Actor Robert de Niro is a busy man. Not only is he teaming up with director Martin Scorcese, Al Pacino and others to make a new blockbuster gangster movie, he is reported to have applied for permission to build an 83-bedroom luxury boutique hotel in London’s Covent Garden.
Actually, that last bit probably not strictly true – one imagines that de Niro has people to submit planning applications for him – but he does have a bit of a hospitality industry track record, and owns a chunk of The Greenwich, a hugely-successful boutique property in New York’s TriBeCa district.
Naturally, one wishes him well with his latest project which, if all goes to plan, will be open in 2019.
Of course it always helps to have a starry name attached to your business, but in most cases, that is all it amounts to. Celebrity chefs “have” restaurants by the dozen, but they cannot possibly work their culinary magic in all of them, all the time – they have people to do that for them.
It’s all vaguely reminiscent of the old “Queen Anne Slept Here” claims made by hotels across the nation, leading one merely to hope that they’d changed the bed-linen since her visit, and the endless pubs that all claim to be the smallest (ie most densely-packed) in the country.
All these musings came about following the news that Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts are to merge, thus overtaking Britain’s InterCont9inental Hotels Group (IHG) as the world’s largest hotel company by number of rooms.
Admittedly, there are loads of hotels that fly the Marriott flag, but the company operates many properties under other brands. Starwood’s best-known division is Sheraton Hotels & resorts, while IHG owns the Holiday Inn brand, among many others.
In short, the name above the door doesn’t amount to much these days, and can even be misleading, although I should stress that I’m sure that won’t be true of Mr de Niro – his lawyers are bigger than mine.
What has all this to do with Dorset businesses? Simply this – make a name for yourself, rather than for somebody else. In these days of cookie-cutter hotels, fast-food “restaurants” and coffee chains, consumers are increasingly seeking out quirky, one-off experiences.
They have to be good experiences, naturally, but it is generally better to be a “one-off” than “ just another one”, and Dorset’s small and medium-sized enterprises are ideally placed to take full advantage.
It doesn’t hurt to have a celebrity endorsement, of course, but I wouldn’t bother Robert de Niro. As I said at the outset, he’s pretty busy just now…