It’s not often we get to sit down with hospitality experts who have not only grasped the elusive chemistry captivated in London’s iconic 5-star hotels…
but have successfully—and valorously—led the relaunch, of a classic hotel that is famed as the heartbeat of Piccadilly Circus.
Previously The Meridien, the home away from home has been in service for 114 years. And with an unwavering abundance of clientele that pours through the hotel's revolver doors, we sat down with General Manager James Olivier, to discuss the journey of introducing London’s new modern and breathtaking The Dilly and how its relaunch took so much more than a simple change of curtains and ample lick of paint.
You’ve been working in hospitality for 15 years now. What has been the most important advice or experience gained throughout the years that helped you lead the redirection of The Dilly and its future success?
For me the most important advice would be to set out a clear strategy and target to aim for. It’s also of paramount importance to ensure you have a strong team in place and to communicate the strategy clearly to them to ensure everyone is aligned. At The Dilly I am very lucky to have a great team at the hotel and a strong sense of engagement and team morale. It is somewhat of a cliché but a happy and engaged team leads to good service levels and allows us to create lasting memories for our guests which in turn fosters loyalty to The Dilly.
You grew up in London. How would you say the landscape of hotels has changed in the city over the years, with more efforts about sustainability and its importance being highlighted in the industry?
Environmental and Social Governance has certainly taken on greater importance in recent times and rightly so. We have made changes to ensure we are more focused on environmental and social issues. We have adapted our menus to be more balanced ensuring we have a good range of vegetarian and vegan dishes available and that the items are sourced from local suppliers. Our Floris range of guest amenities are made from aluminium and are fully recyclable and it is essential that we do our bit to be as sustainable as possible. We have been Green Key certified and are working towards that accolade again this year. We also like to give back to the local community and work closely with St. James’ Piccadilly in their initiatives around homelessness in the local area. This year we will also work with Step football, a charity that helps people with special needs get into playing football.
Previously Le Méridien, you have recently been guiding the renovation of the hotel, which is now The Dilly. Is there any advice you would give to other hoteliers wanting to do the same?
Launching The Dilly has been a very rewarding and fun experience. Our charming hotel has been around for 114 years. Giving it a new image has been a lot of hard work from the teams involved but it has allowed us to re-look at what we feel the hotel stands for. With guest rooms overlooking both Piccadilly and Regent Street, two of London’s most famous roads, we simply couldn’t be better located and when you stay at The Dilly you truly are in the heart of London’s West End and only a few minutes away from the key attractions.
It was important for us to have a robust marketing and PR strategy to raise awareness of the new name and image of the hotel. We also had to ensure that the internal vision matched that of our external partners. It was also important that we choose our external partners based on their proven track record in branding and their ability to help create awareness of the new name and what we have to offer at the hotel. From my side it was also vital that we showed that we had more than simply hotel bedrooms to be proud of.
Our rebranding and re-launch has allowed us to focus on and advertise some of the unique features we have in the hotel, from our Peter Rabbit themed afternoon tea served in our Terrace restaurant, or Downstairs at The Dilly, our late night live music venue, Health Club at The Dilly with its large swimming pool, two squash courts, Golfzon golf simulator and even our own dance studio we are very lucky to be able to offer all these facilities to our guests.
How would you describe Downstairs at The Dilly?
Downstairs at The Dilly is our newly opened, intimate speakeasy piano bar literally ‘Downstairs’ from the hotel’s lobby. Located in the heart of Piccadilly, the bar is the perfect meeting spot for friends or colleagues, whether meeting after work to unwind or beginning an evening in London’s West End. Our guests enter Downstairs at The Dilly through a hidden door from The Dilly’s newly renovated lobby to discover an elegant piano bar that offers a fantastic collection of London themed cocktails, plus a varied musical programme of live pianists and acoustic singers to soundtrack an evening.
People are filling up restaurants again and dining out more. How does the dining experience at The Dilly differ from local restaurants in the area?
Our dining experience at The Dilly is distinct in its creativity and reputation for the highest standards. Madhu’s of Mayfair, for example, is a fine dining Indian restaurant which features Punjabi cuisine with a Kenyan twist. The menu offers dishes that have been curated from family generations with over 40 years in the culinary business. Guests enjoy the vibrant north Indian flavours sitting in the Oak Room, one of London’s most impressive rooms. We also have the hotel restaurant The Terrace, a light filled room with elegant arches and slanting glass ceilings. The Terrace has brought to life the classic story of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, with an Official Peter Rabbit™ Afternoon Tea.
What part of the hotel, or particular room, stands out to you and why?
My favourite part of the hotel is our spectacular Discovery Room home to our elegant dance studio, with its high ceilings, ornate chandeliers and opulent decor. We are very proud of the history the hotel holds. We have a book of press clippings that dates back to 1908, it’s wonderful to look through them. I am struck by all of the people that have come through the doors and danced in our ballroom. I feel we are continually adding to the rich history of the hotel by putting on incredible events from weddings to parties.
The hotel has been around since 1908. If the walls could talk, what would they say?
With over 114 years of history the walls indeed have a lot to say but they have been sworn to secrecy!
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