US hospitality concepts make their mark in Britain
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US hospitality concepts make their mark in Britain

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London is in the midst of an American entrepreneurial invasion, with its cousins from across the Atlantic making major waves on the city's hospitality scene. From hip hotels to burger joints, Leisure Opportunities takes a look at some of the US concepts taking the UK capital by storm.

Schrager comes home

Hotelier Ian Schrager has returned to London after 15 years with the opening of the London Edition in Fitzrovia, what he refers to as the 'next generation of lifestyle hotel', with 'incredible visuals, great service, exciting food and beverage concepts and a unique vibe'. And how did he create that unique atmosphere? "By following my instincts and giving people what they want. It's seeing things other people don't... connecting the dots".

It's the second Edition hotel, after Istanbul in 2011, a 173-room property - originally five separate 19th century townhouses combined in 1908 to form the Berners Hotel - said to be inspired by the traditional English country manor and the quintessential London private gentleman's club. Some of the original Georgian features remain, while the interiors include Grade II listed examples of Belle Epoque architecture from the period of the creation of the Berners Hotel alongside modern additions.

Rosewood blooms

A short distance away, 'ultra luxury' Dallas-based hotel management company Rosewood Hotels has opened the Rosewood London in High Holborn. According to Rosewood president Radha Arora, the hotel fits in perfectly with the company's 'A Sense of Place' philosophy, meaning that the hotels in the portfolio should reflect and celebrate the location's culture, history and geography.

The Rosewood London, with 262 guestrooms and 44 suites, occupies a Grade II listed Belle Epoque building which previously housed the Chancery Court Hotel. Prior to reopening it underwent a £85m (US$130m) renovation, with the building's original architectural features having been carefully restored. This includes the Grade II listed street frontage and dome, and the grand Pavonazzo marble staircase which rises up through all seven storeys of the hotel beneath the 166ft cupola.

Slice of Manhattan

More than 35 years after he moved to New York, Londoner Keith McNally returned to the UK to open Balthazar London with Richard Caring in February 2013. The restaurant is modelled on the original Balthazar in Manhattan, New York - opened in 1997 - and serves traditional French bistro food in the old Theatre Museum in Covent Garden, converted into a Parisian-style brasserie by Method Architects and designers Grayling Design. Balthazar Boulangerie is next door.

Shack in business

Also in Covent Garden is the UK's first Shake Shack burger joint. The concept began as a hot dog cart in Manhattan, New York in 2001, created by Danny Meyer to support the Madison Square Park Conservatory's first art installation. It ran in the park for three years until 2004, when Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group opened a permanent kiosk serving burgers, hot dogs, frozen custard, shakes, beer and wine.

The next Shake Shack didn't follow until 2010, when a second and third were opened in elsewhere in New York and a fourth in Miami. The new London venue joins the 21 now open in the US and the 12 operating elsewhere in the world. It serves Aberdeen Angus burgers, fries, Cumberland sausage hot dogs, St. JOHN Bakery brownies and the company's famous frozen custard.

Hipster haven

Alex Calderwood's boutique hotel chain, Ace Hotels, opened its first European site in London's Shoreditch in September 2013. The group's fifth hotel, the 258-bed property includes all the usual Ace ingredients: vintage and re-purposed furniture, flea market curios, original artwork and retro touches such as vinyl and turntables in the bedrooms. Revo radios with Ace-curated radio stations are standard and some of the better rooms even have acoustic Martin guitars as part of the furniture.

The aim has been to create rooms that feel like a friend's Shoreditch apartment, in keeping with Ace's philosophy of delivering hotels which are quirky and eclectic, having their own identity and being rooted in the history of the building and its location. In Shoreditch, materials relevant to the area were chosen to reflect the area's creative pedigree, such as dark engineering brick, cast bronze and galvanised steel.

Famous five

Five Guys, the burger restaurant chain run by Jerry and Janie Murrell and their five sons, first arrived in the UK in July 2013 with an opening in London's Covent Garden. A second site opened in Reading two months later followed by a third in Islington, London in November. The UK is Five Guys' first foray outside the US and has seen it team up with Carphone Warehouse founder Charles Dunstone, who co-owns the UK franchise. The Murrell's and Dunstone have big plans for the UK, with 10 new outlets selling premium burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and fries planned every three months across the country.

This story originally appeared in the Q1 2014 edition of Leisure Management magazine. To read the extended feature, click here.

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London is in the midst of an American entrepreneurial invasion, with its cousins from across the Atlantic making major waves on the city's hospitality scene. From hip hotels to burger joints, Leisure Opportunities takes a look at some of the US concepts taking the UK capital by storm.
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