The Ned London | Interview with Managing Director, Gareth Banner
Our in-house Nightlife Specialist, Emily Syphas, caught up with Gareth Banner, Managing Director of The Ned: a hotel, private members' club and collection of restaurants opening in the City of London next month.
EMILY: You've mentioned previously that hospitality was never your first choice of career; what drew you to the industry?
GARETH: I wasn't good at anything else… No I'm joking! For me, I've always been fascinated by hotels. As a child going out with my parents, I always loved the occasion and felt excited by the surroundings, hoping years later I might work in one. Hotels did turn out to be my first love! Fundamentally though what did engage me, and has kept me so interested in, hospitality, is the variety of the work and the opportunities I've had the chance to be involved in, the people I've met, and worked with or for. It's rare to find an industry where no two days are the same, and in fact can be completely different but equally as testing and rewarding. It's a privilege to look after guests and see them with smiles on their faces, having a good time.
EMILY: How did your position as General Manager of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel prepare you for taking on one of London's biggest hotel projects, The Ned?
GARETH: I don't think anything prepares you for The Ned! What we're doing hasn't been done before in this country. We are excited and apprehensive in equal measure and I need to draw on not only my own experiences but the full complement of team members that I've hired. It takes more than one person to open a hotel of this magnitude, and bring it to life – it's a hotel, a club, and will have a fantastic restaurant scene. St Pancras was another Grade 1 Listed building and that brings with it certain challenges – these buildings need to be treated with love and respect; they have a history and story of their own. Bringing them into a modern context is so rewarding though – you'll see this at The Ned with the magnificent Lutyens design, and elements of the original bank.
EMILY: What are the main differences you are anticipating between the two projects?
GARETH: The breadth of the facilities will be a vast change; St Pancras is a wonderful venue that for me will always hold fond memories, but the scale of The Ned will be completely different. There is a whole arm dedicated to the Private Members Club, seven public restaurants on top of the private offerings, and the fitness and spa area is over three floors! Our aim is to create somewhere for everybody, somewhere that is not for one type of customer. We want people to feel like they can spend £3 or £3000 with us, and make The Ned accessible for all – City workers, weekend visitors, international clients; we want to welcome them all and start to see the City as a social destination.
EMILY: The amazing thing about The Ned is also that you don't ever really need to leave!
GARETH: Well exactly! You could come for the weekend, and not eat in the same restaurant twice – there's so much to do. We're excited about the variety on offer.
EMILY: As Managing Director, you're taking on 800 new employees at The Ned; what is the best advice you can give to someone aspiring to be in your position one day?
GARETH: First and foremost, you need to have the right attitude, which can't be taught. It's hard work and hospitality asks a lot of you! Late nights, weekends, and holidays – you need to be prepared to be flexible. But it also gives you a huge amount back; I'm lucky enough through this industry to meet the most interesting people but, it's funny how they always want to talk about my work. People do see hospitality as a glamorous, exciting environment – I don't really speak to my lawyer friends about their day-to-day, and they don't particularly want to talk about it anyway! Hospitality is for people who are truly sociable. For me, the need to rise up and climb the ladder is important, and I've always tried to be a good leader, be very hands-on within the business, to really understand it and the people I work with. I think it's key to speak with the guests and understand their experiences – if you're always sitting in an office, you don't really know what is going on, and you can't be close to the things that really matter unless you're seeing them first-hand. At this level, it's a real challenge to balance the administrative side with the hands-on experience but it's vital not to lose touch with the guest experience as ultimately that's the most important thing.
EMILY: You're working with some great names in the food and beverage department, and also creating some new brands; what led to these collaborations?
GARETH: Cecconi's is a Soho House brand and one we know well, and that people really like – a classic import from Mayfair. A lot of the other brands are all developed by us, Soho House, and our other partner, the Sydell Group from the US who provide us with experience from across-the-pond! We have used the planning phase to talk to a lot of social media influencers to cross-check our ideas and ask for their input – we want make sure everything we offer is relevant now. We've been in the planning stages for almost 4 years now, so things that seemed great at the time, but may not resonate as well now. A great example of that was our sushi bar – we have actually decided to take a different route and launch our poké style, Japanese/Hawaiian fusion restaurant called Kaia. We're really excited! Malibu Kitchen was also a concept we successfully introduced in California, and we're replicating that here as our clean-eating offering. Don't worry we'll also be offering burgers, and something I'm already a fan of… Mac & Cheese! We're balancing the comfortable and the familiar, with progressive and creative concepts that sit alongside nicely and offer a lot of variety that I hope resonates with our guests.
EMILY: Ned's Club is set to be extremely popular, especially the beautiful rooftop and Vault Room lounge bar; what are you looking for in a potential member?
GARETH: The criteria for membership are different to Soho House; there is definitely some crossover but it's a much broader membership base. We will be welcoming people who work in finance and law, but also the more creative industries of media and entertainment. Our current membership base has been curated so that we not only have a wonderful balance, but also a good gender split – we would love to be at 50/50, but it's about 60/40 for now which is good considering the area we are in. We're really proud of the cross-section of professionals we will have using the club when it opens.
EMILY: And lastly, what is your favourite spot at The Ned?
GARETH: What a good question – I'm spoilt for choice! There are so many features that have something to offer; I'm as excited by the view from the infinity rooftop pool overlooking St Paul's Cathedral and the West-End, as I am by one of our beautiful spiral staircases that is actually just a fire escape! The original 92 African verdite columns in the main lobby couldn't be replicated today, and in that sense we're so lucky that we have this wonderful building which I hope people will enjoy as much as the service and hospitality that we offer.
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