Bastien Peyraud is General Manager at The Imperial Hotel, Cork. Born in Lyon to Swiss/French parents he grew up in Nice in the South of France. He developed a passion for the hospitality industry as a student and committed to pursuing it as a career. His motto is “I want to live every day of my life doing a job I love” and he says “that is why I choose to works in hotels”.
Bastien began his career in the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris in 2001 before making the move to the Red Carnation Hotel Group where he would be based first in Geneva, then Switzerland and later London. He worked with the luxury British hotel group Rocco Forte Hotels, before his recent move to Ireland when he was recruited to join the Flynn hotel collection.
From the first visit he has been hooked on Cork, living and working in the city has made him passionate about the place and the people, he loves that the city is all about food and has a welcoming vibrant feeling.
How did you feel when you heard the news that the hotel could re-open on June 2nd?
My first thought was to share the news with the Imperial Family, our staff and colleagues and let them know of the plans for re-opening. I was excited to show the team all the changes we made to the hotel, inside and out during lockdown.
I hadn’t seen a lot of the Imperial Family since the first lockdown, so it was great to see everyone back in the hotel doing what we do best. It was timely that we got to reopen ahead in June as it meant we were able to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the visit of the Royal Family of Monaco. Prince Rainier, Princess Grace and their children stayed here on the 24th June 1961.
Remembering our famous guests
It was something we were then able to celebrate by introducing several Princess Grace themed staycation packages. We added quirky elements like a ‘Graceful Escape’ luxury spa treatment at our Escape Spa. The ‘Princess Grace Afternoon Tea’ features delicate pastries inspired by all her favourite things GK Perfume Bottle, a mini-Hermes Kelly handbag, a rose, champagne and more.
What have you been doing during lockdown?
Eating! Other than that, the hotel’s antiques and marble features were restored. We created a wall of history featuring some of our more famous past guests including Michael Collins, Charles Dickens, and Maureen O’Hara. We have also worked and developed new menus and a new selection of Irish cocktails using all Irish spirits and locally sourced ingredients.
During the first lockdown I concentrated on learning about all the practical aspects of combatting Covid (social distancing, sanitisation, etc). During the last lockdown, I focussed on my mental health and how to address the mental health issues created by the lockdowns. This commitment has been a key factor in our staff retention.
The lockdown gave us the opportunity to focus on many projects that were always in the pipeline, including a huge renovation and our ambitious sustainability plans. We put a stronge focus on supporting local throughout our supply chain. Even the hand sanitiser is sourced locally, from Castle Freke Gin Distillery in Rosscarbery in West Cork.
More outdoor dining to come
Does the Imperial have outdoor dining?
In collaboration with Cork City Council, we created a ‘parklet’ outside the main doors of the hotel last March. We use local, pollinator-friendly plants from Hanako, a flower farm in West Cork. We also have covered tables with heaters using recycled wood pellets. There is a big project happening in conjunction with other local businesses and Cork City Council to create a covered outdoor seating area on Pembroke Street.
How has it been back in business.
Excellent! It’s been great to welcome back the team. The ‘Imperial Family’ is not a corporate message. It reflects how we feel when seeing each other again after such a long time. It is extremely exciting to see so much activity once again in the ‘Grand Dame’ of Cork.
We have been really busy with bookings at our ‘Escape Spa’ and our outdoor dining offering and of course our click and collect afternoon teas are really popular due to their exceptional high quality.
What plans have you got for the summer to enhance guests experience?
We are offering a ‘Taste of Cork’ hamper including hand sanitiser, placed in each room to welcome our guests. Smart TVs have been installed so guests can access their usual streaming services such as Netflix. We have created new summer menus and a new cocktail bar which we are looking forward to launching in July.
Creating memories for our guests
What do you feel is the tradition of the Imperial Hotel after so many years in business?
Creating memories since 1816. Many customers return year after year to celebrate happy events; they may have had their wedding here and return to celebrate their anniversaries. Also, during lockdown we worked on protecting the heritage and history of the hotel.
We are launching new food and beverage outlets, which offer options more in keeping with today’s tastes, to include the younger generation in our aim of making memories.
The Imperial Family is also very much a tradition. We have a true family spirit, and, for some, it is quite literally the case. In fact, some members of the Imperial Family have had several generations working at the hotel. The hotel is owned by a family- the Flynn Family and taken care of by families. I have not seen this before and I think it is quite special.
How are bookings going? Will it be a strong summer.
Unfortunately, not. It is slower than coastal hotels as cities are not summer destinations. However, it is better than last summer! We have many loyal customers and weekend bookings are strong.
Where do your guests come from mainly?
The domestic market is especially important to us. As I mentioned, many guests return to celebrate anniversaries of special events. We would normally have a lot of guests from the UK and US but we have started to grow our European market.
We have been encouraging European travel agents to send customers to Cork (and to our hotel). These travel agents are deciding between destinations rather than hotels within the same city. Therefore, firstly, we must convince them to choose Cork over other cities.
A Frenchman coming to Cork
Was coming to Cork a big culture shock after London and Geneva?
I would say that Cork is like France and Geneva in many ways. There is a strong sense of community, it is all about the food and the people are very proud of where they live. Also, they are known for quite a strong accent! It is very different from London but still very international with many large multi-nationals located here.
The Imperial Family and our neighbours have given me an incredible welcome from: Ali from Ali’s Kitchen, Beth from Dockland Deli & Restaurant and Claire from Nash19 Restaurant & Food Shop.
I am lucky to live in Cork City Centre and benefit from all the great places the city has to offer. For example, the Crawford Art Gallery, Nano Nagle Place, Fitzgerald Park and, of course, The English Market where I am a very regular customer.
Have you any special offers to entice visitors to your hotel?
Yes, the Cork City on Water, Get More from Your Stay and Summer Staycation packages are very popular.
We also have a stay four nights and only pay for three which has been a big hit.