Deep dive with Fergus Stewart, CEO, The Lancaster Landmark Hotel Company

Luxury hotel collection The Lancaster Landmark Hotel Company has big development plans for its London sites, so we took a peek behind the curtain with the group’s newly-promoted CEO.

Fergus Stewart, who has just stepped up from being the collection’s deputy MD, detailed The Landmark London’s ongoing renovations and teased an exciting rebrand for another site in the UK capital.

Landmark project

Quality is at the heart of everything The Lancaster Landmark Hotel Company does, with a global portfolio including luxury London properties The Landmark London, Royal Lancaster, K West Hotel & Spa and Basil Street Apartments.

For its flagship The Landmark London in the Marylebone neighbourhood, the firm is coming to the end of a multi-year project to ensure the 300-key five star site maintains its prestigious position, while at the same time working within the constraints of the building’s listed status.

International inspiration

The drive for these changes came from Stewart’s experiences throughout his illustrious career. He first worked at The Landmark 20 years ago, then built up an expert international CV with spells in Japan, Dubai, Vietnam and Hong Kong.

He revealed: “I used to come back every year and see The Landmark, and from being on my travels and seeing how other sites work, I was able to convince our owners that perhaps a slight change in direction from traditional luxury towards more relaxed luxury would be best. We didn’t want to change it too much though because it’s such a stunning hotel and it is successful.”

Accommodation and gastropub

Stewart outlined that the overhaul began with renovations to all rooms, which was completed before the pandemic period, followed by refurbishments to the accommodation’s corridors.

Also finished at the end of last year was an enterprise to turn the onsite Grand Central Bar and Restaurant into Grand Central Pub by Matt Fletcher, with this celebrated international chef returning to The Landmark as patron after a stint in the kitchens there between 2009-2011. Stewart commented: “Whilst it’s quite unusual to have a gastropub in a five-star hotel, I think it’s fantastic. There are so many nice venues locally if people want fine dining, but if they want world-class traditional pub food they can come to us.”

Plus from today (1 February) all staff will be kitted out with chic designer uniforms. “It’s something I think our team will be proud of,” believes Stewart. “We’ve got three or four different cuts to make sure everyone feels comfortable wearing the uniform – especially with the industry being full of young people, it’s important how they feel.”

Garden growth

Coming up is a £1.3 million project to refresh the grand, glass-roofed Winter Garden atrium and restaurant. Stewart detailed: “We will change everything our guests can touch and feel. We are replacing all tables, chairs, sofas and planting throughout that area. We’re going to add more greenery, so while we’re moving away from the traditional element I think it’s going to be more opulent because of how we’re going to design it. We really like the idea of having an environment that feels like relaxed luxury.”

Within this endeavour, the Garden Terrace space, which overlooks the Winter Garden, will welcome a new champagne bar. The round-shaped facility will serve seafood and will also partner with various champagne houses at different times of the year. All of the changes are due to be completed by the beginning of March.

Forthcoming rebrand

Next on the agenda for the group is to rebrand the 250-key K West Hotel & Spa in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, after the signing of an agreement with a well known upscale boutique line. The deal will see the site closing at the end of 2023 to undergo a £45 million renovation, ready to reopen under the new branding in the first half of 2025.

Stewart explained: “Because there are other new openings in Shepherd’s Bush and there are a lot of good things happening in the area, we decided to partner with the hotel brand. We’re fortunate to have an owner who’s looking at the longevity of the business and the legacy of the building. Every single element of the site is being looked at in line with how we can future-proof it for the next 15 years. We need to find ways of doing everything we possibly can to save energy, so for instance we’ll have solar panels on the roof.”

Seeking sustainable suppliers

In terms of how The Lancaster Landmark Hotel Company chooses which suppliers to use on its projects, Stewart summed up: “We’re very fortunate in that we’re completely independent so we’re not committed to anyone’s supplier, we can go to any company we like.

“There’s much more revolving around sustainability now. Big organisations will only stay with hotel partners that have the same values in terms of sustainable initiatives, so we are doing the same with our suppliers. We’re trying to do as much as we can in working with sustainable partners – we’re not in it now to get the best price, we’re going to get something that will still work for us in 10 years’ time. So we may well pay more for it today but in the long term it’ll be the right thing to do.”

Citing food and beverage as a fairly easy element in which to implement these initiatives, the fixtures, fittings and equipment (FF&E) side of things could be assisted by the group’s recent hotel partnership deal. According to Stewart: “When you work with a big hotel partner it really helps with your sustainable initiatives because they’ve got some really good ideas. It’s quite easy for me to piggyback on what they’re doing.”

Long term value

Looking ahead, while there are no current plans for further major projects, newbuilds or conversions, Stewart analysed: “Our owners are Thai and they’ve also got two hotels in Bangkok. We’re not active in the market but I think if the right opportunity came up we would look at it. But we’re not in the business of buying and selling, we’re in the business of buying and keeping so it would need to be an opportunity that would present good value in the long term.

“London’s where we have our base of hotels in the UK, but I think Edinburgh and Dublin, Ireland are very good locations for hotels. They’re becoming ever more popular and the opportunity in those cities is a lot cheaper than London. We would never say no to looking at opportunities, but we’re not active buyers at the moment.”

Luxury’s future

As for how he feels about the future prospects for the luxury hotel sector, Stewart concluded: “I’m very positive about it. Covid taught us a lot, and one of those things was that we should treat ourselves when the opportunity arises.

“We are now back to pre-covid levels in our business and in many areas we’re now exceeding where we were before. We’re very grateful for that and we shouldn’t count on it as a given. We need to keep on improving our services and what we offer, making sure that our guests really leave delighted. We’re in a sweet spot with our locations and in our pricing model so I’m not worried about a lack of guests wanting to stay in the luxury sector.”