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March 9, 2014updated Mar 24, 2014

Paul Mansi, Chief Operating Officer, The Edwardian Group

By Chris Boyle

imgres-3With 14 luxury and upper upscale hotels in prime locations between London, Manchester and Guildford, The Edwardian Group is a major player in England’s high-end hotel scene.  The group’s renovation of The May Fair in London with its array of specialty suites, each with a distinctive design, and its offer of Private Wings, has demonstrated its appeal for elite travelers.

With the green light to start design and construction on a new flagship in Leicester Square, Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief caught up with The Edwardian Group Chief Operating Officer Paul Mansi at The May Fair to get an update.

Elite Traveler:  Where is your office?

Paul Mansi:  Our corporate offices are at Heathrow but I meander with intent between the hotels. With so many properties in key areas of Central London I am able to keep my finger on the pulse.

ET:  How does The Edwardian Group differ from others?

PM:  What’s quite unique about us are we are owner-operators which means service is in our blood.  We also specialize in in-house resources.  We have in-house IT team and we have an in-house building team with 80 employees. We invest between $15 million and $30 million renovating our existing properties every year.  We just finished all of the conference rooms at The Vanderbilt (in South Kensington) and now we are doing over 48 conference rooms at Heathrow.  In many hotels renovation happens every five years or so, and things get worn down a bit.  Because we own the hotels, and because we do renovation in-house we do a better job of keeping them up on a continual basis.

ET:  How does being owner operated translate into guest experience?

PM:  It’s our culture and the fact that we are a family run company, and the longevity of the team. For example I’ve been here 31 years.  Most of the senior management has been here 25 years plus.  People really feel that they are shareholders, and they want to do the right thing for the customers.  We have 181 bespoke training courses that last from 10 minutes to a year.  We hire for attitude.  People come in and either love us and stay forever or don’t.  The buzzword is experience, but it’s not new for us.  Because we are owner operated its always been about experience.  At a lot of five star hotels it can be a bit snooty.  Our USP is that genuine hospitality and the family-run culture with in-houses resources (to support it).

ET:  How about building your team?

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PM:  We often look for the number twos or threes (at other hotels).  They are often more motivated.  The people who have been in the same five star hotel for 10 years I find often have lost it.  The more senior people become, the more they become strategic or go off talking at seminars. We don’t want bureaucrats.  We want people who are out there with the customers, and happy about that.

ET:  What’s the difference between the experience at you Upper Upscale Hotels and Luxury properties?

PM:  The more you pay, the higher the expectation.  Our standards for our four star hotels are no different than five stars except you need more people because there are more services.  Hospitality is about the person in front of you.  It’s training but you can be so polished you lack character.  At all of our hotels you are going to get genuine warmth.

ET:  What about your new hotel?

PM:  We haven’t named it yet. We just got planning permission in January and hopefully we will break ground in September.  It will be purpose built opening in 2017 with a series of restaurants and bars, including a bar around an outside pool area and a spa over two floors.  There will be a central atrium. This building will be truly iconic.  There will be 360 rooms including 50 suites. With the clientele we have suites are very important. The design of the rooms is going to be at a higher level than any of our existing hotels. The interesting thing about our building is it goes down 30 meters, so it’s down almost as far as it is high.  Because of planning constraints, even though it’s more expensive, we want to get the product we want and we are willing to invest for the long-term.

ET:  And are you happy with The May Fair?

PM:  We’ve done lots of work here.  We expanded the building, put an extra floor on top and completely refurbished the entire hotel adding 100 rooms.  It’s an extremely competitive market and you have to be on top of your game.  By having our in-house construction we are constantly and constantly renovating so it allows us to do things quickly.  We also use technology to really help give our team information to help the customer. Our IT director comes from a customer service background, so the idea is how does it help the guest?

ET:  Any other news?

PM:  We are going to re-launch Quince restaurant as The May Fair Kitchen this Spring. It is based on Steak and Lobster, which has been very successful in Manchester.  It’s concept where we display all the fish and meats. We will probably take it to some of our other hotels as well.

ET:  How about going outside of England?

PM:  We’re businesspeople so we don’t want to expand for expansions sake.  We are primarily London based.  Outside of London it would be a management contract, but you never know.  We only want to do something if we can make money.

ET:  Are there any other things you would mention?

PM:  One of the things that drives us is we are never happy.  Getting everyone the right information is critical. We have a KPI system that feeds live information so people can always see what relates to what they do on an ongoing basis, for example Guest Satisfaction, Employee Engagement and Cash Flow.  The key is its all fed in live daily so you don’t wait a month for a stack of reports.

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