- UK business centre operator Office Space In Town has acquired Burgh Island in Devon
- The flexible workspace operator, an early pioneer of serviced offices, is taking on a full-scale refurbishment of the 1920s hotel
- CEO Giles Fuchs says, “It is a relatively small step [from workspace] into leisure and hotels. Ultimately it is all about service”
The flexible workspace industry has greatly evolved over the past couple of years; there’s a better understanding of it, there’s greater demand for it, and there are increased expectations for workspace providers.
There’s also new terminology and new product and service offerings. There have been vast changes in the industry, like the way these spaces lease space, they way they operate, the market to which they cater to, and even their overall focus and philosophy.
We live in a new world, one that is dominated by experiences that add value to our lives. This is one of the main reasons why flexible workspaces boomed; they were and continue to be able to provide a pleasant and enjoyable work experience. And this has been possible because operators of all types realize, now more than ever, that flexible workspaces are a blend of the real estate and hospitality industry.
While space is a key element of what’s on offer, the hospitality element is what makes it attractive for everyone, what makes our industry stand out. If I just wanted fast Wi-Fi and a comfortable chair, I could go basically anywhere. But people don’t want just that; they want more, especially as the lines between work and life continue to blur.
We wanted to offer our clients more life options
– Niki Fuchs, Office Space in Town
In the past couple of months, we’ve seen operators take a different approach to hospitality. Some are creating niche spaces, others are starting to offer private club and lifestyle memberships and benefits, others are upping the game on types of amenities; we’ve seen everything from manicures and private jets to concierges and yoga classes.
In the quest for differentiation, it’s not just about what you offer, but how you offer and deliver it. UK based Office Space in Town’s (OSiT) recent acquisition of Burgh Island, a 1920s Art Deco hotel, marks an important step towards industry growth, maturity, and and recognition that serviced workspace is built on the foundations of hospitality.
Allwork.Space spoke with Giles Fuchs, CEO of Office Space in Town, to learn more about the hotel acquisition, why it makes sense for them as a flexible workspace operator, and where the value is for their workspace members.
Allwork.Space: Why did OSiT decide to buy Burgh Island?
Giles Fuchs: Love. I was shown the picture of the island and hotel, was advised that it was available to buy and that was it. The decision was made almost before we had been to view it. Having said that, it fitted with my long term intentions for OSiT. We have years of experience in developing and running exceptional serviced workspace buildings, which provide outstanding levels of service to clients (including serviced bedrooms in our flagship Monument building), it is a relatively small step into leisure and hotels. Ultimately it is all about service.
Allwork.Space: How will Burgh Island be incorporated into OSiT’s current business model (flexible workspaces)?
We offer a ‘private members club’ network to our workspace clients, which allows them access to any of our buildings. The acquisition of the Burgh Island Hotel means that we can extend that offer to include a truly special place in which they can hold corporate events, such as AGMs and shareholder meetings, offer it as part of staff bonus packages or even hire it for personal use such as weddings or birthdays.
We wouldn’t be the business that we are today without the support and dedication of our exceptional staff and suppliers. We look forward to being able to offer them special access to Burgh Island as a thank you for all the work they do for us, going above and beyond the call of duty.
Finally, OSiT is a family owned business, which I have built together with my sister Niki. Burgh Island will provide a place that we, as a family, will be able to escape to, and where we can build memories in the years to come.
Allwork.Space: Will Burgh Island continue to operate as a regular hotel or are there any changes OSiT is hoping to make?
Burgh Island will absolutely continue to operate as a hotel. It has an established, and extremely loyal client base, and has counted notable figures such as Noel Coward, Agatha Christie and The Beatles amongst its guests. While the hotel will undergo a multimillion pound renovation, lasting a total of twelve months, we will work hard to ensure that the essence, magic and luxury of its 1920’s glamour is retained.
We do, however, want to ensure that we are catering to modern tastes and expectations so will be extending the services available to include a luxury spa and private boat which can be used to transport guests to alternative beaches on the mainland. Our absolute focus will be the pleasure, comfort and enjoyment of our guests.
Allwork.Space: Niki Fuchs mentioned that what OSiT is hoping to do is offer more “life options for its clients.” How will OSiT members benefit from the purchase of Burgh Island, and what’s behind the decision to offer “more life options”?
In recent years we have seen the rise of the importance of work life balance, and a shift in the expectations of the workplace environment, leading to a blurring of the lines between serviced offices and hotels. This isn’t as surprising as it sounds. The maturing of the serviced office sector has been matched by an evolution of its offer. The ‘desk-space and phone’ offer of the first serviced offices, has been replaced by some of the world’s most desirable office buildings, completed to an HQ equivalent spec and offering a concierge style service that would challenge those of luxury hotels. We want to continue making work life balance easy and attainable for our clients.
Allwork.Space: What can you tell us about the hotel?
The hotel was built in the 1920s and sits on top of its own tidal island just south of Dartmoor National Park. It is cut off from the mainland twice a day, so a “sea-tractor” transports guests to and from the island, which adds a sense of wonder and exclusivity. Architecturally the hotel is one of the most important examples of contemporary Art Deco in the UK. It is reported that General (later President) Eisenhower and Prime Minister Winston Churchill used the island as a secret rendezvous location prior to the D-Day invasion. You just have to smile all the time whilst you are there; it is a little slice of heaven.
Allwork.Space: Any other details you can add about the purchase and what it means for OSiT?
The acquisition marks a major milestone for OSiT as we expand our portfolio from serviced workspaces into the leisure and hotel sectors, and increase our footprint beyond Central London.
We were lucky enough to work with a close group of co-founders and advisers to structure and conclude the deal including Marechale Capital, Coutts, Inn-Telligence and hospitality specialist and Founder and Managing Director of the Hotel’s investment group; Duncan Gray.
Allwork.Space: Anything else you’d like to add?
Engaging and working with the local community is really important to us. We intend to create job opportunities through the refurbishment and operation of the hotel.
As well as acquiring the hotel, we have also bought the island’s pub, the Pilchard Inn, which was established in 1336. The pub will be open to the general public and we intend to open a new kitchen so that we are able to start offering food. We hope that the pub will become a destination in its own right.
We are immensely proud of the hotel’s history and heritage, and will work hard to retain its inimitable sense of opulent elegance!