first operation that we are going to be opening is at Seething Lane and we will be going into bat against both the new Four Seasons Hotel, Hilton Doubletree,

The Grange and Citizen M. This will be a challenge but we have a great team ready and mobilised to develop an exciting new offer.”

Create has traditionally been one of London’s events companies but Adam’s vision together with Create’s new Managing Director, Barry Vera, is to make Create far broader, more adaptable and challenging. They worked together at The ONE Group and are experienced in challenging clients with innovation and new food ideas.

Barry is one of the exciting emerging talents within the Industry. During his career,

Barry has worked for Conran Restaurants as well as Marco Pierre White. He also has invaluable experience from working across the world including Australia, Asia, France, Canada and South Africa. Barry is a modern culinary thinker who loves to be innovative

and is customer-focused. He has also worked on talkRADIO with Penny Smith and on TV too. Barry has every opportunity to be lead change and development in this area over the next ten years.

“Barry is another of the reasons that we felt so comfortable and confident with Create,” commented Angela. “Firstly it is clear that Barry and Adam are a dynamic force and lead a strong team. They get along well and work well in tandem. Barry also is naturally innovative and wants to take on the responsibility and lead role which gave us the confidence to let go. I do think this team will make a big difference for us as a group and that is exciting.”

“Modern restaurants need to be more than just more of the same – they need to enable customers to relax, feel comfortable with the design and have trust in the food.

I think this is where many may have failed in the past – hotel restaurants try to find a balance between their guests, the hotel team and external customers but have struggled to achieve this. The difference is that our ideology is based in food and our passion is to see customers excited by what we are striving to achieve. If we can excite and interest customers then we stand a fair chance to be successful. The same with our service level – the team love pleasing guests so if we excite and engage, then they too will be happy in their work.”

It is not hard to see that this partnership is full of promise and could be very exciting. It will be fascinating to watch how it develops and grows but with the passion and commitment shown by all three, one suspects that they will be very successful.