The Hotelier Edit: The Oxford Collection
The Independent Hotel Show team took a trip to Oxford and met with Rebecca Mofford, Director of Operations and Tamara de Jong, Brand Manager of The Oxford Collection. We began the interview at the Old Bank Hotel, followed by a scenic walk to the Old Parsonage Hotel and ending it at Gees, a light-filled conservatory that you can’t miss in central Oxford.
Can you give an overview of The Oxford Collection?
It all started with Jeremy Mogford who founded Browns Restaurant Group during a time when the restaurant scene was lacking in any real casual dining brands. Jeremy sold the Browns chain in 1999 but retained The Oxford Collection which comprises of five businesses; 2 luxury five-star hotels and 3 restaurants, all located in central Oxford. We have the Old Bank Hotel and Quod Restaurant & Bar, (derived from university quads in Oxford), which is the largest restaurant in Oxford and seats over 250 guests. The Old Parsonage Hotel sits at the north entrance of the city and at its core, we have the Parsonage Grill. Lastly, we have Gees, our standalone restaurant just down from the Parsonage.
We recently rebranded as The Oxford Collection because we wanted to convey the stamp of quality in terms of the service and hospitality that we offer at all of our restaurants and hotels, despite all having such unique identities. It was also important for us that the term was synonymous with Oxford; the prestige and history that the city is all about.
The Old Bank and Quod is more modern and has a more relaxed service. With the Old Parsonage, it’s a 16th century building so it feels like a country boutique hotel despite being in central Oxford. On the other hand, Gees is an absolute stunning Grade ll-listed Victorian Glasshouse that offers a taste of the Mediterranean.
What inspired the design of the hotels?
The building themselves are all listed buildings and we nurture the history of each of the original buildings. The Old Bank has various features that are reminiscent of an old bank but has a modern touch with a lot of art from Jeremy’s personal art collection that adorns the walls. We’d describe it as ‘quietly modest’. The Old Parsonage is an old parsonage right next to the Church so, we wanted to preserve the original features such as the big open fireplace, whilst reflecting the history of the building in the details so there are maps of old Oxford on the walls; it has a hidden charm that takes you back in time with a blend of ancient and modern.
We have statement pieces of art that help us to create a different feel to the design of each room, there’s a mixture of abstract and figurative art and some pieces, within Quod, are even student artwork that Jeremy has collected.
How would you describe the customer experience at the hotels?
Genuine and personal.
The Old Bank hotel has 43 bedrooms, and the Old Parsonage has 35 rooms, both offer the same level of quality and luxury. Everything in the rooms has been very carefully selected to enhance the guest experience. Our guest service is heavily focused on personalising the experience for our guests to ensure all their needs are met and they have a relaxing and memorable stay. To help us reflect on areas of improvement, we have weekly meetings to read out our reviews and have open discussions to outline where changes are needed. We also share information with the team on returning guests so if we know for example, Professor Douglas is coming back this week, we’ll make sure he has 2 bottles of water next to his bed as he likes.
As a reflection of our genuine service, we have lots of loyal and returning guests and we often host families that stay with us whilst their houses are being renovated. The hotels have this unique family feel and we’re on the University campus so by nature, people always come back to visit their loved ones.
How are you approaching the issue of sustainability?
As our hotels run 365 days of the year, it’s important that we take small and big steps towards sustainability. We recently modernised both hotels and added LED lighting and movement sensors in the corridors to reduce energy consumption, something especially important with the rising energy costs.
We are striving towards the goal of one day becoming plastic free, so we are taking the necessary steps to tackle our plastic consumption by working with amenities brands such as Noble Isle products, where all the ingredients are sourced, manufactured and created in the UK and we use refillable bottles and recycled bottles. We also source locally where possible and have recently created massage oils together with a local supplier and local therapists which are all cruelty free, vegan and sustainably produced.
We've decided to continue the use paper napkins because the cost and the energy required to launder linen napkins for 5000 people a week consumes more energy than sustainably sourced paper napkins.
What are you most interested to see, source and experience at the Independent Hotel Show?
We’re particularly interested in spa products and equipment as we’re looking to convert our barn which is the original Oxford Town Hall into a brand-new spa.
I always find seminar talks interesting, there are some incredibly insightful debates that come about from having hoteliers all being in the same room and it’s a place where I can also find value by learning from my peers.
Are there any products or services you would recommend to other hoteliers?
I recommend Noble Isle, but I also don't want to recommend them because I want them to be our hidden secret! The brand is fantastic, and I think scent is definitely something that hotels should invest in as it sticks with guests, and they often remember and recognise the scent and associate the scent with their time spent with us.
We've also had really good feedback from all the massages with Breathe360, who offer a comprehensive and holistic to our massages and facials. Our guests are always very happy with the option to book in-room wellness treatments for a much-needed dose of relaxation.
What's been your favourite moment or guest that you've had to stay with you?
Every week offers a little highlight in some way because no day is the same and I’m sure every hotelier would agree with that. We had one guest that wanted to have breakfast at our ‘Room with the View’ which has a rooftop terrace that overlooks the High and Oxford’s famous skyline, the spire of St Mary’s Church, the Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College quad. So, he flew into Oxford in a helicopter, paid for one night's stay, had breakfast and left and didn’t even stay the night!