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Meet the luxury hotel expert: Simon Mahon, general manager of The Grand, York

We talk to Mahon about how he provides the ultimate in Yorkshire hospitality.

By Ina Yulo Stuve  |  March 7, 2022
Simon Mahon header

“York is not only a fantastic place to live, but also an amazing place to work and to visit. The history and heritage of the city oozes out of areas such as the Shambles, York Castle and the City Walls as well as through heritage buildings such as ours at The Grand,” says Simon Mahon, general manager at The Grand, York, a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts.

The five-star luxury hotel is set in a beautiful Edwardian building near the York train station. I stayed at The Grand during a trip to York late last year, and in addition to having easy access to the historical city, I was also able to join the hotel’s Dark Skies stargazing experience. “The skies of the North York Moors are one of the best spots for stargazing and the perfect place for friends and families to enjoy an unforgettable stargazing experience, and astronomer Richard Darn is a genuine expert to make it a truly insightful trip,” explains Mahon.

Whilst the timeless architecture and famous Yorkshire hospitality have played key roles in keeping rooms booked, Mahon insists he and the team are constantly reinventing the wheel. “Even at a classic hotel, such as The Grand, York, we are looking into exciting new ventures such as Gin Gardens and barbecue evenings as well as rolling out a full experiential offering and partnering with other like-minded brands to ensure our guests can experience a host of luxury products and experiences during their visit,” he shares.

Luxury Lifestyle Magazine writer Ina Yulo Stuve speaks with Mahon about joining the hotel at the beginning of the 2020 lockdown and the big plans they have for the year to come.

Grand York
The five-star luxury hotel is set in a beautiful Edwardian building

If we asked your 10-year-old self what career you would be in right now, what would he have said? 

An actor or a tour guide! More realistically, a tour guide. I’ve always loved making people happy and enhancing their experiences and I believe that is why I’ve been drawn to hospitality.

How did you keep your team motivated throughout the challenges of the past couple of years? 

This is a great question because I joined the hotel during the first lockdown in March 2020 and therefore had to meet many of my team virtually. We hosted online quizzes, talent shows, update videos, employee assistance programmes, and introduced mental health first-aiders. Since being physically back in the business, we kept morale high by creating an amazing ‘Grand Plans’ team who have driven forward a variety of charity events, and we have also improved team lunches, introduced new recognition schemes and bonuses, and are proud that all salaries across the business reflect the status of our prestigious hotel.

You have a lot of experience in launching new brands and properties. What would you say are the key factors in a successful launch? 

Know your audience! It’s important to first understand whether your product is aimed at the lifestyle sector, independent travel, an ageing audience, families, and much more. From this, you’re able to form a clear marketing strategy and focus on the correct distribution channels in order to reach the relevant audiences. 

Grand York suite
Rooms and suites offer spacious and stylish accommodation for guests

What is your favourite thing about York? 

York offers something for everybody, it’s cross-generational. From family attractions and streets of shops to an exquisite dining scene, it is a place where unforgettable memories are made. Based in the heart of God’s own country, Yorkshire, stands York and its finest hotel, my favourite thing, The Grand.

If you had to plan a whole-day itinerary for some guests, what would the agenda look like?

The hotel has everything anybody could need and want to enjoy for a weekend of relaxation, or an experience-filled few days. Guests can strike the perfect balance with a whole-day itinerary planned by the hotel. Start with a relaxing morning treatment at the spa with one of our skilled therapists after a Yorkshire breakfast in-room or in the restaurant, followed by one of our three-hour cookery classes in the hotel’s state-of-the-art Cookery School, which is open to anyone from novices to aspiring chefs.

After having put your culinary skills to the test, head out to explore the culturally-thriving city itself, packed with unique and historical sights, all just on the doorstep of the hotel. Once you have soaked in the city sights, our afternoon tea is the charming way to take a break with the ultimate indulgence and tuck into a selection of savoury and sweet treats. Return to the comfort of your room for a short break before heading down for an evening drink at the bar 1906 followed by dinner at The Rise. 

york minster
The hotel has a central location from which to explore the many attractions of York

Embracing the local surroundings and community is a big part of the hotel’s ethos. Why was this so important to you? 

It is my heartfelt belief that hotels should be at the centre of the community. Guests visit hotels for christenings, anniversaries, birthdays and weddings, all the important milestones throughout life, and therefore, hotels should be more than just a building. Hotels, like The Grand, should be alive in the local community and be central to it. I am lucky enough to oversee the management of such an iconic property at The Grand and will continue striving to ensure it is a special place for guests and the community. 

The Grand, York has an incredible food and beverage offering from fine dining to cosy afternoon teas. What are the guiding principles behind the hotel’s culinary offerings?

Yorkshire is known for being a big foodie county and York is becoming increasingly finer as a culinary destination and we are keen to be part of this movement. From our afternoon tea that has recently been awarded ‘best afternoon tea’ by 2022 Condé Nast Johansens, to our AA Rosette-awarded restaurant, terrace, and bar, The Rise. We are focused on offering our guests locally-sourced produce and freshly prepared dishes with menus that offer a Yorkshire twist on British favourites from our expert chefs. 

We want to ensure that our guests have a unique and memorable experience to take home with them, wherever they may choose to eat or have a drink in the hotel. Our Cookery School too, of course, is a real highlight here and allows guests to dive into their own immersive foodie experience. This is something we’re very proud of as it’s not something many other hotels offer. In the summertime we’ll be launching something exciting, watch this space!

Grand York Cookery School
The Cookery School allows guests to enjoy their own immersive foodie experience

What does 2022 have in store for The Grand, York?  

We have some exciting plans for the hotel coming up this year. As York becomes an increasingly sought-after and ‘it’ destination to visit for a weekend escape and city staycation, we are always looking to curate new, exceptional, and unique experiences for our guests. So whether that be a one-off exclusive cookery class with a top chef, a seasonal foodie-focused masterclass, barbecues on the terrace, or making the most of the hotel’s Courtyard Garden and Gin Garden, there will be new activities to ensure endless family fun.

The hotel will also be partnering with escape rooms and activity centres to provide guests with a range of experiences whilst with us on their trip to York. Harking back to our food and beverage offerings too, we also have some very exciting plans coming up for our fine-dining restaurant, so stay tuned! 

Factbox

The Grand York, a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts.

Address: Station Rise, York YO1 6GD, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 1904 380038
Website: thegrandyork.co.uk