Hotel aspirations for Aspire Group

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Managing director

Hotel aspirations for Aspire Group
The Aspire Groups Managing Director, Sean Valentine outlines his future plans for the business

The Aspire Group is planning to build a hotel within the grounds of its Hampshire restaurant the New Mill.

The company, headed up by Managing Director Sean Valentine (pictured righ), has secured planning permission to build a 24-bedroom hotel at the picturesque site in Eversley.

It’s the latest move for the company, whose contract catering arm – Aspire Hospitality – won the contract to run the catering at Silverstone racing circuit last year.

Valentine said: “As well as the restaurant we have about 80 weddings here a year, so it would provide somewhere for guests to stay.

“We are working with a number of developers to find the right plan and we would like to have it ready by the summer of 2010, ready for the wedding season.”

Valentine said the company may look to go into partnership with a hotel company to build the £2m hotel.

“We may partner with a current hotel operator, but the New Mill would still retain ownership of the hotel,” he added.

Since buying the restaurant from Academy of Food & Wine Chief Executive and Director Nick Scade in 2006, Valentine has made minor changes to the business, refurbishing the restaurant and incorporating a separate bistro, which relied on day-time trade, into the main venue.

Possibly the biggest change to the business was to the food. Fellow Master Chef of Great Britain Steven Saunders has since joined the company as Creative Director and has put his stamp on the menu.

An advocate of organic food, Saunders introduced a menu using locally-sourced seasonal produce, including organic as much as possible.

Valentine said: “In 2005, this place was known for location first, wine list second and food followed up at the end. For me it was about saying we needed to lift the quality of the food on the plate.

“Steven’s focus with the chefs here has been to take it a second rosette level. I think that his ethos has been, keep it simple, keep it fresh and just find some great produce, which we have lots of here in Hampshire.”

In November 2006, Aspire was asked to submit a tender to supply catering at Silverstone and the company`s different approach to hospitality catering won over Silverstone`s Managing Director Richard Phillips.

The company provides all forms of catering, from the coffee shops, to fine dining at the site, serving an estimated 240,000 people on race days.

Valentine said the company`s new approach to venue catering, replacing burger stands with organic chicken wrap stalls and normal sandwich bars with organic delis, had helped win the contract.

"It was about bringing restaurant-style food and service to the venue leisure sector and improving the experience on all levels," he added.

Valentine said the company was planning to expand its hospitality catering arm in the future, and is currently in talks with an un-named racecourse, but he stressed, he would have no qualms about turning down an offer if it wasn`t right for the company.

"The contract at Silverstone has taken us to double figures as a company and we`d like to cater at more venues, but it would have to be right. For me, I really want to work with like-minded clients. That`s the important thing," he said.

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