The full rebrand for the mid-scale leisure hotel group was announced at an event at the flagship Farnborough 'black box' venue which is expected to act as the template for the future development of the brand.
"You don't hang around in this business; it is a fast-moving world." Robert Cook told BigHospitality just before revealing the new positioning and brand philosophy - ‘Live life. Love life'.
The announcement of a significant change in branding and ambitious future plans came just 108 days into Cook's tenure after he took up the post following his departure from Malmaison and Hotel du Vin late last year.
"As soon as I got into the guts of the business I realised something was pretty obvious - this is a brand that no one really knows about yet there are so many fantastic things under one roof," he added.
The relaunch sees the creation of the Victory Chop & Ale House, Victory Ale House, Viva Urban Spa, Velocity Health & Fitness and V Meetings at the Hub sub-brands within the Village Urban Resorts portfolio for De Vere. There are currently 25 hotels around the UK under the brand which all feature a leisure centre. The brand is targeting another 15-18 sites in the next three to four years.
Scottish-born Cook revealed Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow were all on his radar for new locations with sites in Portsmouth, Milton Keynes, York and Bristol also being explored.
Although the basis for new venues for the brand used to be sites outside, but near, big cities with an ability to draw a number of members to the leisure club, Cook revealed he was planning to slightly change this. Instead, he said the business would focus on achieving an average room rate of £70 in new locations as well as 3,500 leisure club members to increase footfall to the F&B offering.
"I want to jump over the city walls with the future ones. I think we are too much in the periphery in some," Cook explained.
Hotel brasserie dead
Speaking at the Restaurant magazine R200 Awards last November, ahead of the announcement of his new role with De Vere, Cook revealed ambitions to create a branded restaurant environment in his next job.
Declaring the death of the hotel brasserie or wine bar, Cook has now announced the creation of the Victory Ale & Chop House restaurant and bar which is being trailed alongside the Victory Ale House pub concept in a number of the Village Urban Resorts ahead of a probable full rollout.
"What is born is theatre dining. The chef in the world has become a superstar but actually no one ever sees him unless you are a celebrity so I want to get the chefs out in front and showing their art in front of the guests," Cook said. The restaurant, which will be run by Keith Shearer the former group executive chef for Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, features a central rotary grill and offers a full grill menu alongside specially selected beers and ales to match the food.
Cook explained to BigHospitality he hoped the new concept would prove attractive to corporate guests dining on their own and said he wanted the restaurant and ale house to provide the same attraction as a local pub.
"The British pub business is going downhill because it is not very good. How often do you go into a British pub and get warm wine, bad beer and gin and tonic without ice? I want to treat beer in the same way we treated wine at Hotel du Vin," Cook said.
Cook, who said he had been looking for a move from Malmaison and Hotel du Vin to work on developing a brand again, said as well as focusing on new locations and rolling out the restaurant concept he was planning to launch a new room type at the brand's new builds - a small, well-designed room for the younger market called VShack.