INTERVIEW | Thomas Kochs: Maltese hotel brand amongst one of London’s finest

Business Today catches up with Thomas Kochs, Managing Director of Corinthia London, a Maltese export known for its rich heritage and currently standing as one of the English capital’s most luxurious and exclusive hotels

 Thomas Kochs
Thomas Kochs

Could you tell us more about the fascinating history of the hotel?

The history of the building is indeed fascinating. The building has only been in operation as Corinthia Hotel London for eight years, but there is a long history behind it. In 1884, it first opened as a hotel, ‘The Metropole’ but was soon a taken over by the government during the First World War.

After the war, it briefly opened as a hotel again in the wonderful time of the 1920s where ballroom dancing and midnight celebrations took place. This didn’t seem to be its destiny, because in the 1930s it was taken over by the government again and was shut down as a hotel entirely and housed the Ministry of Defense soon after.

For many decades, the building was owned by the government before Corinthia acquired it when it was up for sale.

It is very interesting when you look back, because it wasn’t actually the amount of money or the finance that made us win the bid, but the loving restoration plan that showcased what we were planning to do with the building to reinstate it as one of London’s finest hotels again. It has since been beautifully restored and reopened in its full glory.

What does the Corinthia brand stand for and what does it represent?

As a brand, Corinthia is a family-inspired business with timeless family values underpinning the spirit of Corinthia. Our founder, Mr Pisani, is still alive and has been running the family business since the 1960s. The spirit of Corinthia is something that is very prominent in the brand, which represents a number of things. Warm hospitality is of course at the heart of our brand.

Corinthia London is a modern grand hotel where we put a lot of emphasis on our services and believe a good welcome is part of the luxury and hospitality experience. We want to give our guests the best possible experience we can.

The brand also stands for refined luxury and exceptional product and you’d realise this by looking at our guest room product as well as other design welcoming, inspiring spaces throughout the hotel. We’ve worked with inspirational designers who have helped us bring our brand identity to life through the unique and luxurious design and precious materials used throughout.

When you visit Corinthia as a guest, you always experience something that you wouldn’t have expected. For example, even though you’d expect to find a spa in a hotel, you wouldn’t expect it to be spread over four floors with 17 treatment rooms. The spa is set in a space of iconic beauty, offering beautiful facilities where you can spend hours on end.

The same applies to the food, restaurant and bar portfolio, which are all key ingredients in our hospitality. A new generation of diners is constantly looking for unique and authentic dining experiences.

At Corinthia, there is always something to discover and this is something that sets us apart from our competition.

Even though our guests get to experience something that feels very British, at the same time, they get to experience something unique that won’t necessarily be found in other hotels.

Why should a business traveller choose the hotel?

There are many reasons to visit Corinthia London. If you know what you like and if you would like to travel in style and enjoy a hotel that feels relevant but is also very reassuring when it comes to luxury 5 star services, I think Corinthia London is a wonderful choice.

The hotel is centrally located in the heart of London, with all the major landmarks a few minutes away… the river, wonderful museums, an array of restaurants, galleries and theatres. Everything is on your doorstep. If you travel on business, it is very convenient to get to you your meetings in no time.

The hotel has been designed to meet the needs of both the business and leisure guest, offering a range of exceptional amenities to meet the needs of the twenty-first century traveller. Meetings and events are key to the success of any business, that’s why we work closely with you to meet our guests’ every requirement.

Corinthia is equipped with a Business Centre, including six spacious meeting rooms providing flexible space for meetings of up to 25 delegates in boardroom style, each featuring the latest technology, including drop-down projectors and screens, and fast, free Wi-Fi throughout.

We’ve also recently unveiled 11 new spacious suites that include a large living room and work area, enabling our guests who are travelling on business to host meetings, dine as well work in a more relaxed atmosphere.

What about your occupancy rate targets? How do you plan on reaching them?

The guests of course always see the front of house elements; the smiling receptionists and the busy waiters who make sure everything is being catered for. There is also a commercial side to hotels. We employ revenue management teams as well as marketing teams. A robust revenue management strategy is of the utmost importance, helping to optimise results.

The revenue management side of busy London hotels is really a very healthy combination of driving occupancy and having a fairly flexible rate span. I’m mentioning this because not every city operates like this.

If you look at Paris, for example, it is more of a rate driven city, whereas London is more of an occupancy driven city.

Here, we are aiming to achieve an average occupancy of 70-80% over the year, which is in fact very busy because even though you think you always have 20% of your inventory empty, if you look at the busiest times of the year like January, the weekends and bank holidays, this is definitely not the case.

We’ve spoken about our product, which we always want to keep in pristine condition, so we need to have availability to actually get into those rooms and maintain them.

You’re definitely not slacking, especially in the food and beverage department. You’ve recently opened Kerridge’s bar and Grill and have appointed a new executive Michelin-starred chef. Can you tell us a bit more about the last year in this department?

The food and beverage department has been looked at quite a bit over the last year and this was done with a lot of thought behind it.
First of all, restaurants and bars are great fun and an element of fun, enjoyment and light heartedness is of course what guests wants from a hotel.

If you look at the highly competitive landscape of hotels here in London, restaurants and bars are a real opportunity to further differentiate ourselves and create a style that is our very own; one that’s unique, recognisable and admired by the guests.

Last year we got the opportunity to collaborate with Michelin-starred celebrity chef Tom Kerridge, who is now our partner in on of the restaurants, Kerridge’s Bar and Grill, which opened in September last year… and what a success it was.

The guests are just loving it and Tom Kerridge is simply incredible. He is surely one of the most popular chefs in the UK at the moment, but to us he is the best chef in the world.

We have also reviewed our afternoon tea concept, which is such a British tradition. This takes place at the beautiful Crystal Moon Lounge at the heart of the hotel and is served by the light of a Baccarat Crystal chandelier, making it the perfect venue for afternoon tea.

The tea service is very traditional, and here guests will come across beautiful elements that touch all the senses.

Guests can admire the beautiful chandelier and also touch the same precious material as soon as they are served champagne from glasses that are cut from the same Baccarat crystal as the chandelier.

We purposely selected our own custom-made British China with our design and colour scheme; black and silver mirrored crockery as well as well as one place that is set with red and gold mirrored crockery and a golden tea cup as an element of surprise for one special guest.

We also had the wonderful opportunity of having the much loved Michelin star Chef Andre Garrett join our team, who is now the executive chef of the hotel.

In the Northall restaurant, we feature Garrett’s menus, who has a fine a sophisticated way of cooking but does this at ease, in a very delicious way. So you will find many French routed recipes and techniques, a lot of British ingredients and a very light menu overall…. one you’ll find yourself going back to everyday.

Any plans going forward?

When I talk to the whole team I often say that this is a hotel and not a museum. It needs to live and evolve.

We have some exciting ideas for our spa, to keep it alive and relevant and maybe broaden the variety of our treatments.

There are some other secrets… however secrets are there to be kept and not to be told.

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