MUSICSTYLING MEETS - In conversation with Stephen Nash.
Not many famous global landmarks are able to combine contemporary luxury with rich prestige and heritage – which is why for this next episode of MUSICSTYLING MEETS we had to sit down with Stephen Nash, General Manager of the upcoming Escapade concept at Silverstone. Join us to discover more and understand how Stephen’s vast experience in the industry is bringing this audacious vision to life.
We are here today with Stephen Nash, friend of mine and a very exciting,
interesting, and successful hospitality professional. Thank you so much
for joining me.
Thanks for having me, Axel. I appreciate it.
Thank you very much for bringing us to a super special environment as
well, Silverstone racetrack. And thank you for bringing the weather.
My pleasure. We put on the weather today and as you can see in the
background, we've got the Silverstone Wing which is the International
Paddock in the background as well.
Fantastic. And, but we are also here because of a very, very special
project that you're involved in, that you run the Escapade Silverstone.
Do you want to tell us more about it?
Sure. So Escapade is really a super interesting concept that has been
developed. So it's a high-end premium quality hotel resort style at the
side of the track. So covering the copse, maggots, becketts complex on
the circuit, one of the most renowned complexes on the Formula One grid
in the world and it's really a hospitality concept that goes right to
the very heart of Silverstone, which is on its own journey at the moment
as well. So it's not about being a resort, just plunked on the side of
the racetrack, if you, for want of a better word, but it really goes to
the very heart. So the offering, the service, everything that we will
get at escapade comes from the Silverstone heart.
Amazing. And what about Silverstone and the position here? What drew you
to this place. What is that goes to your heart?
Sure. Well I think I've alluded it to it before. I grew up in a in a
family of petrol heads of different capacities. Silverstone, as we know,
is a legacy circuit. It's the only grade one listed circuit in the
United Kingdom and it's growing. It's on a very staunch journey so we've
got Escapade that's gonna drive a very unique hospitality concept there.
We've got a new go-karting track that's been developed for next year, in
the next couple of years that's gonna be one of the world's best. So
it's really on a growth and a trajectory that's gonna make a big
difference in the UK scene. So if you add the hospitality piece to that
and kind of create a unique resort style complex that kind of, like I
said, goes to the heart of what they're doing, then that's what made it
so interesting for me to come and get involved in.
Ah, that sounds absolutely amazing, like a dream come true. And sitting
next to an F1 track, are you actually an F1 fan?
So, I've always, I'm not an F1 fan. I cannot sit next to the thousands of
people that come to this circuit on an annual basis and claim to be an
F1 fan. I've always followed it from a distance. So in the late nineties
when you had the Nigel Mansells and whatnot. So we used to follow it
from a distance that obviously reinvigorated the interest as Louis
Hamilton and Jensen Button previous to that came back to the fold as a
British driver. So I've always followed it from a distance, but I really
kind of champion all kind of motor sports, the grassroots level. What
happens here for me on an everyday basis is as important to me than what
happens on the formula one weekend.
Fantastic. And I know you grew up with Motorsport from literally day one,
your dad being involved with Motorsport. Do you want to tell us about
that growing up in your dad's garage maybe?
Sure. So my father was involved in drag racing. So in the seventies he
was helping put together Santa Pod Raceway which is not too far from
here. And so he was a drag racing mechanic, up at Santa Pod Raceway. He
did Banga racing. He was into Speedway, so we were at a racetrack of
some kind from a very young age, helping to, he said, fix his banger
cars, but essentially we were just hitting them with a hammer as a
child. And that kind of, you know, coming back to Silverstone really
kind of gives the air of motor sport, the culture, that kind of petrol
head vibe that you get when you're growing up. So that dust and that
kind of feel that you can only get a racetrack on the weekend, I would
say. So that's a big part, but Silverstone's very different to that.
It's a lot more elevated than that. It's, you know, it's really on its
way to be in a very strong premier circuit, the kind of events that it's
holding. You've got the wing in the background here, you know, a 4,000
up to 4,000 person conference and exhibition center, which is holding
lots of unique events annually. And then when you add the carting, when
you add Escapade to that, you know, and you add all the other facilities
that have been reinvested into the circuit, it's like it's on a path
that is super interesting. So it's why you would wanna be part of it.
So in your journey with this, with this amazing project, what was the
most enjoyable moment so far?
So we're still in a pre-opening phase right now so we are still working
very hard to put the concept together and to make it work. So far I
think it's been part of the Silverstone culture overall. It's been
driven by the managing director, Stuart Pringle, who is a very calm head
for the circuit and he drives a very inspiring culture to work with. If
it's not clear already, I'm employed by Silverstone as the management
company for Escapade. And even if I've worked for some international
brands, hospitality brands, some of the people that are running this
business are really leading when it comes to keeping a grown-up
sophisticated culture. And I think that's been the most enjoyable thing
and surprising thing I have to say, because, you know, when you work for
companies like Marriott International, et cetera, you're kind of working
for very experienced brands. You know, people that know how to treat
people, people with strong ethos, and so you come into a race circuit
and you kind of assume maybe, and wrongly in this case, that it's not as
elevated in terms of its culture and it's operation. And in fact it's a
lot more elevated because not only does Stewart and his management team
keep a tight ship at the circuit, but you're not operating a hotel per
se, you're operating a city. So you've got petrol stations, you've got
grand stands, you've got conference and exhibition centers, you've got
so many things, roads… there's so many things that are happening.
And so I think the most enjoyable thing so far is being part of that
culture overall which stands out amongst some of the best, I would say.
Wow, thank you. And is that enjoyable part also the most trickiest and
challenging part - being out of your comfort zone sometimes?
Yeah absolutely. You know, Escapade in isolation is within the payline,
so that's a big point of difference. You know, it's part of Silverstone,
it's within the racetrack itself. So putting together a hotel that needs
to kind of blend in seamlessly with the track operations, it provides
its own complications. So I think it's a very complicated project to put
together, and it's my job and it's our job to make sure that the guests
that will come to stay with us from next year doesn't experience all of
those complications at the very end.
Fantastic. All the best for that. Sounds super interesting. While we are
passing the building site currently there were a lot of interesting
other brands literally in the surroundings there. Do you want to tell us
a bit more about these experiences?
Sure. So we have within Silverstone, within the payline, we've got Aston
Martin who operate there, Stroll complex. We have the Porsche Experience
Center who are essentially our next door neighbors to Escapade but
around the circuit there's a number of companies that are growing with
us. So there's some really innovative companies around us. So Aston
Martin are also building a brand new complex on the side of the site as
well. So they're growing significantly. We have people like Lunaz - so
Lunaz are electrifying cars, and so they're in the news quite regularly
as well. We've got the tech and innovation park right next to us. We
have a university which is also beside the track as well. So the
innovation park is growing substantially. So there's a lot of growth
around the area, kind of tied into what we are doing at Silverstone. So
you're gonna see a lot more growth where that came from as well, I'd
Amazing… growing area and really cool experiences all around. What
is your typical guest that you target that you think will be, will be
buying the condos, will be staying with you, will be coming over?
Sure. So we've got two sides to the business model. Of course, we've got
the ownership piece where we have investors or owners that can purchase
the residences for their own personal use, and they have their own
personal aspirations or use. So some of them have people or family
racing in championships. Other people love Formula One, other people
love the investment side of it. So everyone's got their own personal
motivation. One thing that they all do have in common is the love of
motor sports. So you've got those guys, they are mainly UK based - we do
have some overseas owners as well. The sales are going very well so
they're running out quite quickly. And then you've got the stay element
of it which is in very important. So once these are sold and the owners
get their privileges and the benefits that they get then we operate this
like a resort essentially, so any one of the general public can
purchase, can stay overnight, and can book it like a regular hotel. So
we anticipate most of those being UK based as well. You know, we are
kind of within the hour and a half to the majority of the UK population
so it's easy to get to for most people from London, from Birmingham,
from Manchester, etc. So mostly UK based of course for the major events;
the motor gps, the Formula Ones, we'll have more international visitors
of course but it's mainly UK based. Everyone with motor sports at heart,
you know, it's gonna be very experiential as well so if you want to get
a real taste of Silverstone, then Escapade is the place where you'd want
to get that.
Fantastic. I definitely want to check this out. Just being out at the
building site it looks already amazing. You can envision the pool, the
rooftop terrace, the bar overlooking the racetrack directly. I read a
lot about sustainability within Silverstone - and what are you doing at
Escapade especially to target subject?
Sure. So there's a couple of different viewpoints I suppose. There's the
build in isolation. So, you know, as part of this development, we are
gonna be putting in 400 new trees, so not replaced. They were not there
previously. So 400 new trees. We've got green roofs on all of our single
tier residences and of course we follow bream standards to kind of match
the sustainability piece operationally. So as we operate it, as
Silverstone, we obviously tie into the racetrack. So you'll see the
building right opposite us now, which has got full solar panel roofs. So
Silverstone on the whole, including Escapade, are really driving
sustainability. We have a Head of Sustainability employed that drives
sustainability at the race circuit and so everything that goes with it -
so in terms of innovation, and not many people are really innovating in
that field fundamentally, but we are really tying in with what
hospitality are doing. We are really tying in with what Formula One and
the race championships want to achieve. And I would probably suggest at
this point that we are at the very forefront of what those championships
and what hospitality are doing.
Fantastic, I can only applaud you for that. Do you see within the whole
of hospitality, do you think, or do you feel that, sustainability is a
major subject going forward?
Sure. I mean I wouldn't say it's just for hospitality. I think it's very
clear that sustainability has to be at the forefront of everyone's
minds, fundamentally. It's not just because we are told to do it, of
course. I mean, there's two elements to it. One is kind of government
and local government really needs to be pushing and making things happen
very, very quickly, probably quicker than we would like to do them, or
what's convenient to do. And at the very back end, we need to make sure
that we are also innovating, we are complying, we are thinking for the
government too, at the other side, and making sure that, you know, we've
got somewhere to enjoy in 10, 20, 50, 100 years time, right? So that's
what we're doing at Silverstone here. We're trying to really think about
our stage one and what we are doing on a day-to-day basis, but we're
also thinking about the stage three, around trip generation. How can we
make people take shorter trips to the circuit? And we are changing our
fuel and all those kind of things that we can do to kind of reduce as
much as possible the impact and like I said, and make the place, make
motorsport, make the location, make hospitality more sustainable for the
future as well, so we can keep operating it.
Brilliant - and building a team for such a unique project is not easy.
What are you looking for in terms of people; what they can deliver to
the project, to the team? What is the main focus?
First of all, the main focus is in that we have - the characteristics of
the new staff that tie in with the current circuit characteristics. So,
you know, what you'll find at Silverstone is you have extremely
hardworking, dedicated staff, a great teamwork ethic, you know, and I
think you need to have that to operate a circuit of this complexity. So
I think that escapade is no different to that. Fundamentally, I think
hard work and teamwork are two things that come naturally from the
hospitality industry in any case. So those are definitely
characteristics that we're looking for. Of course, we're operating a
high quality premium hospitality offering, so we need to also elevate
that level of service and offer the best there is to offer at
Brilliant. Having had a long and very successful career in the
hospitality industry so far, living in different countries, seeing
different cultures and experiences and influences, what would you give
as advice to young people that want to enter the hospitality industry?
I think what I would say is that the hospital industry is very, very
diverse, you know, so you hear in the media that it's long hours, you
know, hard work and all of the kind of negative computations I come with
here, but it's a very open, inclusive industry. You know, you can start
in it without any particular background. It is an unskilled from the
line staff perspective, it is an unskilled industry, which opens it up
for a lot of people. So it's open and the other thing I hear a lot is
that people would say to me, I don't wanna work in hospitality that, but
then we'll name an industry, or we'll name a job that actually does
anyway exist in the hospitality industry. So you would have someone that
says, I wanna be a social media executive, or they say, you want to be a
plumber, or they say that they want to be a cocktail waiter, or they say
they want be, you know, a whole array of different, you know, revenue
analyst, business analyst, you know, digital marketing person, where all
of those things exist within hospitality. So, and the other thing that
you would get with hospitality is that we'll actually train and help
develop you through that process. So if you are in your 17, 18, 19, 20s,
you know, late teens, early twenties, and you're looking for a
direction, looking for a place to call home, well, hospitality offers
you all that and they actually take you on that journey. So that's what
I would say to them. Don't be afraid to look into hospitality, look at
all of the different array of careers that you can get from it. And like
me, you know, I've been working in hotels for more than 20 years now and
it's taken me across the world. It's taken me across lots of different
disciplines and I can say that's the same for many, many colleagues of
mine. So I would say give it a chance.
Fantastic. And within the hospitality, within your experience working in
that industry, who really inspired you?
Oh, wow. That's a difficult one. First of all I think that inspiration
comes from so many different places, you know, so it is very difficult
to attribute it to one person or a group of people. You know, it would
be from some of the line staffs, it would be people that have given
their role to work for me or with me as an example. But if you take
inspiration from a career mode, a hotelier that inspired me today,
there's a couple of people that kind of live long in my memory of my
career. One would most probably be Stuart Bowery at Grosvenor House in
London. Stuart still to this day upholds luxury hospitality in all its
guises, which something that's very quickly diminishing in today's
world, you know, so he knows the luxury hospitality world. He manages a
vast team and it's very difficult to find someone with a bad word
against him. I think equally to that was his old hotel manager, Morten
Skumsrud, who now works for the Marriott global team. And again, a
really strong operator, really knows how to drive high performing teams.
So he's another person, but I want to add in somebody else in the
equation as well, which is in my current room of work, which is some of
the leadership team here at Silverstone, which again, you know, I didn't
maybe expect to be at the same level of some of these international
brands, but people like Alex Lacey, who's the operations director at the
Circuit, who is running a small town here at Silverstone very, very well
and very, very efficiently. And again, Stuart Pringo, I think I
mentioned before, leading a vast circuit with a massive growth span with
a very, very calm head. So there's just a few names that I could have
probably, you know, listed out a long list of people ultimately, but
there are some people in the industry that kind of lead by example and
when they do, I think they deserve to be called out for it.
Brilliant. I totally agree. That's fantastic. And what is the best piece
of advice that you've been given and maybe you shared?
Wow. That's a really difficult question for me because I think that I've
probably given out a lot of rubbish advice in the past, so I think it's
very personal to everyone. But equally, I think I've given some great
advice to other people. I don't think there's one piece of advice that
stands out for me as being good. I think each individual person would've
taken advice. What I can say is there's been a lot of people that have
grown with me over the years. You know, people that were line staff in
the beginning alongside me and who are general managers today, or people
that have grown under me, etc. So I think that it'll be a question for
them fundamentally, but nothing that really stands out for me as an
Brilliant, thank you. So we touched upon your career already and you
worked in different countries, not only within Europe, but also overseas
in South America. When you lived there, I know that you really wanted to
learn from the different cultures and even learn the language. So did
you end up speaking the languages of the countries you lived in?
Yes and no. So I did speak kind of upper intermediate Spanish when I was
out in Argentina, kind of, you know, maybe 20 years ago. So I spoke that
very, very well at a certain point then when I learned Italian, and I do
speak Italian now, I kind of lost the Spanish. You start to kind of get
lost in translation as you go across languages. So I speak Italian now
and then when I went to Germany, I didn't learn German. I
retrospectively picked up a German beginner's class which is very
difficult to maintain at the current stage. But yeah, so some languages
I did - not as strongly as I would like to have maintained over a long
period of time. But my children have kind of latched onto that. So they
do speak Italian and English and my oldest son is picking up on Spanish
as well at the moment, at five years old. So it kind of, hopefully that
is the inspiration for them as well to kind of start that process.
Fantastic. And over the years, you spent a few years within Marriott with
different brands and different regions, and different projects. What did
you pick up, especially from Marriott in terms of principles? What stood
out? What did you learn, especially from, from their brand mentality?
Sure. Well, you know, I've worked for Marriott as a company, as a
management company, as well as their franchisees and different ownership
models. And it's something that really flows through the business from
the very core. You can start with a Mr. Marriott kind of phrase, which
simply says look after your staff, they will look after your customer
and your customer will return. And I think that's the principle. I mean,
you say the principle of a brand, the principle of a company, that's at
the very root level that translates across everything that you do. So,
you know, if you look after your people, then you will grow your
business, and you see it today where there's shortages in the
hospitality and you're forced to kind of put extra pressure on people
and those companies that are not looking after, those are kind of facing
the biggest recruitment challenges, right? Because the biggest problem
is more retaining the staff than recruiting them in the first place. So
I think that learning from merit, the principle of looking after your
people will take you a very long way before you start talking about the
flashy lights and the niceties of a guest experience. You need to kind
of really bring your staff on that journey with you. So I think that's
the main principle that would stand out for me.
Wow. Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And working within Marriott in
different brands, what do you think is the main element to create really
distinguished and distinctive brand image?
Yeah, it's a tough one in 2023 because, you know, brands are everywhere
now. You know, kind of the brand development over the last 20 years has
been magnanimous. Even the local coffee shop is super branded, right? So
I think that be true to yourself, really understand who you are as a
brand and what you are there to deliver, what your purpose is in life,
you know? And so if you look at the Marriott brands, of which there's
30, 31, every time I look, there's a new one. How do you operate say a W
brand versus operating Regis, which, but they have the same principles,
they have the same hospitality foundations. It's kind of the backend,
the experiential piece that changes. And I just think if you know who
your customer is in the first instance, you know it, then it doesn't
matter if you have a logo, if you have a brand, if you have a playbook,
you know, if you know who the person is that's gonna walk through your
door and what you're gonna give them to make them turn up on a day. Then
that's - for me - the foundations of a good brand. You know, not
worrying about tickbox exercises of do we have a logo or do we have a
catch line and a slogan? I think it's really stay true to what you are
actually doing and don't lose sight of it.
Wow. Yeah. Amazing. Now we're getting to the easier part of the
interview. I think so far it was eye-opening for me. I learn every time
I meet you, I learn new things and I'm really excited to see your
journey with Escapade here and can't wait to come back when it's
finished. On the easier questions; do you like to travel and if yes,
where do you go on your own or with your family? What kind of your
Sure. So yes, I think I like to travel like most people do over the last
few years. We travelled quite a lot over the last few years to different
places, had the benefit of living in some of them, of course, and it
really is eye-opening. On the bucket list right now - it's more my
wife's bucket list than my one, you know, I kind of have to go along
with her list - which is South Korea at the moment. I think South Korea
is a that is inspiring at the moment and they really are driving a lot
of the trends actually in Europe. So if you go to Berlin, if you go to
London, you look at all the food and beverage, you know, the Bulgogi
beef and all the Korean kind of driven food and beverage offerings. So I
think South Korea's on the bucket list. And I think that's the key one
right now. I think we need to get there before moving on to the next one
on the bucket list.
Absolutely, totally understand that. But when you travel and you visit
new places, what do you expect from your stay?
So I'm a pretty easy guest in a hotel, so I would never complain to the
staff. In the background, I'm always looking for inspiration, so I kind
of do note what's good, what's bad. I am the kind of person that would
lift up the bedsheets and look for bedbugs in a hotel but I would never,
unless I found them, of course, which I haven't to date, luckily. I'm
very easygoing and I kind of enjoy the experience as much as I can, but
I do take learnings in the background, so when I see something great, I
do take note of it. And equally, if I see something that's not quite
going, I also learn from that as well, make sure that I don't apply that
to my own operation.
That's good advice really. In your career so far what's the proudest
moment of your achievements?
I think it's the long term strategy really. So when I got into hotels at
17 years old, you know, so I was out of school. I started in a reception
of a three diamond hotel in London, Houston. And I worked there for
about, I think I got promoted after about five months to a supervisor.
You know, I was very young, very enthusiastic and I remember at that
time saying to myself and saying to everyone for the following 20 years,
I wanted to be a hotel general manager, you know, and I didn't know
which hotel, how big, how small, how many stars, how nice, which
location. I just knew that I wanted to be a hotel manager. So everything
I've been doing over the last kind of 20 years-ish has been on that
journey, on that path to be a general manager, which I've achieved. So I
think that the long-term goal strategy, if you like, has been the
proudest moment is when I got that first general manager position or
senior position, kind of knowing that I'd achieved the long-term goal
from when I was a teenager.
Fantastic. And well deserved. That’s a great goal and
congratulations for the achievement so far. I think there will be many,
many more merits to come in future. Apart from the stress in your job -
and it is stressful, and especially with a project like that - how do
you relax? How do you really get your head free again?
I mean, to get my head free is more the journey to and from work. So I'm
lucky to drive to and from work where I drive through the
Buckinghamshire countryside every morning, every evening, and usually
that's the time to kind of decompress. And that's where the best ideas
come from, usually on that car journey. But I have two young children
who don't usually, when you get home, let you decompress and unwind,
which is a beauty in itself, of course. So I think it's that the
downtime for me - that kind of hour home and hour to work where it gives
me the kind of the time to decompress by the time I get home, or by the
time I get to work and kind of refresh myself. Really.
Brilliant. That leads me to the next question and probably I envision you
might say. So if you have a, a film, a podcast, or an album that you
could pick right now, what would it be?
Yeah. Well with children it's probably gonna be between Ice Age 2 and
Santiago Off the Sea or something like this. There's nothing really much
time where they'll give you the time to kind of look into what you want
to watch, I would say. So I don't have many inspirational kind of
recommendations at the moment, but it'll probably be end up in a
children's program of some capacity.
Fantastic. I'm a huge fan of Ice Age anyway so it might be a great
recommendation if you got children, right? Yeah. I have a few.
Ultimately, so let's envision you would have two weeks and do whatever
you want, travel wherever you want, and can be yourself. Where would
I think in the current moment in time in life, it would have to be kind
of like a Bali beach oasis of some capacity, right? I think, you know,
like I said, with young children the last thing I can think of is kind
of like a children's entertainment place. So I think it's that kind of
oasis style, a Bali Maldives, something where you can completely get
away and kind of disappear for two weeks mentally and physically and
reset. So yeah, something like that would be my place to go right now.
Sounds lovely. And what will be the soundtrack you will take with you?
So what's kind of hot on my Spotify account? What's going through the
motions? I'm listening a lot right now to an Italian artist called
Madam. She's kind of a pop hip hop kind of artist in Italy so she does
some really cool soundtracks. So we are going through that quite a lot
at the moment. And then it sounds very strange cliche, maybe even sad to
some extent, but I actually listen a lot to hotel playlists, so things
like W Hotels living room or the Mondrian or even Soho House playlists,
etc. I kind of like to listen to those kind of vibes when I'm at home.
So if you've got a hotel playlist and just send me an email to it and
I'll probably be listened to it over the weekend.
I might be able to dig something out! For my next episode I'm going to
interview Stuart Bowery, an icon in the hospitality industry. And just
out of interest is there a question that you would ask Stuart?
Well, Stuart, that's a difficult one. So what do I want to know from you,
Stuart? So now you are managing Grosvenor House and W Hotel - so we
spoke before about the different types of brand and types of
experiences… what are the challenges, or how do you maintain the
two different brands separately when you're the manager of both at the
I think that's a fair question! We will make sure we pass that on.
Stephen Nash, thank you so much, it was a privilege. Thank you. And an
Thank you very much.
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