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The Hotelier Edit: Kris Doyle, General Manager of LEVEN Manchester

The Hotelier Edit: Kris Doyle, General Manager of LEVEN Manchester

levenThe team was lucky enough to visit the LEVEN and got a tour of the beautiful hotel by Kris Doyle, General Manager.  In this interview, he talks to us about the exciting development of the LEVEN, the challenges of running a boutique hotel, what a great customer experience looks like and the future of the hospitality industry. 

We're also excited to be bringing the LEVENverse, in collaboration with Wellbrook Hospitality to the 2023 show, a visually fantastic space in the LEVENverse where design has no boundaries! 

Can you tell us about the history of The LEVEN?

We opened LEVEN Manchester in November 2021, and the hotel is a conversion of an iconic building, an old cotton warehouse, located in what is now the Village neighbourhood in Manchester City Centre. It is a collaborative partnership between Wellbrook Hospitality and Branco Capital, and it is the first in a series of hotels in the LEVEN brand.

The hotel has various room types, studios, one-bedroom suites, and one and two bedroom penthouses. It also has a vibrant lobby lounge area, including a coffee shop, a cocktail bar, and a co-working space. The hotel has a definite New York loft feel, with exposed brick and large Crittal style windows that allow plenty of natural light in the co-working space. The views from the bedrooms look out onto Canal Street, and the old-fashioned metal staircases add to the New York vibe.

LEVEN Manchester is the first site in the brand, but the owners are looking for other locations in the UK and possibly even outside of the UK. I think that the LEVEN brand could become an extremely successful global brand if we can replicate the success we have had in Manchester. Close to home, personally, I would love to see a LEVEN Hotel in Liverpool, Chester, or Leeds. I think these cities have a lot to offer and a lot of personality, and they would be a great fit for the LEVEN brand.

levenWhat does a great customer experience look like at your hotel, and what makes it unique?

The customer experience at our hotel is very personal. We have a team that enjoys what they're doing and enjoys working together. We want our customers to have a really personal experience, so we take the time to understand what they're looking for and what they want to do in Manchester. We really attend to every guest's needs and make sure that they have a memorable stay. We know our guests by name, and we're always happy to help them with anything they need. We also adapt to their needs and offer a quick and easy check-in process for guests who don't want any fuss.

For example, if a guest asks for a recommendation for a Chinese restaurant, we might offer them five different recommendations based on what each member of our team likes. We want to make sure that our guests have a great time in Manchester, and I think that the best way to do that is to give them personalised recommendations. We won’t recommend restaurants just because they’ll offer us a free meal if we promote them to our guests, it’s based on our genuine experiences and recommendations.

I also think that our hotel is unique because of the design of the rooms. The exposed brick and large windows in the rooms create a "wow factor" that guests don't expect. We also have brand new split-level penthouse apartments on the top floor that are really impressive. We’ve only been open 18 months, but the feedback has been amazing. We’re currently third on TripAdvisor and the highest ranked hotel on, joined by the Dakota and the Stock Exchange so we’re in good company. The feedback we've received is that our hotel is sparkling clean and very well-designed, but the team and the welcome we provide are the real standouts.

levenWhat do you think defines an independent hotel?

What really stands out to me about working in an independent hotel is the freedom to create the experience and culture that I want. I can choose the cocktails we serve, the local partnerships we activate, and who we work with. I don't feel like I get that same freedom with a big brand.

We opened our hotel 18 months ago, right at the time when everyone was struggling for staff and struggling to meet the commitments that they already had. This meant that we were really restricted in who we could work with because a lot of companies didn't want to take on any extra business. We pulled it together at the last minute and worked with a small procurement company that opened a few doors for us. But now that we've established ourselves, we're looking at reviewing all of our suppliers and getting a bit more innovative and focusing on local makers and creators.

What do you think are some of the major opportunities and challenges in the hotel market this year?

I think the major challenge for us, and everyone in the industry, is recruitment. We're seeing a lot of applications come through, but it's more about attracting the best calibre of applicant. But at the end of the day, if you're a hotel that's passionate about your service and product, you'll get people through the door. We're very keen to find great personalities. I can teach people the job, but I'm looking for people with personality and people that can really engage our guests.

We've had the most success when we've attracted candidates who enjoy talking to people. The rest of the job comes with it. We're not doing anything different or special recruitment wise. We're just very selective. I'm very selective. I'm quite happy to cover a late shift working at the bar or make coffees all morning. I'm quite happy to fill in the gaps myself if our team is short staffed whilst we find the right person. It's worth it to be selective because when you find the right person, it makes everything easier. They'll make fewer mistakes and they'll be more engaged with the guests.

How are you approaching the issue of Sustainability?

We're quite lucky that our hotel was designed to be sustainable and energy efficient as it’s a very new hotel. We don't generate a lot of waste, and we recycle and use energy efficient lightbulbs. However, we're always looking for ways to improve. It's challenging to be sustainable as a small business, but as we scale up, the costs will come down. But once we have more properties, we'll be able to negotiate better deals with suppliers. For some of these companies, they want more business with bigger hotels and those with 500 bedrooms can get a better deal than we can as a smaller hotel.

Can you tell us about the restaurant that’s currently in development?

We're opening a restaurant downstairs in the hotel, called Maya. Maya is being developed by a team of hospitality operators who have worked for brands like Soho House, Isabel Mayfair and Michelin-starred Petersham Nurseries. We think it's a great opportunity to offer our guests a dining experience that's just as amazing as their stay.

levenHow important is hospitality tech to your business and are there any investments you've made that you think have been transformative?

We’ve not made any new investments as we only recently opened, but I will say that I've been using Mews for our hotel for the first time, and I'm really impressed with it. It's simple to use, and the new members of the team picked it up pretty quickly. I'm big on the guest experience, and Mews allows the team to focus on that. If you're looking for a PMS for your independent hotel, I'd recommend Mews. I've been thinking about other tech that we could use in the hotel, like AI, facial recognition, and CRM systems. I'm not sure if any of these are right for us yet, but I'm always looking for new ways to improve the guest experience. I recently got an email about service robots that deliver food and drinks, but I am not sure if that is the right fit for us. Nowadays, I am constantly inundated with new tech products and I recently met a guy who has a tech company that specializes in keyless entry. He's opened a hotel in Manchester specifically to showcase his tech. We love to embrace innovation, however I think it is important to see new tech in action before you decide if it is right for your hotel.

Have you attended the Independent Hotel Show before?

I have not attended the Independent Hotel Show before, but I am planning to attend the next one. I think it will be a great opportunity to learn about new products and services that can help build on our success at LEVEN Manchester, especially as we’re now at a point where we’re sourcing new suppliers.

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