The Experimental Group was founded by three friends in 2007 with a vision to share a contemporary hospitality experience to an exacting clientele the world over. Here, RLI speaks with Co-Founder Pierre-Charles Cros about how the company has grown in the last 13 years and how it is now focusing on its hotel portfolio.
Olivier Bon, Pierre-Charles Cros and Romée de Goriainoff, three childhood friends with a taste for innovation launched Experimental Group with the first Experimental Cocktail Club on a small side street in Paris and changed the face of the city.
The team expanded in 2010 when Xavier Padovani came on board as a fourth partner and from here the company has worked its way up the hospitality chain, moving from one location to multiple cocktail clubs, to bar & restaurant sites and finally to hotel sites. Today, they operate a portfolio of fifteen venues across six countries, with their main markets being Paris, London and New York.
“The idea today is to be hotel led whilst retaining a strong F&B complement,” explains Pierre-Charles Cos, Co-Founder of Experimental Group. “We now have three properties in Paris, France, one in London, UK, one in Verbier, Switzerland, one in Venice, Italy and one in Menorca in the Balearic Islands.”
Before Covid-19 landed in Europe earlier this year, the company had been busy with three openings in three different countries in 2019. Additional expansion plans were in place for 2020 before these were cut short due to the virus. Now, the focus is on managing the losses sustained due to hotel closures.
Cros explains that the difficulties sustained because of Covid-19 were not so much about performance, but about damage control. Operating hotels in six different countries presented a huge challenge for the founders, as each country had its own approach to dealing with the virus and its own set of rules.
“In a period such as this it is hard to look at opening new properties, but we have continued to keep planning and thinking about the next phase of our international expansion. What this crisis will do is present opportunities not previously present and we want to be in a position to make the most of these in the future,” says Cros.
The company is very opportunity based when selecting new properties. There is not a set plan for each new location. For them, what they look for are unique properties that possess soul and an interesting history.
They are still interested in continuing their hotel expansion within Europe and would like to create some brand density in their major markets such as Paris, London and the Balearic Islands.
“Everything we have done so far has been a real love affair and this is how we ensure our destinations remain attractive and exciting, because we operate a niche collection of hotels, we can ensure we maintain the high standards across the portfolio,” Cros explains.
Passion has been a key driver for the business ever since its inception and it is this affection for their company and their locations which has contributed to the success of Experimental Group. Cros and his friends are sharing something they love and this affects every decision they make, they do it out of a burning passion for the brand, not just because they think it will work commercially.
“I feel little by little that makes a big difference and you can see this in the service we offer, which is now one of our unique selling points. The people that work for us are happy in their work and they see our drive and passion and they are happy to truly play their parts in delivering this exceptional service to guests,” comments Cros.
Social media is a large and ongoing subject for Experimental, and just before the Covid-19 crisis took hold, it was one of the departments in which they were working hard in order to boost their presence. In the past the business had put all of its effort into the actual experience, but they are now realising the power and potential of having a social media presence.
When discussing the ethos of the Group, Cros says that they never compromise on quality and they always try to offer that truly genuine and passionate love of the company to guests. “One meaning of experimental is more chemical, ours is more experimental in terms of the experience and our experiences are multi-dimensional, this is what we centre ourselves on, the customer experience.”
The greatest challenge for the Group at the moment is continuing to thrive in exceptionally difficult circumstances. “During the lockdowns, we have just looked forward to the day that we could reopen with the opportunity to do what we love once again,” Cros concludes.