Rejuvenating a region
Sometimes rather unfairly overlooked when it comes to discussing growth in various regions of the UK, the North East of England may be one of the country’s best kept secrets. With over 50,000 companies in the region, and its proven ability to attract investors from all over the world, the region actually experienced one of highest growth rates in company numbers between 2014 and 2015, second only to London. As one of the fastest growing knowledge economies in the UK, the area has shown itself to offer a compelling, and rewarding, opportunity for developers, investors and end users.
One of those to forge a lasting legacy in this prosperous part of the UK has been the Malhotra Group. Part of Malhotra Family Holdings, this family-owned company has spent the time since its founding in 1991 building up a high-quality leisure, care and property portfolio. Catching up with Malhotra Group co-owner and Operations Director, Atul Malhotra, the group finds itself on the cusp of an exciting period of development, which will extend across the length of 2018, and will help shape its immediate and long-term future.
“We have spent much of the last couple of years engaging in planning permission discussions, particularly with the local council and English Heritage,” Atul begins. “Fortunately, these have come to what we consider to be a very successful conclusion, with permission granted for several key hotel and leisure developments, which will begin to take shape during the course of 2018. In the meantime, we are currently building two new care facilities, one in Alnwick and one in Sunderland, with another site in Whitley Bay to commence in early 2018, all of which will take our care home portfolio to 15 buildings, with our current target being a total of 20 in the coming years.”
Another project that has recently begun is the £5.6 million hotel, bar and restaurant conversion of the well-known Newcastle pub, the Three Mile Inn, Gosforth. Located in an affluent area of the city, the pub will be transformed into a 64-bed hotel, bar and restaurant, with the first phase involving the build of a three-storey extension to provide for more accommodation space. Later phases will see the conversion of the building from two to three storeys and the creation of conference and private dining facilities, a residents’ lounge, café bar and restaurant.
Work on the Three Mile Inn follows on the heels of the successful £1.2 million refurbishment of the group’s Grey Street Hotel, which was unveiled in July 2017. The Malhotra Group has been in charge of the Grade II listed building since 2013. “We acquired what was, at the time, a somewhat run down old boutique hotel,” Atul explains. “What we have done in the time since is invest in reinvigorating the building, bringing it back to its former glory. In doing so we have transformed all of our 49 bedrooms, introduced new conference and meeting facilities, opened new beauty treatment rooms and put things in place so that the hotel now serves as a premier wedding venue. All of the rooms feature a specific colour, with the walls, and names of the suites, featuring some of the North East’s most famous pioneers, including Lord Collingwood, Thomas Bewick and Charles Grey himself.”
In addition to its existing hotels and leisure facilities, the Malhotra Group continues to diversify its offering with plans being approved for the development of its Jesmond Gin House and a new gaming centre on Osborne Road, Jesmond. Sitting alongside its existing 55 bedroomed Jesmond hotel, which itself is to receive refurbishment work and an extension of 12 additional suites, Jesmond Gin House will be home of Jesmond Gin, the product that the group has been working on with a local company, and will provide a premier venue for those customers who have spurred renewed interest in gin, premium cocktails and other beverages. Jesmond Gin will also then find itself on the menus of all of the Malhotra Group’s venues. The aforementioned gaming centre, meanwhile, will carry the name ‘Eat, Chill, Play’ and will feature a restaurant bar alongside ten pin bowling, table football and table tennis areas, and various arcade machines.
Catering for rapidly changing eating and drinking habits has been key to the success of the group’s various ventures. Whether this be the above referenced embracing of gin or the gravitating of people away from traditional three course meals to Tapas and street style foods, the group’s bar and restaurants look to meet this demand with only the best quality produce. Working with both established, national players such as Bidvest, or with countless local suppliers, the group and its operations team are incredibly hands-on when it comes to their food options.
Over the next five years, the Malhotra Group anticipates spending close to £100 million on various developments in Newcastle and the wider North East. Up to £35 million of this investment has been earmarked for one of the city’s most exciting undertakings, which is the group’s plan to create a luxury hotel complex, complete with a rooftop swimming pool, nightclub, restaurants and retail outlets to be situated on Grey Street. At the heart of the complex, which will encompass nine existing buildings, seven of which are Grade II listed, will be a 120-bedroom four-star deluxe hotel. Full plans for the scheme will be presented to the council by the end of 2017, with a view to commencing with refurbishment in spring 2018. If approved, it is hope that the leisure complex will be open by the end of 2020, creating the jewel in the crown of the group’s property portfolio.
With so much work on its plate, it will be of little surprise that recruitment of staff is now high on the Malhotra Group’s agenda. “Our ambition is to take our employment levels up from 1200 to 1800 over the next five years,” Atul reveals. “We recognise that we can only bring these exciting projects to fruition by having the right people, and that is why we are actively on the lookout for experienced people, with a knowledge of the market in Newcastle and who are looking for a new challenge. We are seeking people at all levels of the business, from managers to chefs and mixologists, and welcome anyone who feels that they have something to bring to the group.”