How to Restore a Heritage Restaurant

Anyone’s who’s anyone in the hospitality business knows that F&B is paramount to overall guest satisfaction. Having recently visited the mighty metropolis of London, England, I had the opportunity to visit the always grand and newly reopened Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill at The Savoy, easily one of the city’s best properties.

The restaurant easily surpassed expectations – magnificent décor, great food, flawless service, everything perfect down to the linens and cutlery – and so I sought out the hotel’s Director of PR to learn about the changes made, what makes for a great dining experience and how Kaspar’s fits in with the rest of The Savoy’s restaurants.

Tell me a little bit about the Fairmont acquisition and refurbishment of The Savoy.

On September 13, 2004, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Inc. announced that it had entered into an agreement to manage The Savoy and subsequently assumed management responsibilities in January 2005. Speaking at the time, William R. Fatt, Fairmont’s Chief Executive Officer, said, “This agreement will provide Fairmont with the opportunity to extend our distinctive portfolio to one of the world’s key gateway cities in such a critically strategic market with one of its most celebrated luxury hotels. The historic significance of The Savoy, its location and clientele are a perfect complement to our current Fairmont portfolio’.

The Savoy reopened its doors on Sunday, October 10, 2010, following one of the most ambitious restorations in British history. Closing in December 2007, the three-year restoration program encompassed the entire building from the iconic entrance and the American Bar to Savoy Grill and the 268 guestrooms and suites. The hotel’s two main design aesthetics, Edwardian and Art Deco, were carefully brought back to life under the direction of world-renowned designer Pierre Yves Rochon. More than 1000 craftsmen and women, artists and artisans worked tirelessly to create interiors that are in keeping with the hotel’s original and much-loved spirit.

In remodeling the principle, public rooms of the property, what standards did you undertake and what were the strategies employed?

The Savoy first opened its doors in 1889 and has been a part of London’s history ever since, as well as enjoying an incredibly rich heritage in its own right. It is a hotel that holds firm in many people’s affections, so there were always going to be challenges when undertaking such an important restoration program. Respect for what The Savoy had stood for throughout the years was of course key. At the same time it was important to respond to the need that a hotel such as The Savoy had to evolve in order to continue to stand out amongst the growing number of luxury hotels in London. The overall aim of the restoration, and one that we feel has been achieved, was to exceed people’s expectations and to ensure that The Savoy reclaimed its position as one of the world’s greatest hotels.

What is the plan behind Kaspar’s, and how does this food outlet differentiate itself from others within the property?

Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill has brought an informal yet luxury dining experience to both The Savoy and to London. Eager to adapt to the demands of the London food scene, Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill is an all-day dining affair, seven days a week with the restaurant serving a wide range of cuisine to satisfy all palates. A show-stopping seafood bar takes center stage, encouraging a dynamic and bustling atmosphere, seamlessly moving from a patisserie breakfast bar to lunch and dinner with a beautiful display of shellfish and cured fish to whet the appetite.

Give us some metrics to paint the picture.

117 seats; 14 seats at the bar; private dining room that can seat up to 14; tables in the restaurant are to seat groups of eight, four and two; turns at every 1.5 hours; covers in a whole day are at an absolute max of 550

How has the outlet met expectations versus plan?

Kaspar’s has only been open for three weeks so it is fairly early but the feedback has been positive with regards to all areas (food, atmosphere, décor, etc). In short, we have enjoyed a successful opening so far.

What has the guest feedback been to the decor, menu, positioning and plan?

Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill opened its doors to the public on May 9, 2013 and during the first couple of weeks guest feedback has been extremely positive and encouraging. The vibrant design is a fitting tribute to The Savoy’s rich and glamorous past, yet creates a sought-after but relaxed dining environment. Diners have been receptive to the all-day dining nature of the restaurant, appreciating the fact that there is now a place to ‘pop in’ for coffee and a croissant in the morning, a glass of champagne and plate of smoked fish at lunchtime or a full dining experience. There has been a noticeable increase in those dining alone, encouraged by the informal nature of the restaurant and the option to sit comfortably around the seafood bar.

How is Kaspar’s fitting into your F&B grid?

Kaspar’s is the perfect accompaniment to the varied dining options at The Savoy. The Savoy Grill suits those seeking a quintessentially British dining experience, while the Thames Foyer creates a sense of occasion and tradition with its renowned afternoon tea offering. The American Bar enjoys a reputation as one of the best hotel bars in the world and the Beaufort Bar is a theatrical space to enjoy champagne, cocktails and cabaret.

Now, Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill completes the collection with an informal approach that has replaced the feel of a hushed hotel dining room. The stylish and comfortable interior helps to create a lively ambience and perfectly complements Chef James Pare’s approachable menu. Stunning views across the River Thames and the impressive seafood bar add an element of theatre to the restaurant. While emphasis is on an informal dining experience, Kaspar’s maintains the high standards of luxury that The Savoy is renowned across the globe for.

(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in eHotelier on September 20, 2013)

Larry MogelonskyHow to Restore a Heritage Restaurant