Rafi Bejerano, owner of The Arch London, tells us how he was forced to get a little more stuck in to the hotel’s development than he had first planned and following his father’s dreams.
Tell me the story of the hotel
During my childhood my father, Abraham Bejerano, used to drive past Great Cumberland Place every day on his way home from work. A tranquil, leafy street in the heart of central London, he used to say, “What a great setting it would make for a hotel”.
Fast forward 30 years and his dream has become a reality. If you drive along that same street you will see The Arch London standing proudly among seven townhouses. A testament to where faith, determination and a lot of hard work can take you.
My father is now a veteran hotelier and owner of three, very different but equally impressive, hotels. Opened in 2010, The Arch London was the jewel in the crown of AB Hotels and a true realisation of my father’s dream.
My brother Alon and I were heavily involved in the build and pre-opening and often now I look at the pictures adorning my office walls of the images before we started the work and after the hotel was completed – a job well done.
What challenges have you faced since opening?
Of course, opening a hotel smack-bang in the middle of the recession was never going to be easy. But even we have been surprised at how well we have done, especially in the past year or two. Initially getting our name out there among fierce competition was probably the biggest challenge after we opened our doors.
We overcame quite a few problems during the build of the hotel, and the reconfiguration of the property was a very long process.
The townhouses are fantastically authentic Georgian buildings and Grade II listed. This meant we had to keep a lot of the staircases and original architectural features intact, a real challenge when you are attempting to convert seven homes into one hotel.
Many of the quirky spaces throughout the hotel are created by these hidden staircases and listed features that we had to retain. Probably the biggest challenge we faced during the build was when two of our contractors went bust half way into the job, leaving us to finish the development ourselves. As anyone who has overseen a build, or watched Grand Designs will agree, few things are more stressful.
Where are you spending the majority of your budget?
Training and service is our passion and this is where we invest the most. We want our team to have stars and deliver an outstanding customer experience. Right now we are also polishing up our branding and image to ensure that as an independent hotel we can compete with the bigger- and better-known brands.
We also provide lots of complimentary amenities as we want our guests to feel comfortable and receive value for money. These include a full Sky HD TV package, iPod docking stations and flat screen TVs above every bath, soft drinks in all mini bars, Jing teas, Nespresso coffee, and canapés in the restaurant during evening drinks service.
We are also very proud of the hotel’s aesthetic design, and frequently reinvest in the decor throughout to keep everything looking new and fresh.
What are your future plans?
Right now we have so much going on. We’re consolidating our brands, we also have Sopwell House in St. Albans and the Crowne Plaza Colchester – Five Lakes, and both hotels are having, and have recently had, extensive makeovers. We are trying to ensure that all our properties are right up-to-date in terms of the quality of the product, the level of service and the fun experiences we can offer. Couple this with lots of training and development for our people, online marketing investment and a new soon-to-be-launched look and feel for the company, there is no time to think of expansion. But talk to me again in a couple of years and things most likely will be very different.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
Honestly a singer; think Elvis or Sinatra. But when I realised my voice sucked I resigned to my destiny – to be a hotelier.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
A good laugh
If you weren’t a hotelier what would you be doing?
I’d love to have a large travel agency specialising in exclusive adventures off the beaten track. I love travelling and have done so extensively; nothing gives greater reward than really experiencing exceptional historic and hidden treasures. If I didn’t need the money, I’d resort to charitable work, particularly helping children.
Average room rate: Prices start from £205 for a standard room, and £1,005 for a suite.
Average food spend per head: £30
Average weekly occupancy: 80%
Staff members: 85