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Article by HNS
Posted on 24 October 2019
Hotel News Scotland had the opportunity to speak to founder and CEO Nassar Khalil, who is also one of the directors at the well-established property development company Henley Homes.
The hospitality industry is an endless source of inspiring real life stories. Success in hospitality is never the result of luck, never achieved overnight or without the support of a team. This is a people focused industry and as such it can only thrive with hard work, self development and time.
The founder of the newest hotel group to watch is an example of a successful career in hospitality, not due to luck, background or influence, but due to passion, hard work, commitment, core values and persistence.
Nassar Khalil's career started with Hilton hotels, after graduating in Business at Imperial College in London. He fell in love with hospitality during a six-month placement at Claridge's Hotel, which was an important part of his thesis. When his internship ended, the general manager at the time was so impressed with his work that he offered him a job when he completed his degree. Unfortunately by the time Nassar graduated, the person had moved to another property and he was unable to return to Claridge's, so he applied for a front of house manager positon with Hilton London Olympia and that was the official start of a highly successful career in hospitality.
"Hilton London Olympia is a very large property, there were thirty people to manage between concierges and front-desk and I was suddenly given the opportunity to reshape the entire department", said Nassar.
During that time, the hotel needed to implement a number of standard operating procedures to facilitate consistency of services and day to day operations, being a structured and highly organised person by nature, Nassar developed a new structure that changed the way in which the entire department worked, attracting the attention of not only Hilton Hotels' management but also other hotel groups. Within a year of starting his first job, he was head hunted by Nikko Hotels which was owned by Japan Airlines. The group owned The Montcalm Hotel behind Marble Arch in London and they offered him the role of deputy general manager for the property, which Nassar accepted with excitement as it would give him the opportunity to grow and leave his mark whilst learning all there is to learn about running a respected luxury hotel.
Within nine months, Nikko Hotels realised they had a special member of staff working with them. Nassar improved services and operations at the hotel so much that the group's managing director (based in Japan) offered him a new challenge: To become the head of global standards for Nikko Hotels, making sure that every hotel within the group followed the same procedures and delivered the same high standard of services The Montcalm Hotel in London did.
Nassar embraced the new challenge and spent the next six months in Japan learning everything he could about the group. He was impressed by the group's attention to detail in all areas of the business, including making sure that staff would wear a different tie for even and odd days. The reason behind it was that every employee should focus and be ready for work even before they arrive by remembering the date and what tie to wear, every day. If Nassar's standards were high, they became even higher after this experience.
During this period the market for boutique hotels started to grow, the industry quickly realised the importance of investing in this segment, more and more boutique hotels started to appear. Nassar was then invited to work with Sanderson Hotels and Hempel Hotel in London and to take part in opening two brand new hotels, the Kensingtonrooms (now K Hotel) in Kensington and the Royal Sussex in Paddington. He worked on the projects from construction to launch, was awarded "general manager of the year" in 2005 and was then approached by a hedge fund company that offered him the opportunity to start a new hotel business from scratch, as operations director. This is how Base2Stay Hotels was created (now Nadler Hotels), offering a new concept in hospitality where each hotel relies entirely on the F&B offerings around the hotel resulting in much lower overheads (no chefs, waiting staff, restaurant). Every hotel offered luxury accommodation, breakfast only in the rooms and a basic mini kitchen with a fridge and micro-wave for guests to eat whatever they prefer, in the comfort of their room.
The concept was incredibly successful, Nassar sold his shares in the business in 2011 (when the group rebranded as Nadler Hotels) and he moved to Qatar to be the Chief Operating Officer of Royal Luxury Hotels which is owned by Qatar Sovereign Fund. Based at the group's flagship hotel, Nassar was responsible for making sure the property delivered the highest standard of services to all the dignitaries, diplomats and royalty staying at the hotel daily. Each floor had its own reception and concierge, attention to detail was very high.
In 2013 Nassar decided to return to the UK to be with his family and he opened a hotel consultancy business, Nassar Khalil Associates. The company advised hotel groups, independent hotels and investment companies on everything related to opening and running a hospitality business. Nassar was a member of the board of different hotel groups, he worked alongside banking groups such as Lloyds Banking Group and National Australian Bank (which owned Clydesdale Bank) advising on the viability of new development projects and businesses.
Rogue City Hotels is the current chapter of Nassar Khalil's journey, the formation of the new hotel group was a joint decision between Nassar and his business partner, who is is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Henley Homes, PLC.
While both The Hobson in Cambridge and The Wellington in Glasgow are transformed into luxury hotels, Rogue City Hotels is actively looking for other city properties to purchase and deveolop as luxury hotels. They are currently looking for properties in Bath, Brighton, Edinburgh and London. The company has sound financial backing and plans to open fifteen hotels in the next ten years, making the group one of the fastest growing in Europe.
We asked Nassar why they have chosen the name Rogue City Hotels for the group. He explained that the group is led by forward thinkers, by grafters with great entrepreneurial spirit who think outside the box, nurture innovation and invest in people. Mavericks of hospitality, with their heart in the right place.
We look forward to seeing what lies ahead for Rogue City Hotels, the combination of bold spirit and experience has enormous potential, their plans are nothing short of impressive.
Rogue City Hotels
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