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September 15, 2020

Hector Ross on Reimagining British History with The Mitre

Located next to Hampton Court Palace, The Mitre offers an exclusive taste of royal living.

By Kim Ayling

Stemming from a desire to showcase the rich history of some of the UK’s oldest buildings, The Signet Collection will launch this fall with the opening of the re-imagined The Mitre Hotel, with Hector Ross at the helm.

Dating back to 1665, The Mitre sits on the banks of the River Thames, next to Hampton Court Palace. The hotel has a royal history of its own, however, with the premises previously used as ancillary accommodation for the esteemed guests of King Charles II. Designers have taken this nod to royalty and ran with it, with luxurious suites named for Henry VIII and Catherine Parr and a signature beer aptly named ‘Six Wives’. With riverside dining, eclectic interior decor and an exclusive boathouse, The Mitre promises to blend olde worlde style with modern luxury.

However, launching a brand new hotel group on the back end of a worldwide pandemic is no mean feat regardless of its illustrious history, and its success will be in the hands of its leaders. With over 15 years’ experience under his belt, including handling the day-to-day runnings of Bel & The Dragon, as the groups’ managing director, Hector Ross brings a wealth of knowledge to The Signet Group. With what he describes as the dream team behind him, Ross is committed to the idea that a hotel is only as good as the people within it.

The Mitre Hotel interior

What would you name as your biggest career achievement to date?

Being part of the team that created Jockey Club Catering, the joint venture between 14 British Race Courses and Compass Group. The company was mobilized in record time, enabling us to cater for 100,000 people at the UK derby, held in June at Epsom Downs Racecourse each year.

What was your motivation behind launching The Signet Collection?

Having sold the Bel & Dragon Group, I saw an opportunity to do boutique hotels that really hero great food in outstanding locations, such as The Mitre which is situated on the banks of The Thames adjacent to Hampton Court Palace.

Hector Ross, founder of The Signet Group

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What prompted the decision to open The Mitre as the first hotel in the collection?

Having formed the business in October 2019, The Mitre was the perfect venue to crystallize the business plan and by great coincidence, it came to the market having been owned by the same family for 30 years.

Covid-19 has caused huge disruption in the hotel industry – what were the challenges you faced when preparing to launch a new hotel group in the middle of a pandemic?

When Covid-19 struck, we were just finalizing our development plans. Initially, we had planned to phase our investment in a two-year period, however, we ripped this plan up and borrowed the money to enable the team to live on-site and crack on with remodeling the hotel.

How do you think these challenges will continue as we emerge from the other side of lockdown measures?

My team and I have become stronger and closer as the world hopefully reawakens. We have employed a team that has had to retrain from other industries (airlines, construction, and retail) giving us a great can-do approach. The customer must come first!

We unsure if where our hotel customers will come from has changed. Whilst we originally expected to be 70 percent tourists, we are now actively seeking to embrace the staycation bonanza.

How do you think guests’ expectations and requirements will have changed as a result of Covid-19?

We have created our own app to enable the guest experience to commence the moment they book. This allows automatic check-in, to personalize your food and beverage & mini bar and to book experiences in your native tongue. Our operational procedures are continually reviewed to ensure guests’ and team members’ safety and enjoyment are continually scrutinized.

The Mitre Hotel restaurant interiors

With riverside dining, eclectic interior decor and an exclusive boathouse, The Mitre promises to blend olde worlde style with modern luxury /© The Mitre Hotel

Lounge area at The Mitre

Designers have taken this nod to royalty and run with it /©The Mitre

What will set the Signet Collection aside from other British hotel groups?

Being a collection enables us to get involved with all sorts of hospitality functions. Be that a pop-up restaurant at a festival, taking guests on vineyard adventures or our own teams’ cricket team…

Our business is built on four pillars:

– Brilliant & interactive F&B

– Historic building and locations

– Experiences: rowing down the Thames, Picnics, seasonal suppers and more

– Design: the devil is in the detail!

What are you looking for in potential hotel locations/buildings as you continue to build the Signet Collection portfolio? Will the rich building history as seen at The Mitre continue to be a key consideration across the group?

We love history. If you can mix this with iconic buildings that traded as successful hotels in yesteryear, then I hope to be able to bring them back to life as the heartbeat to the local community.

What element of The Mitre are you most excited for guests to experience when it opens in September?

To come and see the interior design, each of our 36 bedrooms is individually designed and named after interesting folk or past times and hobbies. My personal favorite is the Hunter’s Escape.

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