Interview with Bob van den Oord – MD of the Langham
The Wigmore is a new ‘modern British Tavern” by The Langham London hotel. After it opened this July, we talked to the Managing Director Bob van den Oord, about the concept and early success of this exciting new spot!
With drinks from the team behind the iconic Artesian and a menu overseen by Michel Roux Jr., The Wigmore is set to become a new social institution with a touch of London polish and a place where everyone is welcome. The former banking hall, which had been the hotel spa until recently, has been transformed by internationally acclaimed Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, capturing and enhancing the original features of the space.
Where did the initial inspiration for the Wigmore come from?
With the huge success enjoyed by Artesian year after year, we are very lucky to see an amazing volume of guests come through the door. This prompted us to consider opening an additional bar to ensure guests were not queuing round the block!
The building where The Wigmore is located presented a unique opportunity for a second watering hole. We started brainstorming the concept and drew on our unique history which led us to the idea of being able to offer ‘a great British tavern’ that is accessible to all, with delicious English pub fare, craft beers and fantastic cocktails conceived by the Artesian team. The price point is extremely competitive specifically because we would like locals and non-guests to feel welcome. We are delighted with the reception to date and it is a big source of pride for the whole team.
What were the main design and construction challenges relocating your Spa elsewhere in the hotel and creating a Pub in its place?
As a heritage building, we had to be very careful to preserve the integrity of the space. The ceiling has been left largely untouched for that very reason, save for a repaint. We were very lucky to work with a fantastic team and the Martin Brudnizki Studio who brought the space to life.
In terms of the spa, its previous layout across two levels did not make best commercial sense. For that reason, we decided to streamline the operation to one floor, re-branding to Langham Hospitality Group’s more refined and sophisticated wellness concept of Chuan Body + Soul. This allowed us to relocate the spa one floor below The Wigmore and offer a more personalised service, rather than retaining the reception and relaxation area at street level. The spa is now more private as a result and we are able to welcome locals and passers-by to The Wigmore. Ensuring that there was a good level of soundproofing was extremely important to ensure this was absolutely right.
Who is your target audience?
Hotel guests, local offices, tourists, and visitors – all are welcome!
How did you have to adapt your service offering, staffing and training to get an authentic pub atmosphere as so many customers do not realise it is part of The Langham, London?
We wanted to ensure that the tavern launched with its own unique identity so its point of difference was very much part of the branding strategy. The Wigmore has its own unique identity and we wanted to convey a relaxed ‘pub’ style as opposed to being another ‘hotel’ bar. This low key approach extends to the service delivery of staff, professional yet relaxed with their uniform of jeans and brogues, all the way to the stylish yet pared down interiors.
Tell us about the Food Concept
The food menu is overseen by our restaurant partner Michel Roux Jr. and is quintessential British pub fare. The team uses seasonal ingredients from producers who are leaders in their field, which are simply prepared and sympathetically cooked with a keen attention to detail. Popular snacks include Masala spiced scotch egg, dahl relish and the Stovetop cheese toastiepresented to the table with a cast iron bacon press. There are hearty options like the Balvenie-whisky smoked salmon, the Ox-cheek & ale pie and delicious desserts.
You have developed some unusual drink ideas including some exciting non-alcoholic options – how are these being received by your visitors?
Really well. We have a selection of delicious homemade lemonades to offer guests something a little bit different to the usual soft drink options.
What did you do to launch The Wigmore?
Back in July, we organised a series of preview evenings for clients and media. This was a great way to get the buzz going and got us a lot of publicity. We also hosted a preview with Martin Brudnizki and Michel Roux Jr. for key media and offered the BBC exclusive use of the space – being our local neighbours it was a no-brainer to introduce their nearest local to them.
What have the critics had to say?
We have been so pleased with the response, Fay Maschler at The Evening Standard loved it, Felicity Spector at Channel 4 remarked that it was ‘glory days’ after visiting, Marina O’Loughin at The Observer commented it was: ‘superb’, so we can’t complain.
Our Head Bartender, Steve Georgiou, recently won ‘Best Cocktail’ at London Cocktail Week and Tatler recently included us in their ‘Best Bars in London’.
Grace Dent (who is known for not holding back) reviewed The Wigmore and whilst she wasn’t really that “keen” commented: ‘several people tell me it has become their saviour, that the olives and Scotch egg are their ‘go-to’, ‘cheer-up’ snacks, and that the cheese toastie is really quite do-able after three glasses of Chapel Down.’ For a bar that is only three months old, we are really proud of these achievements.
Can you give us a hint as to the commercial success of the project – how long will it take for you to get a ROI on the master plan?
The financial success has been way above all of our expectations. We are already performing at figures expected from the ROI next year just 10 weeks after opening. Each week we continue to break records in daily and weekly turnover so I’m sure to say it has already been a great success and looking very positive going forward. We of course continue to look at our offering, and the value we give through excellent products delivered by our team to ensure it remains the ‘go to’ place for the community.
What has been the trickiest part of this project?
The project has been rather seamless. I have worked on many launches and this one was pretty straightforward. We were keen to stay on track and kept to very tight deadlines internally and were largely successful in our efforts. It has been a fantastic project to be involved in and I am so proud of the team.
Bob van den Oord
Managing Director, The Langham
Bob van den Oord joined The Langham, London from The Langham Hong Kong where he was Managing Director and VP Brands (Global) for Langham Hospitality Group. Following on from The Langham, London’s milestone 150th anniversary year, which saw the launch of the Regent Wing, Langham Club Lounge and the six-bedroom Sterling Suite, Bob led the team in strategically consolidating the hotel’s elevated position in the luxury 5-star hotel segment.
Dutch-born, Bob van den Oord has enjoyed an exceptional track record in senior hotel management positions for luxury hotels in various regions. The Langham, Hong Kong, was named a five star hotel by Forbes’ Travel Guide in its 2015 star rating after an extensive multi-million dollar refurbishment programme and the signature Chinese restaurant T’ang Court attained three Michelin stars in November 2015.