Issue Iss3 2011
Hotel Bristol is not only one of Oslo’s most respected professional retreats but is also known for its marketleading banquets, restaurant and bars
Situated at the very centre of Oslo, Norway, the Hotel Bristol is a high-end hotel and restaurant and the flagship resort of one of the country’s most successful chains, Thon Hotels. The building first began planning in 1912 with the intention of completion in time for the country’s 1914 World’s Fair; delays, however, meant it didn’t finally start the construction before 1916 and the Hotel opened in 1920. By management buyout, Olav Thon acquired the hotel in 1974 and it became the first in what is now a successful chain of more than 60 premises throughout Norway, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands. These are furthermore part of the Thon Group, which also owns shopping malls, retail units and office blocks across Norway and Europe.
“As a chain, Thon Hotels has divided the hospitality business into four different segments,” explains Hotel Bristol’s director of operations Arne Marius Berg. “These are: budget, which is smart but simpler hotels; city, which are centrally located places of comfort; conference, which caters for professional needs and geared toward food and beverage; and resort, which are located close to nature. Hotel Bristol is part of the conference hotels segment.
“In 2000 we added 108 new bedrooms to the building, bringing the total to 251 including standard single and double rooms, business rooms and suites. In the same year we added a 500-person conference hall with a lecture room design. It can seat 400 for a banquet setup and 500 in a cinema-style conference arrangement. We also built small meeting rooms for between two and 40 people to accompany it. In 2008 we added the important Bristol Meeting Centre containing eight meeting rooms for between four and 50 people, bringing the total number of available meeting rooms in the building to 23.”
The size and popularity of Hotel Bristol means that catering to guests’ food and beverage needs is of the utmost importance, so it’s no surprise that in addition to the banqueting hall the building also boasts the Bristol Grill, an à la carte restaurant with a French-Scandinavian-themed menu, the famous Winter Garden and Library Bar, the buffet and snack bar Hambro’s, and Icebar Oslo, part of the international Icebar chain and located a brief walk from the hotel itself. Furthermore, at the heart of the hotel’s catering efforts are its banquets, having gained a reputation for one of the best banquet kitchens in the country. Its central facility is the traditional Mauritanian Hall, named after the frescos in the room with a capacity for up to 200 people, and is sometimes used by the Norwegian Royal Family; this is supported by smaller six to 30 person dining rooms, bringing the total capacity to 400.
“On the first floor we have the lobby area off which is the Winter Garden and Library Bar, a very popular informal lunch place not only for guests but also Oslo citizens,” says Arne. “The room has an historical feeling and is known for its hot chocolate, afternoon tea and sandwiches. In the evening the menu is geared more towards continental dishes at a more reasonable price than available at our à la carte restaurant. Here, we change the menu twice a year to keep it fresh and up to date. At the Bristol Grill we change the menu with the seasons four times a year, and are currently about to change to our Christmas selection. We are one of the most traditional restaurants in Oslo and have become incredibly popular for our lutefisk, a traditional Norwegian pre-Christmas dish. The rest of the year there is French cuisine focused on locally sourced vegetables and meats. We try to maintain a seasonal menu, reflecting the game and vegetables available at a certain point of the year.”
Hotel Bristol’s catering is an important part of its business, accounting for 45 per cent of its annual revenue. Business has grown since its low point in 2009, with 2011 expected to return good results, and management is positive about prospects for 2012. It is therefore 43in the hotel’s best interests to maintain an exceptional quality throughout all its facilities, so it has recently been undergoing renovations to its bar areas. Last year, for example, it completely rebuilt its cocktail bar and is hoping within two and a half years it will be recognised as one of the ten best bars in Scandinavia. Its Bristol Grill kitchen was closed for six weeks this summer and refurbished to absolutely modern standards. Meanwhile, beginning next year, the hotel will begin refurbishing its 251 guest rooms, modernising the décor whilst retaining the traditional atmosphere for which they have become known. That will be a three to four year project but aims to keep the hotel relevant well into the future.
“There is a lot of promise for us, with this year’s Christmas high season about to begin and already a host of bookings for next year,” concludes Arne. “Our basic strategy is to hold our market position in the conference and business sector whilst maintaining our reputation for top class food and beverage. Through doing this we have a goal to increase overall revenue that we can then invest back into the future of Hotel Bristol.”