Newcastle-based Cairn Group, which started life as a single property venture sixty years ago, has grown to become one of the UK’s leading hotel and bar operators – yet remains a family firm at that.
So far 2016 has proved particularly productive for the company to say the least and the months ahead still hold huge potential as it is poised to make the biggest move in its history, before the year is out.
January opened with the purchase of 1690-built country house hotel Stoke Place in Buckinghamshire, nestled in 26 acres of stunning parkland and home to a Capability Brown-designed garden, granted protection this September under the National Heritage List for England.
Changes in spring included renowned chef Theo Randall opening his first Theo’s Simple Italian restaurant in the Group’s Hotel Indigo Kensington. In May, Cairn Group announced a successful refinance deal worth £101m, supported by HSBC and Mincoffs Solicitors LLP. It subsequently laid out plans to put £50m of the total raised towards an acquisition-focused growth strategy and strengthening of its nationwide portfolio, which comprises 26 hotels and more than 30 bars and restaurants.
August saw the addition of popular York café bar The Parish, which operates from an impressive 11th century, grade II-listed church development. This marked the new owners’ first standalone bar outside of the North East. Work is already underway to make a series of improvements to the venue, funded from a £700k pot set aside for refurbishments following the refinancing.
A number of senior appointments at head office this autumn have coincided with a roll-out of new look websites across the Group, with enhanced functionality and ease of access to drive direct bookings.
Newcastle is still very much at the heart of things and Osborne Road hotspot Sohe is no doubt a jewel in the crown. The Asian-fusion restaurant is a top pick among Jesmond’s corporate scene as well as its residents; a broad age and lifestyle spectrum.
Planning permission has now been granted to extend its offering onto the external area, overlooking the high street. This is soon to be transformed into an all-service al fresco meeting, eating and drinking place – Sohe’s very own garden destination.
Director Naveen Handa said: "Sohe is one of my favourite places to bring people to introduce them to our brand and ethos. We’re thrilled to be able to reveal our next step for it and already looking forward to the end result, which will be ready in time for the warmer weather returning.
"The idea was driven by a real demand we’ve observed for outdoor experiences when it comes to dining out, both during the day and at night from our customers – but also a trend that seems to be sweeping the UK industry at the moment. And the nature of Sohe’s snackable meal options for lunch or long cocktails in the evening is the perfect fit."
Elsewhere, Cairn Group is making waves in the West Midlands with the recent unveiling of Birmingham Conference & Events Centre – a major event and exhibition space in the delegate capital.
On the other side of the border, business in Scotland is picking up pace hot off the heels of the arrival of Courtyard by Marriott in Glasgow, formerly Ramada Airport Hotel.
Finance director Richard Warren said: "We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved in such quick succession over a matter of months and we are in a fantastic position as we approach the end of the year. There are so many exciting projects in the pipeline which is testament to the entire team effort and dedication put in to making it all happen."
Over the past five years, the Group has spent over £40m acquiring and improving assets and doubled its number of employees in that period – a figure which currently exceeds 2,300, firmly placing it on the map in the world of independent hotel owner and operators.