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…the theory of Evolution

Evolution is an expert adviser to leading hotel owners, operators and investors seeking to develop and grow their interests globally.

Our success is founded on our ability to build close partnerships with our clients. We act as an extension to your team, wherever you are in the world, to help maximise the potential of your property and your people. Our advice is underpinned by many years’ experience of developing and operating successful hotels – from boutiques to international brands.

As an Evolution client, you will have direct access from day one to our principal, Robert Kennedy, with his expertise extending across finance, operations, development and asset management. Our team will also call on specialists from our network of partners – from branding to financing – to ensure you have the optimum team assembled for your project in the most cost-effective way.

You can download and print our PDF brochure here

Latest Updates
Evolution launches a bespoke hotel budget review service
It’s budget time again. And, as a hotel owner, you’ll be looking – as always - for ways to minimise costs while maximising revenues. Which is why I’m writing to you personally: because Evolution Consultants offers a completely fresh dimension to the process of budget planning, as part of its innovative approach to Asset Management. One of the innovations we’ve introduced is the provision of an ad hoc service during budget time. This means that you can have the support you need, when you need it, without having to commit to a long-term asset management partner. But this is just one example of our radical approach. In fact, Evolution’s very existence is based on the belief that, today, the hotel industry demands new ways of thinking; new ways of addressing an old problem – which is how to maximise RevPAR and manage costs without compromising on a great guest experience, in order to deliver a better ROI for the owner. When I launched Evolution, earlier this year, I wanted to offer a different experience of Asset Management. And I was well-placed to do so. With 17 happy years at IHG behind me, where I held the roles both of CFO for Europe and of VP Operations for Russia/CIS, I developed a unique insight into the challenges faced by owners, through the need to focus on the property and engage closely with management. This put me in an ideal position to not merely understand the issues faced by today’s hotel owner, but to conceive of, and implement, radically new solutions to those issues. As a result, Evolution Consultants, was born - a company dedicated to devising and realising growth strategies for pan-regional hotel chains. While, at one level, the company is a ‘standard’ third-party asset manager, offering all those services you would expect of us, at another level it is completely different, bringing radical and exciting thinking to the process of helping owners to maximise opportunity and revenue. I was confident that my new company would be warmly welcomed by a market thirsty for new ideas. And so it’s proved. In a few short months since we launched, we have already begun to help a number of owners develop their relationship with leading brands. One of our most recent projects was to advise SB hotels on their 2014 budget for the InterContinental Westminster. This budget review proved so successful that I have been asked to look at doing similar exercises at Hyatt and Hilton managed hotels, and SBH has retained us as Asset Manager for the Conrad London St James (formerly the InterContinental Westminster). It goes without saying, I hope, that I’d be delighted to have an opportunity to bring some fresh thinking to your own budget planning. In fact, Evolution is proving so successful, both for its ideas and its service delivery that we’re growing quickly. To help manage this growth, I have begun to engage trusted colleagues from my IHG past (and elsewhere), in areas such as marketing, procurement, revenue management, legal and business insurance. This means that owners who consult with or engage Evolution can be confident of the very highest levels of experience and expertise in every area of their business. Finally, you may find our latest product of interest. The perfect embodiment of our claim to innovative thinking, it’s called HSS (Hotel Support Service), and is a revolutionary new business model for the hotel industry, designed to reduce operating costs without compromising on levels of service delivery. There’s simply nothing like it out there, and I’m confident that it will play a key role in helping many owners increase their profits. If you would like more information about Evolution and its services, you’ll find it at www.evolution-consultants.co.uk. Even better, though, would be to call me on my mobile +44 (0)7702991053. I’d be delighted to talk or meet with you to explain in detail how Evolution can help you move into the future with total confidence.
Evolution to support new Conrad in London
Anyone who’s ever been a guest at a Conrad hotel won’t need to be told about the levels of quality which the brand stands for - its focus on individually tailored luxury and inspired excellence. So it’s very exciting that the recent franchise agreement between Supreme Hotels LLP (part of the Splendid Hospitality Group) and Conrad Hotels & Resorts (part of Hilton Worldwide) is to bring Conrad to St James, London in the form of a 256-room hotel and open for guests on the 1st of September 2014. I’m delighted to be able to announce that Evolution Hospitality Consultants will be supporting SB Hotels through the rebranding process, and providing ongoing support under the Conrad brand. It is extremely pleasing to all of us at Evolution that SB Hotels has chosen to continue to work with our company as Asset Manager. Having been engaged by SBH since October 2013, we have worked extremely closely to identify and achieve ambitious but realistic goals for the hotel, and our professional relationship is highly valued by both sides. There can be no clearer endorsement of our ability to add value to a hotel operation than the view of Stuart Bailey, CEO of Supreme Hotels LLP. “From the moment we began working with Evolution, it was obvious that the company’s reputation for delivering on a promise is well-deserved,” he said. “Much of this must be down to the massive experience gained by Robert Kennedy during 17 years of working at various senior levels in IHG – an experience he has brought to Evolution and which we are delighted to be able to tap in to. With Robert and Evolution supporting us, we face the future with complete confidence, and look forward to making Conrad London St James the destination of a new generation of smart luxury travellers for whom life, business, and pleasure seamlessly intersect.” Set in the heart of London, just a short walk from St James’s Park, the Conrad London Westminster effortlessly blends a historic 19th century building with locally inspired style and design - from the eye-catching artwork including humorous political caricatures and calming, contemporary bedrooms, to the seasonal British food and local ales.

The hotel’s intuitive and personal service culture appeals to both today’s smart luxury traveller and local movers and shakers who come to dine or hold meetings in the inspiring setting. The ideal location connects guests to iconic London landmarks spanning Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, and provides easy access to the City and major conference centres.
1st September
New hotel business model reduces costs without cutting service quality
A new, and highly innovative, business model for the hotel industry, designed to reduce operating costs without compromising on levels of service delivery, has been introduced by Evolution Hospitality Consultants. Called Hotel Support Services by Evolution, the new suite of services will be welcomed by owners of a wide range of business types, ranging from groups of hotels to a single property, who are under increasing pressure to optimise operating efficiency and reduce costs. Developed from Evolution’s extensive experience of third-party management within the hotel industry, HSS by Evolution works essentially by centralising the management of some or all of the hotel’s back-office functions, such as Human Resources, sales & revenue management, finance,  IT, reservations, engineering and procurement. This centralisation uses standardisation and consistency of reporting, procedures, policies and compliance to drive efficiencies and economies of scale by providing shared services based on best-practice and streamlined processes. Evolution can provide the tools to establish this process standardisation if it doesn’t already exist within the hotel, and can also provide recommendations, where appropriate, for ensuring an appropriate IT infrastructure is in place to ensure the success of the model. Because HSS by Evolution is designed to be highly flexible and scaleable, owners can tap into as much or as little HSS support and expertise as they need, and add new functions as they are required. Hotel Support Services by Evolution is positioned to manage both the demand and supply cycle for a hotel or group of hotels while working alongside the in-house (hotel) team.  To ensure maximum efficiency, the core HSS activities are grouped into three clusters, Transactional Activity (repetitive, high volume activities), Local Support (hotel level activities) and Centres Of Excellence (e.g. legal advice and policy strategy), while support activities include tracking and reporting performance, overseeing the transition process when new hotels join, and managing operating processes such as payroll and cash flow. Once HSS by Evolution is in place, all decisions are made on the basis of a risk index, created by Evolution, which assesses financial and economic risk,  operational risk and strategic, geopolitical and project risks. In order to quantify the likely savings to owners of using HSS, Evolution has developed an evaluation model based on real-world scenarios. This model can be used to estimate the performance of HSS by Evolution for all business types. As an example, the model considers a typical scenario – a mid-scale, branded hotel with approximately 500 rooms, 300+ staff, revenues of $30m and a procurement spend of $7m. The analysis is based on a 10 year forecast after stabilising the MSS
in year 3, with 47 of the hotel’s staff transitioning to the HSS.  In this example, the HSS produces mean net annual savings of 8%, resulting in cumulative (over 10 years) savings of $13.4m.  
Down under: on the up and staying that way
The global financial crisis of 2008 hit many industries hard. But it hit few industries harder than the hospitality sector, which contracted significantly over the following couple of years. Recovery, however, is – it appears – solidly in progress: most regions have shown at least modest growth since 2011, and some are reporting very encouraging figures indeed. As this growth is forecast to continue, it seems that the hotel industry is once again offering a superb opportunity to investors. The question is: where should they invest? It’s not a trivial question. After all, several regions can claim a buoyant market. Europe, for example, is almost back at its pre-recession peak, and the US is topping its pre-recession performance1. But, of all the global markets with positive growth, there’s one country that, in terms of investor opportunity, can make a clear argument for being the best of them all. And that’s Australia. Now, you might think that I would say that, wouldn’t I. After all, I’m Australian. But this isn’t merely jingoistic Aussie bluster- it’s an argument backed by hard statistics, lots of them, all saying the same thing: that now is a fantastic time for investors to enter the Australian hotel industry. Let’s look, for instance, at occupancy rates. These, last year, reached new peaks (over 80% in many cities), and the first quarter of this financial year saw a spectacular jump in RevPAR figures. Sydney’s five-star hotels, for example, posted a RevPAR growth of 14.1%, while the sector’s average RevPAR growth over the next three years is projected to be an extremely healthy 4.8%. Or consider the wider industry of tourism. Worth A$98.5 billion in 2013, this market is also set to grow substantially, with international visitor numbers expected to increase by almost 5% annually over the next five years. Combined with the fact that Australia has the highest spend per visitor in the world, it adds up to a superb opportunity for hotel owners to realise unparalleled ROI. Of course, opportunity alone isn’t enough. In order to capitalise on it, owners and investors also have to make the right decisions. These decisions range from choosing which type of hotel best suits the current economic and cultural climate, to a number of subtle but important factors which can help maximise RevPAR over the longer term. Take, as just one example of these factors, the issue of ensuring that service quality meets the expectations of guests – a point which, I believe, is too frequently ignored by owners. True, as Australians, we’re proud, and rightly, of our naturally friendly natures and the ease with which we befriend others. But this friendliness can, and often does, spill into over-familiarity when working in a service role. This is fine in some sectors of the market, but in others – in the more upscale hotels - it’s an over-familiarity that isn’t always welcomed by guests, who often prefer a slightly more formal approach. This balance between familiarity and formality is hard to get right, but it can have a very significant effect on guest return rates, and therefore RevPAR. It is one of the many factors that we, at Evolution, take into account when choosing a brand, to ensure that owners and investors see maximum return on their asset. In summary, then, Australia has a lot to offer to investors. It’s had 23 years of consecutive economic growth, and its hotel sector is as buoyant, if not more so, than any other in the world. For those prepared to invest in it, the rewards could be enormous. 1. Source: PKF Hospitality Research  
Hilton Worldwide: curiouser and curiouser
First, I’ll be honest: I rather like Hilton Worldwide’s choice of name for the latest addition to its brand portfolio. The company has chosen the name “Curio”, which – as the word means a rare or fascinating object – seems appropriate for a brand designed to allow independents to keep their unique character, while leveraging the benefits of Hilton Worldwide’s marketing infrastructure. But it’s an appropriate name in another way, too. Because, according to the OED, “Curio” is merely a shortened form of the word “curiosity”, and there’s no doubt, it seems to me, that Hilton has created something of a curiosity with its new initiative. For it’s an initiative that asks as many questions as it answers.                 Perhaps the most obvious of these questions is why an established independent should go with Curio in the first place. What do owners get out of such an arrangement? After all, these hotels are usually iconic in their own right. Why should they (owners) pay fees they don’t pay now, simply to trade under a different identity? Hilton Worldwide, of course, would say that the answer to this is clear and unarguable: independent hotel owners gain by being able to leverage Hilton’s global commercial engines, as well as capitalise on other Hilton systems, such as reservations and loyalty programs. And, to be fair, there’s something in this. Brands such as Hilton Worldwide have a lot to offer in this respect. Independents can probably benefit considerably through an alliance with companies such as Hilton.                 I say ‘probably’ because, whether or not an independent makes optimum use of its relationship with a brand owner, depends on the answer to another question. And it’s a question that Hilton hasn’t (so far) been clear about.  It’s the question of management. Will the Curio brand come with management supplied, or will this function be left for the hotel owner to provide? My own guess would be the latter – the relationship between Curio and its hotels will be a straightforward franchise arrangement. Either way, though, there are (as I argued in my previous post), dangers for the property owner. On the one hand, assuming the brander (Hilton, in this case) supplies the management role, hotel owners will have the problem of ensuring that their interests are properly represented by the brand owner - maximising revenue is about more than just maximising occupancy. On the other hand, if hotel owners handle management independently, they face the possibility of missing out on skills and experience (of the brander) which could be made to work very much in their interests.                 So, is Curio a good idea for owners or not? This remains to be seen. But I’d argue that Curio is definitely good news for owners if my guess is right. If Hilton Worldwide adopts a simple franchise model (which leaves management to the owner) in the same way that Marriott has done with its similarly conceived Autograph Collection, there is an opportunity for owners to cash in on an alliance (through Curio) with one of the world’s best-known and most established brands. The key to realising this opportunity will be ensuring the right management solution is in place – management that understands how to work with a brand to drive performance and maximise revenues. The key, in other words, will be a competent third-party asset manager.
Refining the 3rd Party Management model
It was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, about 500 BC, who first remarked that the only constant is change itself. Of course, there’s a fair chance that he didn’t have the the global hotel industry specifically in mind, but he might as well have done. Because our industry is in a constant state of flux - and now more than ever, as hotel owners continually strive to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market, serving an ever-more discriminating public. Maximising and maintaining revenues has never been easy, but – today – it’s harder than ever.
But it’s possible. And there are a number of approaches to doing so. The simplest of these is the ‘basic ‘ franchise model, whereby a brand is franchised to an owner for a fee. This offers several significant benefits to the owner, such as the use of the franchisor’s central reservations systems and other brand marketing alliances, but leaves the issue of hotel management to its proprietor. It’s a successful, and commonly adopted, model.
Another established approach builds upon this by providing all the advantages of a basic franchise, but adding in management by the hotel brander. This generally works well for the brander and – on the face of it – should be successful for the hotel owner, too. Increasingly, though, property owners are finding that the street isn’t quite as two-way as they’d thought when they signed the contract: the brander often doesn’t deliver, for one reason or another, on its half of the deal, in term of financial return to the owner. This, it hardly needs to be said, is bad news for proprietors who find themselves trapped into a contractual arrangement (typically for 20 years) that isn’t paying its way.
This failing has begun to make hotel owners increasingly wary of management contracts with brand owners. The result is the recent emergence of a different management solution - a brand-agnostic approach which offers many of the advantages of the brander-managed approach, but which eliminates its key weakness by decoupling the hotel management from the brand. In this approach, a third-party company will identify and use a suitable brand for the owner, but manage the hotel themselves, thus ensuring that the interests of both brand owner and hotel owner are properly represented. And it’s a model that’s attracting considerable interest. In fact, some companies, such as the UK’s Bespoke Hotels, have given the approach an interesting twist. Having recognised a definite demand trend (at least in some regions) towards the ‘unique experience’ and away from the cookie cutter, Bespoke Hotels is offering a management service which gives owners the opportunity to either retain their own name, or trade under one of Bespoke’s own ‘soft’ brands. This not only gives owners a high degree of independence, allowing them to promote themselves how they want, but several other major benefits, too, such as taking advantage of cost efficiencies due to the scale it can offer versus an independent hotel. It’s easy to see why the approach is becoming popular.
And yet it’s not – I would argue – necessarily the best management solution for every owner. Or even the majority of owners. The big hotel brands have a huge amount to offer, and the benefits that can accrue from working with them can be enormous. To choose to eschew them is a risky commercial move. At the same time, it’s hard to deny that the traditional method of leveraging these brands – the approach in which the property is managed by the brander - has serious question-marks hanging over it. What’s needed is a model which gives owners the best of all worlds, by combining the advantages of being backed by an established brand with the revenue-maximising benefits of an experienced, but independent, management team.
This model already exists. In fact, it’s precisely what we specialise in at Evolution. With decades of experience in working with the major brands, we understand what makes them tick, and how they can be used to maximum effect. We know how to match brands to hotels. And we know how brand-independent management can be used to make sure that brand owners get what they want from the relationship, but – critically – also delivers to owners what they’re looking for – not just high occupancy, but maximum revenue.
It can be fairly argued that this is not entirely new: that it’s a management model which is already being successfully implemented by 3rd-party operators such as Interstate and BDL Redefine Hotels. This is true. Even so, I believe that it can be improved still further; that, with some refinements, it’s a model that can deliver even more significant and quantifiable benefits to the majority of owners. This begs the question: what do I mean by ‘some refinements? I’ll be looking at this in a future post. Watch, as they say, this space!
Market Focus


The Russian/CIS market is growing exponentially – Evolution has established itself a specialist adviser on this complex but lucrative marketplace.

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