G1 Group dazzles the guests of its properties with opulent interior designs and sublime dining experiences, the result of avant-garde and visionary thinking, which has transformed Scotland’s hospitality industry
Driven by a desire to breathe new life into a particular building or space, one of Scotland’s largest independent leisure groups – G1 Group – has grown a diverse portfolio of exceptional venues, which includes restaurants, events spaces, hotels, cinemas, and bars. Founded in Glasgow in 1990, the company has developed its own special modus operandi, which sees it restore and rejuvenate listed buildings, especially those with historical or architectural significance.
“Looking back, our first purchase was the old Glasgow Cheese Market and it was definitely a sign of the things to come for us,” COO, Lesley Welsh remembers. “I think, once we made the decision to operate on an exclusively freehold basis, our approach became one of a heightened sense of responsibility with our investment – if we bought something, we wanted it to become more than what we operated it as.”
Throughout the ensuing years, G1 Group built a reputation for being a passionate property developer, following a number of successful openings of buildings many others had shied away. “By default, buying old, listed, and often semi-ruinous buildings presents a whole host of challenges, especially in terms of investment required,” Lesley points out. “Nevertheless, the level of investment we put into our venues is something that truly sets us apart. We spend more and we are very proud of the quality and finish of our interiors, from lighting and flooring, down to soft furnishing. It is no surprise that a lot of the awards we have received over the years, have been in relation to our design and attention to detail.”
As it operates only in Scotland, the variety within its portfolio is of the utmost importance for G1 Group. Lesley details: “Very rarely do we replicate brands in more than one site, as we want to avoid oversaturation of the markets in which we operate. This approach is particularly relevant in places like St Andrews where it was key for us to be able to offer several completely different brands, which catered to completely different markets. It is a win-win situation – our venues are not stepping on each other’s toes and our customers get even more choice and variation.”
Attention to detail
Since the beginning of its operation, G1 Group has stuck to one principle – identify the gaps in a particular market and fill it with a creatively-crafted offering. Not straying from this approach, the company has, in recent years, made a concerted effort to focus on the development of its hotels & accommodation division. What acted as a clear statement of intent was the purchase of the famous five-star Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh in 2017, which then underwent a process of extensive refurbishment.
“The hotel side of the business is still a relatively new segment for us. We currently run seven properties, so we feel we still have so much to do and we really love the prospect of the challenge,” Lesley enthuses. “Hotels let us indulge in our penchant for design on a whole new level, while also creating a unique opportunity for us to bring what has previously been a more restaurant/bar operator head to a hotelier environment. We believe that this has really helped us develop and enhance our customer service and attention to detail.”
As an aspiring operator in the hospitality industry, G1 Group places special emphasis on its food and beverage proposition. The company is keen on exhibiting its Scottish origins, which are reflected in its menus, also benefitting from the fact that it has some of the world’s best produce right on its doorstep.
“Our customers are food savvy and they are conscious and interested in where their food comes from,” Lesley maintains. “For that reason, we strive to deliver fresh-cooked food in our venues and avoid packed frozen food offers. We also take an active approach in menu development all the way down to grassroots level. We recently paired up with JB Foods to create a new product range called Rievers Reverse, which will deliver to us a fantastic 28-day, dry-aged beef from super select cattle. With vegan offerings being one of the largest emergent food segments, we have also sought out the opportunity to link up with real experts in the field, such as the guys at Daring Foods, to ensure we adapt vegan offerings to our menus, too.
“In order to ensure we are getting the best products, every time we select a new supplier, we go through strenuous sampling and cook-offs, to guarantee that the products meet stringent guidelines for quality, provenance, and availability,” she adds. “We have worked very hard over the past three years to establish stable pricing, product quality, delivery efficiency, and staff utilisation. This has taken us from 11 main suppliers to three main routes of supply in regards to the purchasing of drinks, for example. We see great benefits from this, as we adhere to strict time windows, which allows us to have the best staff balance on the rota for looking after our customers and getting the necessary products on-site.”
A telling example of G1 Group’s commitment to getting on board the very best suppliers, is the company’s fruitful relationship with beer line cleaning service provider, Avani Solutions. Lesley praises the partnership: “Avani helps us immensely in maintaining our beer quality. They have always said that they do ‘more than just line clearing’ and after working with them for well over a year now, we have a much fuller appreciation of what this means in practice. They provide our team with valuable know-how by training them on subjects like the perfect pour, nozzle hygiene, glassware care, and cellar best practice. As a result of their work, our product is always in the best condition possible.
“We have got off to a strong start this year, with some exciting developments in the pipeline in its second half, notably the exceptional boutique cinema offering, which will be launching within The Scotsman Hotel later this summer,” Lesley sheds some light on G1 Group’s future plans. “Looking further down the road, we can certainly promise a dynamic and exciting few years, given the investments we have up our sleeves. We expect our estate to increase in size, with even greater focus on accommodation as we intend to develop The Scotsman Hotel brand further.
“Finally, with G1 Group fast approaching its 30th anniversary, we felt it was time to step back and look at how we can invest in our communities in less conventional ways than we normally do. We are currently reassessing our charity link-ups, looking to make it easier for smaller companies to benefit from working with us. We have just launched Soap Co – an ethical bath and beauty brand, which operates as a social enterprise, providing training and work opportunities for people who are visually impaired, disabled, or otherwise disadvantaged. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to the community and we are hoping to have many more initiatives of this kind, as we continue to grow,” Lesley inspiredly concludes.