#033 – Hospitality Meets Niels Sherry – The International Private Members Club COO

One of the things we love about Hospitality more than anything else is the international element to it and there’s no better career if you want to see the world.

Niels Sherry is a shining example of that with a career that has taken him to the USA, Middle East and Asia as well as establishing himself in Europe.

Now the COO for the expanding private members club 67 Pall Mall (www.67pallmall.com).

We chat about lots including gaining variety in your career, the Savoy, leaps of faith, opening a press hungry hotel, recruiting for character over qualifications, making time for people, utilising your neighbours internet, online wine tastings, being denied entry in Saudi Arabia and so much more.

Niels has forged himself and incredible career and it’s an excellent story told with eloquence and energy.


Recorded on 7th July 2020.

Show Transcription


hotel, people, business, wine, hospitality, called, savoy, London, Singapore, club, world, run, started, bit, learning, stories, asked, open


Niels Sherry, Phil Street

Phil Street 00:01

Welcome to hospitality meets with me Phil street where we take a light hearted look into the stories and individuals that make up the wonderful world of hospitality. Today’s guest is Neils Sherry, CEO of 67 Pall Mall a stunning private member’s club for wine lovers in London. Coming up on today’s show… Niels tells us the extremes he’ll go to when learning.

Niels Sherry 00:22

I spent probably two months, maybe a bit more literally glued to Ian.

Phil Street 00:27

Phil gets confused and thinks he’s on the telly… So just for I suppose for the record for the viewers And Niels calmly understates the severity of his predicament,

Niels Sherry 00:37

They took my passport, and they threw it on the floor. I thought um, this is not going well.

Phil Street 00:42

All that and so much more. As Niels talks us through His story and journey to date, as well as some fantastic snippets of advice from an excellent career. Don’t forget to give us a like and a share across your favourite social channels. Enjoy. Hello, and welcome to the next edition of hospitality meats with me Phil Street. Today, I’m delighted to welcome to the show someone who I’ve known on and off for, I’d say about 10 years now. And I’ve got a story actually about how we met, which you may or may not remember, but we’ll come on to that in a second. delighted to welcome the CEO of 67 Pall Mall, Niels Sherry.

Niels Sherry 01:15

Thanks very much, delighted to be on the call. And hopefully, we’ve got some interesting stories to share.

Phil Street 01:22

I’ll bet you have I mean, you cover off one of my favourite topics, which is wine, so I’m sure what we’ll talk about that at some point. So just for I suppose for the record for the the viewers, where in the world are you right now and kind of what have you got your head into.

Niels Sherry 01:38

So having spent about six years with sixty seven Pall Mall setting up the club in London, with Grant, the founder, we, about two and a half years ago, we did a strategy meeting with our board of directors and one of the things that came out of that was that we need to take 67 Pall Mall around the world. So we conducted an exercise of places that we could possibly open. And the country state that came to the top of the list was Singapore. So that’s where I’m residing. So I’m sitting in my office overlooking, actually not my office, I’m at home, overlooking Marina Bay Sands. So it’s great to be in Singapore. It’s amazing. Nice, amazing city.

Phil Street 02:22

Yeah, no doubt, I’m guessing as well, you you both opening a club at the time of year that you were going to do as been presented with some on well, unknown challenges that at the beginning of the year, I suppose that’s part of your strategy, you wouldn’t have written in that you would be facing a pandemic in the first quarter and beyond

Niels Sherry 02:42

Yes its probably shared with millions of hospitality people around the world right now. Yeah, yeah, no, I mean, we’re we’re we’re in a good position, we have an amazing location on Scotts road in Orchard Road is right in the centre of, of town, it’s a penthouse that belonged to the owner of the main building the shore family, and that’s been gutted. And we were working on designs. So all the sort of the work behind the scenes in terms of design, mechanical, electrical, all that stuff that’s just carrying on as normal. But certainly, our original intention was to open the club in September this year in time for the Grand Prix, right, I suspect will be delayed probably by about a year. So we need to be open for September next year. Well, it’s just there’s just there’s so many other things that tie into it. So you’ve got membership acquisition going on, you’ve got the financing and finding shareholders going on. And literally, when lockdown started, you know, the world came to an end on that front. So it’s almost as if we have to start again. Which is interesting, though, as I say, all the behind the scenes stuff is cracking on so we’re, we’re in a good place there. Before lockdown. I was I was hosting events every week in our office, and for about 80 people a week. We already have about 700 members for the club in Singapore, right go with a goal to open with about 2000. So that’s very doable. We’re, we’re very excited. The the Singapore is ready for 67,000 hours. There’s no doubt about that. And the whole wine culture here is really progressing. Sometimes people say why didn’t we do Hong Kong? First. And this was before sort of the issues and troubles started on in Hong Kong. So that wasn’t really, you know, on the agenda. But we looked at Hong Kong, we looked at Singapore, and we just felt Singapore we were getting in there. slightly earlier stage in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is already a crowded market in the wine world and hospitality, whereas Singapore is on a journey. And so we’re getting there earlier. And for us, that’s more exciting, to be honest.

Phil Street 04:42

Yeah, absolutely. I mentioned in the preamble at the beginning how we met Can you remember that? Or shall I just regale you? Why don’t you remind me. It was at a networking event run by EP This is probably 2010 or 11. About then. And I think at that point, you are running your own company. And I always remember this, this is just stuck with me for for the rest of time, I asked a typical question that you do at networking events is Who are you in what you do? And you told me the name of your company at the time. And I said, and what does that involve? And you said, Well, basically, I help people with their drinking strategies.

Niels Sherry 05:20


Phil Street 05:21

And until that point, I’d never known that you could have a drinking strategy. And that’s always stuck with me, I just think it’s a it’s a really, you don’t you didn’t need 30 seconds of an elevator pitch, you just needed that one line?

Niels Sherry 05:34

Yeah, it’s, um, you know, the whole wine thing kind of happened By… of course, wine’s always been a big part of my life of being in hospitality. But the kind of getting into sort of wine business more seriously was a, just an off chance, you know, meeting with a chapter wants to create a private, familiar service, consult someone. And so I was one of the first person to be part of that we built that business up. And then then the sort of wild thing has kind of stayed with me along the way. It’s a fascinating world, and very enjoyable. And I particularly like what I’m doing at the moment, being in the world of clubs. And what I find quite refreshing is, I love hotels to bits, and you’ll hear probably a bit more about, you know, what I’ve been up to. But in hotels, generally speaking, your customers come and go, will be with a few regulars that you see more often. Yeah. But in a club, you have a permanent base of people that aren’t going anywhere. And so you really do spend time investing, you know, getting to know them, getting to other personalities, then getting to know you, you know, you share the sad moments shut you share that the moments of joy. And it’s just, it’s just fascinating. And, you know, being a club that’s, you know, cycles around wine, we have a really interesting membership, you know, really high achievers, and they’ve got interesting stories. And I find that, you know, particularly interesting, and one of the most rewarding parts of this current part of my career.

Phil Street 07:01

Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned stories there. I’m on board with that 100%. I just think the stories that people have to tell are one of the most interesting things that exist in any kind of career that you you end up pursuing. So let’s talk about your story. Or take us all the way back to the beginning of your career. You don’t need to mention yours or anything like that. But what was your What was your path to do? Did you study at university? Just Just talk us through from the beginning?

Niels Sherry 07:32

Okay, it’s some Well, I’ve been in, I’ve been working in the business for about over 36 years. So I’ve been around for a while. And it’s interesting. I was listening to a podcast of David Calgary the other day. Yeah. I met David Calgary at the Ritz probably 35 years ago. And we’ve known each other forever, right. I think that’s part of our industry. By the way, I think it’s, you know, the friendships, we gain through both people that we meet in the business, but the people we work with is second to none. And in one of my notes that I made I, I said somewhere that I I wish that GM social media been around 36 years ago, when it would have been a lot easier to keep in touch with people. So sometimes, now you might have lost touch with someone for 10 years, and you just bump into them in and out another event. But when you start chatting, it’s as if you had been speaking only yesterday. So I think that’s amazing industry that to answer your question. Two things happens that were kind of aligned when I was at school, finishing my A Levels. A chap called Richard Edward Edmonds who was running. He was the secretary of boodles, was an old boy at the school and he came to give a career chat. So that was one big influence that I had. And then a friend of a family friend, was running one of the major hotels in London, I just kind of saw the way he was living and what he was up to, and there was something quite mysterious about it. And so that’s when I thought, you know what, I need to dip my toe into this and kind of find out a little bit about it. And so I did a little bit of holiday work in some small hotels and you know, in school breaks and stuff, and I can’t support this, this is kind of understand this. Then I thought, Okay, what do I do? I’m going to I’m going to leave school they levels what’s the next step? So I interviewed with the Savoy group to be asked the boy trainee management trainee of a lady called Olive Barnet. And I was offered a position to do so. And at the same time, I also applied to Westminster College, hotel school intention square in London. And I was also offered a opportunity there, and I couldn’t decide between the two. And in the end, I thought, you know what, I can probably do both. So I went to Westminster. I took an eight HMD and negotiated with the Savoy that after I finished my course I would join Savoy’s postgraduate training. And so I was very lucky to be able to do that. And then when I was at Westminster in this various holiday breaks, there’s particularly that the summer, I worked at the Ritz Hotel in London’s where I met David Cowdery. And that just gave me more insight. And I was, and I did all sorts of things. I was working in room service and restaurants and all that sort of stuff. And I was fascinated by it. I then left the hotel school thoroughly enjoyed that that was not like education, it’s almost like a sometimes they used to refer to it like a finishing school, because it was just teaching you how to enjoy and do the finer things in life. And I particularly remember having gastronomy as one of my my subjects and, you know, starting to do all the wine tastings, which obviously, was premonition of thing of things to come. But I after I left Westminster, I bizarrely and not released, but I worked at the Lancaster Hotel in Paris, which was part of the Savoy group. Then the funny side of that was that when I I went there, of course, with the idea in my mind that I would improve my French, however, being a hotel owned by an English company, everyone that worked there was English. The linguistic skills were not developed to, unfortunately, yeah. So then I came, came back from Lancaster and I joined Savoy at the time, it was being run by Willie Bower infamous Willie Bower. And I started first job there was working in the American Bar with two great barman, one guy called Rick Gower, and another guy called Peter Direlli. He’s had a very interesting career. And then from there, I went to the cashiers department, and eventually ended up on the on the front desk, and I worked my way up from being a very, very, very junior receptionist. And at the end of my time, at the Savoy, I was the assistant front of house manager. So really looking at the day to day running of front offers and being a duty manager. And that was incredible. I mean, you, you know, one of the things I talked about lace was just, you know, the people you meet, and my gosh, was the boy, you know, every day you would meet someone famous, or you know, it was just incredible, incredible meeting all the politicians, you know, you get a phone call in the evening, you know, from parents house saying the queen mother wants to pop into the grill to have a bite to eat, you know, and, you know, you’re, you know, she’d pop along and what was bizarre, you couldn’t make this up, you know, she’d come into the hotel, and she’d wander around the lobby, and she just talked to the guests, right? was, you know, imagine being an American, you know, standing in the lobby of the hotel and saying the queen mother comes up and says, Hello, very fast.

Phil Street 12:36

Very cool. Yeah.

Niels Sherry 12:37

So the Savoy was a an important part of my career. I, I don’t think The Savoy taught me about finance or any of that stuff in hotel well, but it certainly taught me about hospitality, looking after people. So that’s my, my big takeaway, you know, from there. Yeah. And then Peter Chrome, who’s a great friend of mine, was the Hotel Manager, Savoy, and he moved up to the St Andrews Old course to reopen that after a huge refurbishment, and he asked me to go up there as the front of house manager that inside, you know, had a bigger department more responsibility. And it was kind of a it was a it was an interesting move. And it was getting out of London in a different type of hotel. And I, I am a believer that, you know, in one’s career, you should have ferocity of the people, the places that you work, because they bring something different to the table and you take have different takeaways from them. Yeah. And dad was was a sort of it was half leisure, I suppose, with the Gulf being massively important, but it was also called a big conference hotel, especially in the winter. And the hotel was kind of a sister relationship to intercontinental hotels at the time, it had the same owners, but they wanted it to run as a separate entity. In fact, it was it was rosewoods first hotel in the United Kingdom. They were that the managing property

Phil Street 13:54

Is it really Yeah, I did not know that.

Niels Sherry 13:58

So that was, that was kind of interesting. Yeah. So I was out, yeah, didn’t suntan for a few years, you know, great, great place. And then, you know, it’s also I had to get back into the smoke. I had to get back into into London or a big city to really, you know, be working in hotels that were doing a 5% occupancy. And we’re kind of machines. And you know, and I so I joined what was Sheraton hotels at the time, but then became Starwood Hotels, and I started at the park town in Knightsbridge. Working with Derek Pico, another infamous hotelier and started off as the front office manager, there became executive systems and eventually, I ran the hotels hotel manager. We had a central GM which was Michael whale at the time, and I ran the hotel and Starwood kind of brought me that the things that Savoy didn’t say, Starwood was all about structure, financials, you know, really, really organised And I was there for about five years, you know, and loved it. Again, massively important part of my, my career, but then it was time for change. I got approached to go work for a guy called Ian Schrager. And nobody’s heard of him. No one’s heard of him. And it was a friend of mine it was a chap called Ian Nicholson against known hotel a basin states now called me and told me about the opportunity. And actually the opportunity was to actually was to be the GM of Sanderson hotel, which was the second hotel opening, but I was to be brought on board to be go through the process of the opening of St Martins lane, then learn from that. So I could then you know, benefit from hindsight of that when when we did Sanderson

Phil Street 15:45


Niels Sherry 15:46

So I got involved with St Martins Lane. Amazing. I mean, I met Ian Schrager. You know, what those hotels were doing? Back in 1999. was ground breaking there was nothing like it. And you know, Ian, you know, I took when I first heard of Ian Schrager had to go and Google him find out about him and all that sort of stuff. And I was really encouraged by friends to make a jump because it was a it was going from two very different organisations in Schrager hotels, the time it was a bit disorganised, they were great, they made loads of money. There wasn’t a massive amount of structure. The branding was em, and nothing’s really documented on that front, which which later changed to a great extent. Um, but what was interesting, so about an asset to Martha’s name was about to open, I saw various bits of recruitment, various things going on, I thought, well, I’m kind of going psilocin because you know, this, this gave me some tough issues here. About two weeks later, he changed his mind and asked me to run to Martins lane hotel, and it was a blast. I mean, I remember when those doors first opened, that you need a crowd control. There was so many people trying to get into that hotel to see it. The press coverage, you’d never seen anything like it. I mean, every magazine, glossy magazine didn’t just have like a couple of inches of column news on it. They had six page spreads with all the great photography. I mean, it was it was it was amazing. And the hotel was full from day one. There was no, there’s no ramp up period. Yeah, we will talk about how you know, you go from first couple of months that you have 30% up, it was full from from day one. And

Phil Street 17:21


Niels Sherry 17:22

It was incredible. And I…

Phil Street 17:24

I was just going to say, Is it fair to say that it was kind of probably it led the way on on something, which is now, you know, kind of 10 a penny but luxury lifestyle was it was one of the first more certainly Ian Schragers portfolio was was one of the first to kind of lead the way on that.

Niels Sherry 17:41

Yeah, I mean, I’m sorry, Anuska Hempel doing, doing her thing. I think she was, yeah, right ahead of her time. So I think that was that was pretty cool. But no, I mean, Ian didn’t compromise one bit about bringing the brand and the concept from from the States over to the UK. I mean, I remember we even used to have to answer the telephones at switchboard Happy Holidays. You know, Christmas, people used to photos up just to hear us say Happy Holidays, because no one was doing that. And good. No, that was I, I’d left that hotel. And I obviously I then went on to Ron Sanderson. But when I went to states, when I come back, come back to that, but, you know, we changed the way that we recruited people as well, we recruited, you know, a team based on character, not necessarily on qualifications. And, and I remember there was one lady on reception used to get so many fabulous comments from from guests and nice notes written down. And one day I, I went up to and I said, you know, what’s, what’s your magic? You know, what are you doing that that makes these people so happy and she turned around, I’ve never forget it. She turned around to me, and she said, You know what, it’s because I can just be me. And for me, that was like, the perfect piece of recruitment, where this person was able to do what she was doing, honestly, you know, not having to be subservient, just being her natural self itself, and they loved it. And, and that was something that, you know, the hotels were good at, you know, I used to, I’ve quoted this before, but you know, the brand enabled people to be themselves, and people have permission to be themselves. They were Bellman sang songs, and we’re all actors and models and all that sort of stuff. And I’m going to use an odd expression here, but you know, one of them went on to be the face of Calvin Klein, you know, unfortunately, wasn’t the face. He was the underpants guy but his lower regions were billboarding around around the world, which is, which was kind of funny, but I used to tell the guy it’s true story. I used to tell the Bellman that you have my permission to do cartwheels in the lobby. And, and they looked at me and I said, You have my permission. If you want to do a cartwheel in the lobby, you have my consent. I said, Look after the guests. Look after everything. I have to do that when I when the economy comes on duty, and you want to give them a big hug, because he’s a friend, that’s okay. And it, what it did was the whole, this whole way of how we treated the staff and how they react to it gave the guests who stayed at the hotel, the guests that came down to the hotel, to behave in a certain way as well gave them permission to be relaxed, and to really enjoy themselves. And I think, you know, one of an interesting statistic was our something like, 80% of our weekend, business people staying overnight came from when a 10 mile radius of the hotel hotel, rarely Wow. Yeah. So it wasn’t people that needed a room for the night, you know, in terms of the need someone to stay, they were checking into the hotel to immerse themselves in this experience that they had created. And, and, you know, I spent, I spent probably two months maybe a bit more literally glued to Ian, you know, and and I basically learned how to run the hotel through osmosis.

Phil Street 21:05

Right. He’s a proper visionary, in a sense, I mean, to come up, this is bold hospitality for its time. Nowadays, you know, everybody craves experience, I think and, and that’s what ultimate hospitality is trying to achieve as that mix of experience and, you know, delivering the actual hospitality service slash product or wherever, but for that time, that That, to me, seems like he was he was ahead of his time.

Niels Sherry 21:34

Massively, massively. I mean, even things like restaurant concepts, you know, we, you know, Asia de Cuba, I think it’s just recently closed, that he has been going pretty much since 1999. And, um, you know, I remember Ian used to say, you know, don’t market the restaurant to the, to the guests in the hotel that the last people you want to market to you market to your local area market as if it’s a standalone restaurant. And it worked. You know, our bars would massively busy. I mean, the bar at Sanderson Oh, my gosh, that used to be, you know, amazing. So, you know, he had something that worked. And, you know, he is I mean, I remember, you know, walking down the street with him in Miami, in South Beach, and people would stop and congratulate them, you know, on the Delano, because that hotel changed South Beach, South Beach was a dive, before that hotel was kind of reopened and redeveloped. And that was, that was down to Ian, you know, so, I mean, very, very clever, man. Very calculated, man. So, and, you know, and to be working alongside him for a good number of years is is interesting, I tell you, the interesting fact when I that, so I’ve given him my notice to two Starwood Hotels to go and work for him. And about two weeks before I was due to start, someone phoned me up, and they said, you want Niels, you need to know this is no general managers. And I survived an opening with Ian Schrager

Phil Street 23:02


Niels Sherry 23:02

(Laughs) God, you know, but I had, I had something, you know, my back pocket, which I was always very grateful for, and it’s and it’s, again, it comes to one of my points on medicine, some notes earlier. And one of the things that I’ve made a note, I said, you know, in our business at some, he was never closed the door, he was never shut the door on anyone that you’ve ever worked with. All that door must always be remain open. And a good example of that was after I handed in my resignation to Starwood Hotels, I got a phone call from Bob Cotton, who was the Aeron president of Starwood Hotels. And he called me up personally. And he said to me, he said, bills, if things don’t work out, but in Schrager, the doors wide open for you, you’re welcome to come back at any time. And that was something really nice. And really, you know, reassuring that, you know, I was, it was a gamble to work to work in, but when you know, someone, you know, it’s going to have you back. I just thought, I’ll come on to that point native why that why I had that relationship with Bob Cotton, but it was some that was important.

Phil Street 24:02

That’s the the old adage of, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, right? But then it’s how you look after who you know, as well. On top of that,

Niels Sherry 24:11

Yeah you have to earn it. You know, I again, I’m skirting around a bit here. But I remember, you know, when I worked for Starwood Hotels, and worked for Michael whale, you know, Michael whale was always we used to go to Brussels a lot where our corporate office was, and if there was any initiative that the hotel needed doing that the company that the European division needed doing, Michael would always volunteer London to get on with it. And so any project that came along, you know, which was extra work, that we always did the projects, and because of it, we had much more visibility in front of the European team of Sheraton and Starwood Hotels. And so, you know, so Bob kind of knew who I was, you know, and I always, always made that whenever he came to stay in London, you know, day or night, whatever time he was around. They might be there, whatever day of the week, you know, I’d be there to meet it. Yeah, because that’s how you build those relationships, you know, very, very same with the ins right when he needs to come into London to London from the States anytime a day, during the week time, whatever, I would make sure I was there. So, and those things come back to to kind of reward you to a certain extent. And then I’m sorry, I’m probably waffling on too much here. But then I was asked to look after some some hotel as well. So I became a regional vice president and I had basically a hotel manager in each hotel. And I ran both. And I have to say, the first few months was kind of interesting, because you could guarantee that I’d be in the wrong hotel, at the wrong time, depending on I was

Phil Street 25:46


Niels Sherry 25:46

I could time the walk stroke brisk walks between the two hotels, it’s 12 minutes. Exactly. between, you know, so so that was interesting. It’s a learning, you know, when suddenly you’ve got two properties, you’ve got 650 staff working, you know, team working with you, you know, it’s it’s another challenge, and gratefully received, it was, yeah, you know, very enjoyable, and, and when I got to Sanderson the company was getting bigger and bigger. And one of the issues that we had, as a business was that Ian was the brand book, it was the brand book was walking on two legs, and nothing was really documented. And so we had some great HR people come on board and the corporate office, I remember flying over to New York and Ian dissembled sort of, you know, the sort of key people in the company, I suppose. And Ian sat down at a desk in front of about 30 people, and he had all his journals in front of them. And he basically went through his life, like, you know, when he in and talked about all the stories and why he created the hotels, and what they meant him. And this was, you know, on record, and then that went on to then be analysed and put into a brand, a brand book and so that we, because what happened was, you know, if a general manager left a hotel, then you know, the brand, and then the person started and that person hadn’t met, even then that brand got diluted slightly, because it was being handed out by a third party. And if that happened a few times, it kept getting diluted and diluted. So we needed a process to to deal with that. And that was done. And the fun part of that journey was that in took about six of us all around the world, his hotels, sometimes in his private jet, which is kind of fun. And yeah, Ian was set in a bedroom at Morgan’s hotel, which was his first hotel, and just tell the story of why that hotel is, you know, and how it came to be, and all the references to it. And so that was incredibly, incredibly privileged to be part of that process. And then from scientists, and then Ian asked me to move to the States, which was interesting. And I remember going home to my wife, Nikki and saying, ns asked me to go to New York, and I turned around, and I said, I think we need to do this. And I, the reason I, I did it the same sort of age, my father moved us from the UK to Australia in 1967. And so I grew up in Australia as a young young kid. And, you know, I thought my dad can do that. And I can do it with our kids. So we made the move. And I was the Vice President of Operations. And I was referred to as the outside guy, I was the guy that there was two of us. And there was one other guy who’s the inside guy, and I was the outside guy. So I was the guy that was in the operations, you know, going around the hotels, doing all financial reviews, working on general managers, and making sure the brand was was being, you know, held and looked after getting involved with, you know, new openings and things. And so, yeah, that was a fascinating part of my life. And, you know, then the world unfortunately, came to a bit of a financial crisis in 2007. The company was restructured, so I came back back to the UK. And but yeah, you know, an incredibly important part of my life, I have to say, by font, then I’ve worked briefly. So I say that briefly for the hotel for individual acts as Chief Operating Officer and that was to kind of reposition that sort of 10 best hotels. We had Cameron house at Loch Lomond was probably our flagship, and that’s how they were all going to be. It was a relationship that wasn’t to be evil at that. They happen every now

Phil Street 29:27

Yeah. Well, it does happen. Yeah, it doesn’t matter. I mean, that’s just a probably a coming together of two very different ideas and views. You know, I suppose culturally that’s, that plays a big part as well. But you know, I think in every single career that you come across, you find one that just, you know, it just didn’t work.

Niels Sherry 29:48

Yeah. So anyway, so but, um, but bizarrely, Richard Balfour Lynn and I are now quite chummy, which is really really ridiculous

Phil Street 29:56


Niels Sherry 29:56

But he’s a he’s a, you know, someone that we have Massive wind rehashes so we know him well, you know, so yeah, things have moved on. Then I got involved with a company that touched on it briefly called Sarment. Sarment was a wine business and the chat question fibrillar, who was the founder, he wanted a hotelier to run his business. But I specifically wasn’t a hotel business. And someone was a luxury, you know, wine business that did curate look after people’s wine, and other other things. And an interesting business. We had an office in Hong Kong as the managing director, I looked after both bits of businesses. Eventually, the business moved to China. And Bertrand asked me to go to China. And I didn’t want to do that. So I kind of declined that opportunity. But that again, was, again, fascinating. What I you know, what I liked Ian Schrager, entrepreneurial, you know, what I liked about working with someone really entrepreneurial, and, you know, civil environments, you do things so differently, and you can, there’s an expression, you know, you can turn on a dime, you know, and you can change your mind. And it’s just, it’s just very, I find it very fulfilling. So that was kind of sad. So then we parted company, because they’re going to China, and cut and someone actually prospered quite nicely, and has recently been sold as known by large luxury business, but very well respected, amazing business. I then, probably when you met me, I set up the Sherry wine company. And so I was basically continuing to kind of work in the same vein as Sarment and, and that business actually continued for many, many years. And he recently, I stopped doing excellence didn’t have to focus on it again, you know, setting up your own business is challenging and interesting. And again, very rewarding. Yeah, but not necessarily financially rewarding, so I kind of needed to do something else as well. So then I got back into the hotel business, and I joined glh hotels, as the general manager of the warehouse contacts out and one Whitehall place, which is sort of an events business, and, you know, work through that and got that, you know, hotel, you know, we was financially very, very successful. And after doing that, for about a year and a half, I was then asked to go to the corporate office to work on a new project, which is called Clermont hotels. And the idea was that we were taking five of the best hotels in the company, and going to rebrand them Horseguards was going to be one of those, and it was going to, you know, be rebranded and it was going to, you know, have a huge cash injection, and, you know, reinvent itself. That was all go very, very well, but I could see, and with the owner, I could see that there was an inkling that the project may not go ahead, and I could see that coming. So so I thought you know what I’m going to, I’m going to bail out here. And so I started looking for a new role. And then the next part of my life started, which is my current current life, which was 67 Pall Mall. And what an amazing journey. It’s been about six years. I remember meeting grant Ashton, who’s the founder and CEO, he’s a banker, Barclays Capital, Salomon Brothers, all that works and not a hospitality guy. If he needed someone that had hospitality backgrounds, and we we met, we got on incredibly well. And this time, we’ve secured the location sucks some time out. But it was a shell. That was nothing, nothing had been done. Nothing has been designed, the set amount of planning it happens. But that was it. And I was in about a year and a half, maybe a bit 20 months before we were due to open. So I was there really early, and I can still picture it. So the main room downstairs is the old bank in the hole of hammers bank. And it was stripped out it was gutted. And all grant grant and I had a trestle table to check. We had an electric fan heater to keep us warm. We had two laptops, and we were too cheap to have our own internet signal. So we HSBC Bank was next door. And we figured out that if we took a laptop to the wall, and logged on, we could actually use that public signal.

Phil Street 34:21


Niels Sherry 34:22

And it was a bit by the time we got to the trestle table, it was the signals a little weak, but that’s what it was. And we sat down and we got our designing team together. We designed it, you know, we we we built it, and there was nothing that grant Nye wouldn’t do. You know, and that’s what the joy when you when you’re in a business and this is to be in a business and to clean the toilet, you clean the toilet, you know, whatever you do, and and that’s been, you know, an amazing journey and, you know, an amazing membership, amazing people a team again, on top of your notes I made earlier, a management team that’s still thinking they’ll be opened up with pretty much and that’s that Nowadays, that’s incredible. little trickier, further down the line you go, but certainly, and what do you have a club, keeping your your key people there is perhaps even more critical than a hotel because that’s that’s the people that the members know, they get to know your team personally, they’ll go out to dinner without a team then invite a team to their houses. You know, it’s a very different type of relationship. And then so you need you need that stability of your, your team. But again, I I took a lot of, I suppose I took experiences from all the businesses I’ve been in, you know, I brought the structure of Starwood Hotels to the business I bought the kind of the, the the sort of the style of the team and how easy going We are from from Schrager, you know, so you kind of bring you draw on all your experiences, you know, and we definitely create something quite special. The members love it. I mean, it’s just quite incredible. Yeah. And so very, very, very proud of that. And then I kind of touched on it earlier. But do we then decided to open some more clubs. And it was logical for me to be the person that kind of thought that grant, my colleague is sort of the front guy. So he goes out and he’ll kind of do some of the financial deals and that we came out to Singapore, we found the site we loved it was it was actually a site was recommended by one of our members. And yeah, with the story continues. So hopefully open, open going to be delayed because of the virus issue. Yeah, hopefully, we will, like we hoped won’t be open in September this year, I think it would be probably September next year, good side of that is that we will be even more prepared. And all of the design, all the background stuff is is all in a really good place. And my gosh, it’s so much easier to open a second club. But yeah, that’s when you do there’s no, there’s no rulebook, you know, there’s nothing you don’t know, you don’t even know if it’s gonna work to some extent. And you you make decisions on the best information you have at hand. But opening the second club, you’ve got so much more information to, to pull on. And you you build on the mistakes that you made on the first show, you know, obviously, the gold things, there’s plenty lows, and you and you build on the good side as well. So we’re very excited. The you know, we’re we we agreed with our board that we would probably open 10 clubs over the next 10 years. Wow, it’s probably gonna be a little bit slower. It’s slower than that. But you know, we’ve got cup, we’ve got a, we’ve got a couple of cities in China. on the horizon. We’ve got Melbourne, Australia, on the horizon. We’ve got Bordeaux and France on the horizon, slightly different model than the smaller place. And so yeah, that the future is very bright, the splits lots of interesting things going on. And I’m, you know, how lucky am I to be paid to be in Singapore to open up a club? I think it’s, I kind of, again, another note that I touched on, Carmen was one of us a couple of pointers. But one of the things about the hospitality business and as you kind of mentioned earlier, it’s such a very business, there’s so many things that, you know, routes you can take, but, you know, I don’t know how many countries I’ve been to, but I’ve been all around the world. China, Russia, states, India, you name it all on business unit trips for the companies I’ve worked for. And you know, that’s that’s a pretty cool part of the hospitality world. Absolutely. You know, so I think that’s something really fun to take away. I have for it. But yeah, plenty more going on in terms of clubs. I’m literally a one man band over here at the moment in Singapore. So back to cleaning toilets. I am Yeah, not quite happy to do so. But no, you actually you’re right. Because there is, you know, I’m trying to today, I had a conversation with that bank about setting up a gyro account, which is the equivalent direct debit. I’ve never had to do that before. Find out, you know, and so you get to do that stuff for you go open a bank account, and you say I, you’re still learning. Yeah, even after 36 years, you’re still learning. And, you know, and that’s and that’s enjoyable. And so, you know, I know, we’ll open amazing club in here in Singapore and the team that we put together to build it into run it will do us proud and you’ll walk away and do the next club. Thank you. Well, that’s, that’s, that’s another achievement. So and more to come on. So that’s kind of, Um, What I’ve been up to…

Phil Street 39:21


Niels Sherry 39:22

Over the years, I think I’ve been quite lucky. And I like the variety of what I’ve been able to do to be to get up so I think that the some people are very comfortable being in the same business for 30 years. And that’s that’s credit to them. And that’s that’s what works for them. Yeah, I’ve enjoyed the variety and the different learning some different styles of business I’ve been involved in.

Phil Street 39:42

Yeah, well, I mean, I suppose that the variety and in some ways it’s kind of it’s led you here right to where you are no, and you’re knowing an amalgamation of all of those experiences. You’ll make you the perfect person to be leading this type of business. I mean, you know, you’re a hospitality guy through and through. Clearly, you’re passionate about wine, you know, and know you’re leading a hospitality business that has a massive focus on wine. It’s just It feels like it’s meant to be.

Niels Sherry 40:11

It’s interesting, though, because everybody thinks I’m a wine expert, and I’m not.

Phil Street 40:15


Niels Sherry 40:16

We’ve got plenty of people who work with us who, you know, I’ve got out here in Singapore, I’ve got Richard Hemming, who’s a master of wine working working with us, you know, he’s an amazing guy, we’ve got, you know, an amazing wine team, Ronan Sabourin has a wine team in London. You know, he’s kind of I refer to him as, like the godfather of the wine world, you know, everybody knows him. He’s incredibly well respected. And, you know, I suppose, you know, working with grants, you know, I kind of touched on it, but he will challenge the status quo. You know, I’ll give you an example. So once lockdown started, we wanted to make sure we kept in touch with our members kept them engaged. So we started doing virtual wine tastings out of London. And we just got written up last week as being sort of kind of the go to space to do virtual wine tests of some sort that we owned a ballerina. Yeah. And that that’s down to grant. And to give an example. So we can’t do this in Singapore. Unfortunately, in London, you know, we’re sending out wine samples to members of participating in, in, in wine tastings. But grabbing grammes, so he doesn’t have to just pour wine into smaller bottles and send it out, he creates a lack enough, you know, when you look at an operating theatre, they’ve got those oxygen free of germ free operating tents where people stick their gloves in there, and they can operate without any germs getting. Yeah, Grant created that for two cans of wine in London. So he’s got this kind of oxygen tent type kind of fish tank thing that’s filled with argon gas, which is a non oxygen environment, and to catch the wind, so no oxygen, ever it’s an inert gas, so no oxygen ever gets in contact with the wine, which is. Yeah, and so that way it gets shipped out as it’s insulated, we put temperature recording patches on the wind, so we know the temperature has been exposed, exposed to, we’re now experimenting with dry ice to see whether we can send it further distances. And it’s just, you know, I think we’ve done something like 250 300 virtual tastings. And that being applauded. And despite like some of the greatest, you know, winemakers in the world, it’s just exceptional. So whatever we do, as a business, we do it, Grant has a school and go go larger, go home and do it properly. Yeah. And it’s nice to be in that environment. It’s nice to be an environment where you say, you know, what, okay, we need to spend an extra 50,000 pounds doing this, but let’s do it because it’s going to be worth it. You know, some of the business I’ve been in, you know, scraping every penny out of business to get something done, sometimes been really hard, you know, entrepreneurial business, you the people around the table, make a decision to get on with it, which is, you know, something I enjoy a lot. But the one thing is, you’ll never go to a restaurant, I always get handed the wine list. You have to kind of combat that. So I I’m not a wine expert, but we have an amazing team of people. We’ve got 17 Emily’s in London systems team, you know, we have I think at last count got 6000 wines on the wine list we’ve got about 800 wines by the glass. You know, it’s really quite special.

Phil Street 43:24

It really is. I was lucky enough to have a couple of hours there one evening, it was to catch up with one of your team members actually who I know Mark Watts

Niels Sherry 43:35

Oh, yeah

Phil Street 43:36

And he very kindly gave me a tour and and then he left me at the bar to to kind of chew the fat with some of the members. It was just a really lovely experience. And what the one thing that I remember about that more than anything else was the the knowledge within even your junior team members who were serving you that there was a story with each wine, that was just really, really brilliant. So already, you created an experience for somebody who, who just you’re literally dropped in. But the other thing that I remember about that was that I think the perception of members clubs sometimes can be that it can be really clicky. But in the time that I was at the bar, I literally had I think four of your members came up to me and they were like, are you okay? Do you need to know anything? You’re a new face. We’ve not seen you before. And I just really it just felt like a home from home.

Niels Sherry 44:25

Yeah, it is. It is some dare I say we have something quite special. And that part of that was make the sound wrong. But granted, I have a very special relationship. And it’s a very humorous relationship. It’s very candid relationship. And we’re very happy to display that to the to the team. It goes back to what I said to the Belmond to St Martin’s Lane and giving them permission. And you know, somehow the staff have got absolute permission and consent to be themselves and say what they think and do what they want. And that’s that that show And it also creates a happy atmosphere. You know? And so then the mentor members love it. So yeah, that’s, that’s quite special. And I think, you know, it’d be so easy for wine club to be pompous, and have all of that associated with it. And we don’t do that. And again, we’ve learned with recruiting at St Martins Lane and other people. It’s not always about the qualification. So often, it’s just about what’s the personality behind this character? You know, what, what makes them tick? And because that’s the bit that is going to interface with a member asking for a glass of wine. Yes, they put out the knowledge and we can we can teach them but if they’ve got lots of knowledge, no character, it’s, it’s lost. Its Yes. It was not worth doing.

Phil Street 45:45

Absolutely. No, that comes back to your point from your Ian Schrager days. Right. I’m in terms of you were recruiting for attitude, as opposed to for specific qualifications.

Niels Sherry 45:55

Yeah, I mean, you know, about as a Bellman, we’re artists, you know, they were actors, they were dancers, they were, you know, models, they were all sorts of things. Now, of course, what I did learn is, if everyone’s like that, then the face thing does fall apart. So so the beauty of it is you have to have the infrastructure and structure of a management team that is very strong to be able to support people to be able to, you know, handle the less knowledge. So not everyone can be that I learned that we had a few learnings at the Masters lane, where we had people in senior positions that are lovely people, but they just didn’t understand the mechanics of running the business and hospitality side. So yes, that’s definitely a big, big learn.

Phil Street 46:37

Yeah, if you’ll permit me just to kind of quiz you just very quickly on kind of the differences, because you’re obviously you’re know, in Singapore, how has the way that they’ve handled the virus been, in terms of where or you know, with the business, you’re back from being under lockdown is a bit of both, really. So

Niels Sherry 46:58

lockdown started here on the seventh of April, so a little bit after, after London, yeah. And it was lifted, restaurants opened about two weeks ago, and you can have gatherings up to five people, you know, shops are open, I mean, to be quite honest, if I was to walk out of my apartment, go down into Orchard Road, it’s gonna be packed. So So, and I spoke to a few of the restaurants out here, and, you know, they were so concerned that they’ve seen their business bounce back quite quickly. You know, each government does things differently. So in the UK workers in the mass cinemas, I’m open over here yet, you know, so So the other thing we’re like I kind of briefly talked about, we’ve got this, you know, massive track and trace thing, you can’t go into a shop, a restaurant, the underground without scanning a QR code, and telling the system that where you are, so that whenever you know, a virus does break out here, they know where you’ve been, they can they can lock it down very quickly. So that’s, that’s, I think that’s probably learning from previous viruses that they’ve had. I mean, interestingly, I think that these aren’t exact numbers. But I think that 26 people have have sadly passed away in Singapore because of the virus, right? It is highly likely there’s another virus that is called Danny, which is a mosquito virus, which has been around for many, many years, more people will probably die from Jamie than from the COVID-19 Yeah, yet but what the world carries on and dangers out there and this is particularly bad. So the government you know, the government is is very dogmatic out here and people listen to the government government. And I remember when lockdown first started, you know, there was this like the rest of the world have a huge issue with toilet tissue and people were overbuy we got the government said stop and people immediately stopped, you know, and so people listen to the government out here people are happy with the government system works well. So I think it’s quite an obedient people here. They kind of do what do what they’re told. And also the legal system is pretty tough. You don’t break the law out here. They come down and you’re very hard. And if you’re on a work visa, like myself, you just you just been told to leave the country. But those are the rules and you played them the rules you know by I suspect things a little safer in Singapore than they are in the UK. The speed my which is a complete turnaround because when the virus first started, it was first out in China and Asia and everyone’s phoning me up say Niels you okay out there I really feel for you there’s obviously a big issue and suddenly the whole thing flipped last call in London say it does you okay out there, you know, you seem to do and so it completely

Phil Street 49:46

Yeah, It accelerated at this end very, very quickly.

Niels Sherry 49:52

But I think things I’m by nature, I’m an optimist. So I you know, it’s not going to be easy. And then some businesses are going to say Of course, you know, a lot of the businesses that are suffering, we’re going to suffer anyway. Yeah. And so I think this is just, you know, for their end alienate anticipated it, those people that run good businesses, I think will survive. And I think things will pick up quite quickly. I’m quite positive.

Phil Street 50:18

Yeah, I think it all relies on consumer confidence at the end of the day, doesn’t it? As soon as the consumers are confident to get back out? And and I suppose get back to normal. If that is such a thing, then that’s when businesses can get back to doing what they do best.

Niels Sherry 50:34

No, I agree. So the Chancellor in the UK is encouraging everyone to spend money buy a house?

Phil Street 50:41

Yeah (laughs). Yeah. Well, he’s, we’ve got for those whenever we end up getting this, it’s currently the seventh of July. We are I think, a day away from the summer. It’s not I suppose it’s a summer statement it calls it I think it’s not a budget per se, but if they’re about to make some announcements that will hopefully impact consumer confidence in spending, but, but we’ll see, we are it’s very fresh from being reopened here. So there’s a lot yet to kind of balance and figure out as to, to what where it goes but unlike you, I say it on the air on the side of positivity, where possible, just tempered with a little bit of reality, without getting too excited. I think that’s probably the way to summarise that. Great well have you got I mean, that’s a lot a long and illustrious career. You’ve worked with some fantastic brands across your your time, and deal within that some amazing people as well. Have you have you got any examples of any amusing stories that you could share with us?

Niels Sherry 51:42

A couple, there’s one question you’re gonna ask me about some what’s the worst thing that’s happened to you at work out as well? I’ve got a good one. I’ve got a good one. So on when I was when I was the front of house manager at Park tower in Knightsbridge. I mean, I was very lucky actually got I was asked to really look after the sort of sales machine to the Middle East. So every year I fly out to Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, all that world. And I’ve meet all of our guests out there. So it was it was less of a sales was almost like a sort of social call, going to visit them, but they truly appreciate it. But on one occasion I was I was in I think I was in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia. And I left Jeddah for the weekend to go to Abu Dhabi, because you could have a gin and tonic in Abu Dhabi on the weekend. And then I was due back in Riyadh. So I flew to Riyadh on the Monday after being in Abu Dhabi. And when I arrived at the airport, they asked me to go to a small room, and they took my passport and they threw it on the floor. I thought, this is not, it’s not going well. Yeah, of course, when we’re not talking mobile phones at this point in our lives, all that sort of stuff. It’s got quite a long time ago. And they kind of left me there for about a half an hour last month, gosh, what’s happened, they some drugs, my bad, you know what’s going on, and then transpired that my visa was incorrect. And the the embassy had given me a single entry visa, rather than a double entry fees. So because I’ve been to Saudi Arabia on the Friday, my visit didn’t allow me to re enter on the Monday they basically turned around to me and said, if you’re not out of our country by midnight tonight, you go to jail. For Okay, that’s not good. Yeah, that’s not good. So an eye that they left me like no man’s land between getting off the plane and going through customs just left me there was no one to talk to. And so I managed to get some coins from some passengers arriving in Saudi Arabia as if there was a phone box but I got some coins. I thought, you know, okay, I probably got a phone call here. Who’s What do I make it? I’m not gonna call my wife. I called the duty manager, the parks our hotel, a lender named Debbie green. I’ve recently got back in touch with on social media. And she answered the phone and I think she just thought I was just pulling her leg because I was a bit of a joke. jokester a lot of the time, you know, why do people up so meek kind of suddenly be on the phone saying I’m 3014 out of Saudi Arabia is probably a bit difficult to swallow. But it was true. And so I said, this needs to help me and so she then contacted British British Airways desk, which was probably only about 100 yards away from our city, but I have no access to it. Then basically, I arrived in Saudi Arabia about 10 o’clock in the morning. They got me on the plane to Abu Dhabi at 10 o’clock at night, two hours before midnight. And I I caught that What’s that? There’s a horrible film about the Turkish jail on this spread. I kept thinking that’s probably the standard of accommodation. Anyway, I got I got out. I got to Abu Dhabi. And I went to the Saudi embassy, I got my paperwork, reprocessed, got a visa, and I returned back to Saudi Three days later, and walked past the same people that had stopped me entry before. Which I don’t think I do that today. I probably just call it quits think that when you’re young, and you’re kind of, you know, on a journey, you kind of take those those risks. That’s some, that’s probably one of the toughest things that I’ve gone through. Yeah. And then one of the funniest things I’ve gone through is, a few Christmases ago, Grant founder some time now and myself, at Christmas time grant, dressed up as Father Christmas, and I was the cuticle elf. And we’re good outfits on. And so we’ve dressed up, we’re going around the club, we’re talking people having a laugh with the team. And then we realised that we had some bankers to NatWest banking and Piccadilly. So the two of us strolled up to the bag, went up to the bank teller to go and deal with some pain and some cash and stuff. And I’d like them, I thought that they thought that to be robbed. So they look a little terrified, and they kind of recognise who we who we were. So that’s one of my my amusing stories.

Phil Street 56:10

That’s brilliant. Whenever I air this, I usually ask people for a couple of photos to to put out as part of the promotion of the episode

Niels Sherry 56:20

I have a photograph of Father Christmas,

Phil Street 56:22

I’m requesting that one for sure.

Niels Sherry 56:25

Okay, I’ve got that I’ve got

Phil Street 56:29


Niels Sherry 56:29

The final word is, you know, it’s an amazing industry. It’s not without its bumps, So anyone coming into it needs to be ready for that. It’s a business that you’ll make friends for life on. And I’m in touch with people I’ve known, you know, all my career. And, you know, that’s something, you know, quite special. I think the other thing I just touched on is, this is a business where you meet so many people, so many people. I’ve met thousands of well known people, but you know, what other industry could I’ve met Neil Armstrong and Muhammad Ali and Stephen Hawking, you know, just, it’s just, you know, and there are thousands more, but there was just the names who sadly passed away, so I thought I could mention them. So, interesting business. Good luck to all those who come and join us. You’ll have fun.

Phil Street 57:19

Yeah. Well, you’ve summarised that beautifully, because that was one of the questions that usually asked us what would you say to someone considering a career but I think you’ve, we’ve just, you’ve answered that beautifully, in fact, wonderful. So if people want to get in touch with you to learn a little bit more about you, or 67 Pall Mall and where you’re going out, what is the best way for them to do that?

Niels Sherry 57:41

Probably, that’s my email address, which is Niels which is n i e l s at 67pallmall.com. And I’ll get straight back to them.

Phil Street 57:50

Fantastic. Well, it’s been a real pleasure to chat to you. That’s a fascinating journey you’ve had and I really appreciate you spending some time with us today and I’ll send you on your merry way.

Niels Sherry 58:01

Great, Phil, appreciate it. Take care, stay safe.

Phil Street 58:04

Yeah, you too.

Niels Sherry 58:05

All right. bye bye

Phil Street 58:06

Thanks, Neil. And there we have it. What an amazing career Niels has had so far and a superb concept he’s working with, we wish him all the best with the expansion plans. Don’t forget, we launch a brand new episode each week. So hit that subscribe button and give us a like and share where you can. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.