A tailor made stay

In order to offer its customers the best possible experience, Malmaison is planning to introduce a loyalty programme with a difference

Named after the famed Château de Malmaison country house, located seven miles from the centre of Paris, the Malmaison brand was formed in 1994 in Glasgow, Edinburgh. Today the group, which also owns the Hotel du Vin brand, operates 12 Malmaisons situated across the UK, from Aberdeen to London, in locations including Belfast, Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, Reading and Oxford. Together with the 14 hotels in the Hotel du Vin chain, Malmaison boasts some 2000 bedrooms around the country and its hotels typically come equipped with a bar, brassiere, dining room and various meeting rooms.
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“The last couple of years have been about getting through the challenging times that were brought on by the banking crisis and the subsequent recession, something Malmaison has achieve particularly well,” explains group CEO Robert Cook. “Due to the financial uncertainty of the last three years there has not been much activity in the way of expansion, however there have been some positive signs of opportunity, particularly within the restaurant side of the business.

“In the months of April and June 2011, Malmaison opened two stand alone restaurants, called Bistro du Vins, in Clerkenwell and Soho in London, and in July 2011 a new American style concept restaurant, called Smoak Bar and Grill, in the Malmaison in Manchester. What this gives the group is a branded restaurant product situated away from its brasseries, a development that was spurred on by the success of Malmaison’s steak house in Aberdeen, which is without question the group’s most successful restaurant. This has given Malmaison the confidence to replicate this formula and take it a step further by designing and branding a chain that specialises in using oak flamed grills.”

Malmaison’s reputation for providing a hotel stay with a difference is something that existed before the recession and still exists to this day. As Robert states, one of the things that helped create this is the work the group carries out in its kitchens: “Food and drink is at the heart of what Malmaison does as a brand and it believes in having the very best produce available at all times. The core philosophy all Malmaison hotels work under is the idea of buying locally, sourcing everything they use from within a 30-mile radius. This not only ensures the best ingredients are brought in, it also allows the group to give something back to the local communities.

“By providing great food and having a highly motivated, expertly trained staff on hand to provide exceptional service, the group is able to offer a different class of catering experience for all its customers. To really highlight the importance of this area of the business you need only look at the figures and the fact that, of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin’s combined turnover of £114 million pound annual turnover, £51 million comes from its restaurants. There are very, very few hotels that can claim to bring in half of its revenue from food and beverages, but that is exactly what Malmaison achieves.”
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New ventures
A number of new ventures are planned for the years ahead, with conversations currently in progress over the possibility of taking the brand abroad, with particular attention being paid to Asia, where the group has a vision of first acting as a property manager as opposed to an outright owner. An initiative that appears to be much more imminent is the introduction of a loyalty programme, one that is loosely modelled on the British Airways Executive Club model: “Malmaison has some very big plans for its loyalty programme,” Robert says emphatically. “The group’s decision to pursue such an idea comes as a direct result of feedback it has garnered from its customers.

Returning guests
“What has been gleaned from various opinion groups is that, when it comes to loyalty schemes, customers are not necessarily looking to simply receive awards, points or prizes, what they want just as much is recognition, recognition for the fact that they are choosing to stay at a Malmaison hotel as opposed to a different brand. What the group can achieve in the future, through the use of IT, is a system that recognises returning guests and tailors their individual experiences at the hotel to suit their particular tastes, providing them with the perfect hospitality experience.”

Plans the group has in the pipeline also include a programme of upgrades for several older Malmaison hotels in Edinburgh, Leeds and Newcastle and the development of two Hotel du Vin sites in St. Andrews and Canterbury. As this work progresses, Malmaison, as Robert highlights, will focus on building on the success of its bistros and restaurants: “Over the next 12 months the group will look to establish up to a dozen of its bistros in central London, before eventually taking the concept out of the capital into areas where the group is currently not trading. Everyone at Malmaison has high hopes for its different restaurant concepts and we all believe steadfastly in the group’s’ ability to continue trading well, going from strength to strength.”