This month sbe (not a household name but the owner of a large range of hospitality and leisure brands around the world) launched the first of a planned 20 outlets of its newest culinary brand EllaMia in London with a second unit to shortly open in Doha.
The shop is attached to the St Martin’s Hotel in Covent Garden – and all the branches of EllaMia will be located in sbe hotels around the world with the simple sounding aim of attracting people into the hotel.
Regional director of sales and marketing at sbe, Diarmuid Buckley, told Retail Insider at the launch that the company was opening up the shopfront as a teaser for other hotel spaces and services. “This is a high quality offering at a very reasonable price. The pastries are all made by our patissiers in house and we are serving them in an ultra-elegant setting”.
What sbe is trying to counter is the same problem that affects many hotels. Namely that many people don’t feel comfortable accessing, or even realise that they can access, the food and drink offerings in the hotel.
As Buckley freely admits, St Martin’s Hotel has to overcome an even more fundamental problem in that passersby often do not even realise it is a hotel. “This was designed by Philippe Starck and Ian Schrager so the name does not feature prominently on the outside and the hotel façade is not perhaps so inviting for attracting passing footfall” he explains. So it is not clear cut to everyone that this is a public space.
EllaMia, so called after sbe owner Sam Nazarian’s two daughters, is an unabashedly female-centric space. The seating is plush pink and the décor an Instagram-friendly pink and grey. Diarmuid Buckley hopes the “women will bring the men” and having enjoyed the coffee shop will next time think of having a cocktail in the hotel bar instead. EllaMia will stay open until 8pm to catch the theatre rush and features a changing menu of breakfast pastries and cakes moving to savouries in the afternoon and evening.
He is not concerned that the new venture is launching into an already pretty crowded coffee market. “There is a market for everyone in coffee,” he insists, adding: “This is much more elegant than most coffee shops, it’s about china cups and saucers and hotel service standards.” There is going to be no difference between eat in or take-away prices and in a nod to sustainability if drinkers bring their own cup the coffee will be a bit cheaper. A loyalty card, which already exists will be extended to include EllaMia.
As the high street continues to modify into a more hotel and eatery-focused environment it will become more and more important for hotels to market themselves to the general public outside of their own guests by advertising their in-house offering via this kind of high street frontage, which acts as a gateway to the more lucrative spend to be found inside the hotel.
According to Buckley the measure of EllaMia’s success will be “the number of people it attracts into the hotel”. sbe will be hoping that the second door, which leads directly from EllaMia into the hotel lobby, will become a very well-used one indeed.