#035 – Hospitality Meets Eric Jafari – The Disruptive Entrepreneur & Founder

You really can come into hospitality at any time, with any background. Today’s guest demonstrates that point beautifully but not only that, how you can come in and really get people thinking about the ways in which things happen.

We chat today to Eric Jafari, Chief Development Officer and Creative Director at Edyn Group (www.findingedyn.com) and Co-Founder at Locke Hotels (www.lockeliving.com).

This chat is rammed full of interesting conversation with some golden content on re-imagining hospitality experiences.

We talk about being grateful for the time you live in, founding business, pursuing moments of joy, rethinking hospitality, finding true points of difference, Locke, learning from failure, Flexible living, hot tubs, outdoor dining, routine, sleep, psychology of experience and so much more.

A massive thank you to Eric for being so open.


Conversation Transcription


people, hotels, hospitality, Locke, experience, stay, london, spend, spaces, rooms, lock, week, Eric, unique, brand, moment, design, restaurant, days, Saco


Phil, Eric

Phil 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 Eric Jafari, chief Development Officer at Edyn group, the company behind the amazing Locke hotels. Coming up on today’s show. Eric intrigues us all with this statement…

Eric 00:22

You know, I was brought up with what I’ve called kind of extreme hospitality.

Phil 00:26

Phil proves that learning can come from anywhere. How I remember learning about that was from an episode of “The Simpsons”, and Eric reveals the one major strategy you need for success.

Eric 00:37

The reason for why I ended up where I am today was more to you know, kind of scratching my own itch.

Phil 00:44

All that and so much more as Eric talks us through His story to date, as well as some superb content on rethinking hospitality. Don’t forget to give us a like and share across your favourite social channels. Enjoy. Hello and welcome to the next edition of hospitality meets with me your host Phil Street. Today We chat to someone who’s definitely not had your your typical route into hospitality but has founded some superb and very recognisable brands, including Urban Villa, Union Hannover and now finds himself as part of the founding team at Locke hotels and Edyn group, as well as being the creative driving force behind those brands. He was also MD of is it SACO property group. Was it SACO?


Eric 01:27

That was SACO, Yeah.

Phil 01:29

Yep. SACO Property Group. Welcome to the show, Eric Jafari


Eric 01:35

Thank you for Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.


Phil 01:38

You’re very, very welcome. How are you doing?


Eric 01:40

I’m good. I’m good. I mean, listen, if someone had asked me about six months ago, hey, by the way, Eric, you’re not going to be able to travel for four months, you’re not going to be able to go to your favourite restaurants, or your favourite bars. You’re gonna have to spend most of your time working indoors. That’s probably the closest thing to how that is. could have possibly imagined and yes, for one reason or another, I’ve actually, you know, there’s a lot of downside to all this. But I’ve enjoyed it so much more than I wouldn’t have anticipated in ways that I just couldn’t fathom.


Phil 02:12

I completely agree. It’s, there’s good days and bad days probably i think that’s that’s the way to sum up for me is that sometimes I’m grateful to have the time and a bit more headspace perhaps, than the normal. And then there’s other days where I just put my head in the headlines for a second and I am petrified about what happens next. But it’s Yeah, funny all times.


Eric 02:36

It’s an incredible experience that we’re going through. I mean, this is one of those, you know, when I was growing up, and you you heard things, I mean, horrific things like world war two or one. It just felt like such a distant past is something that we just I couldn’t relate to, and over the course of our lifetime, although there was a number of quite a life defining events Like, like 911 the Iraq War a lot unless you were physically there. It’s It’s It’s distant. And yet this is this one experience. They’re they’re there. There’s nowhere to hide from COVID everyone on the entire planet has been impacted by this and not in a Oh, yeah, I mean, I am I’m impacted, kind of in some way, but came back to seriously. And so it’s, um, it’s fascinating to see the type of change that this has already had on humanity, on our economy on how we relate to one another on how we consume and our priorities. And that, that, you know, I’ve always been one of those people that believes that we overestimate the amount of change that will happen over the course the next 10 years and we underestimate the amount of arms we underestimate the amount of change that happens in. Yeah, in basically 10 years and we under up underestimate the amount of change that happens in a year. And so, in this specific set of circumstances, that entire premise has been put to question, I really wonder what life will look like in 24 months time, and how that will impact things in five to 10 years time.


Phil 04:22

No, it’s, I have to salute you as well. We’re three minutes in and you’ve gone deep straight away. We normally reserve that for around about the 30 minute mark, but but well done, you just get it straight away


Eric 04:39

yeah, I’m not one for pleasantries, Phil, unfortunately, if you if you speak to most people who’ve literally just met me, I prefer to really get into the meat.


Phil 04:49

Yep. Yeah. No. Well, I think the thing is, is that your adversity has a habit of uniting us in some way. I think. If you’d have said to me that there would be a A global event that could unite everybody to one common which is that, you know, everybody’s been affected by by this in some regard, whether it’s health, economic, whatever. It’s quite. It’s quite a deep point to think about the fact that something like this has actually united everybody in a moment of thought, perhaps


Eric 05:21

Hmmm, Yeah.


Phil 05:23

Anyway, that’s definitely enough of that nonsense. Let’s get back on point. Where abouts are you in the world today? Are you working from home? Are you in one of your sites?


Eric 05:35

I’m actually quite fortunate. So I’m actually sitting in one of the rooms, I’m at Locke broken Wharf, which is one of our properties that opened in March of this year of all time. So three weeks for COVID and I’m overlooking the Thames. So I’ve got a view of the Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern, so it’s spectacular. I’m really lucky


Phil 05:58

Nice, nice. I have to say, given that kind of rap sheet that I built you up with at the beginning and then but actually before I wrote these after I wrote these notes. We had a chat about the fact that were also involved in Birch and Hertfordshire that’s just opened this week. So the question I have for you on that, is there any business in hospitality that you’ve not founded?


Eric 06:25

(Laughs) Yes plenty because most hospitality is quite boring. I might my view on this funny thing is I don’t come from a hospitality background. You’re my father was one of the lead architects at Disney. And so from a very early age, I was brought up with what I’ve called kind of extreme hospitality. To say that you could literally create something in the middle of nowhere. And as long as is it’s spectacular enough people will come but but really what what I learned through that process And I think we spoke about this once you and I feel was that, you know, we spend so much of our lives pursuing happiness. And I’ve come to the realisation that it’s less less about pursuing this idea of happiness, and more about pursuing moments of joy. And that’s what I learned, you know, being kind of the son of father Disney. I mean, you people spend fortunes to travel from all over parts of the world to come to Orlando or California, and really experience these exciting moments of joy that they’ll look back on with fondness for the rest of their lives. And I think at a subconscious level, I’ve always asked myself, you, does that really have to be your Do you have to fly to Disney for that? Is there a way of doing that on? You know, in every city, is there a way of doing that so that instead of someone flying out to Orlando, they can go to somewhere? either go to a go to a city or somewhere within closer proximity to have the same degree of emotion? Yep. That’s a constant quest, whether it’s in a city like LA, or whether it’s in the countryside like birch. I’m obviously not, you know, it was it was an original idea. And now fortunately, Chris brought on Chris and Chris, and they’ve taken it to a whole different level. And it’ll be exciting to see what comes of that as well.


Phil 08:17

But I think that that’s probably a bit of a talent in itself in the sense that, you know, I think it’s one thing to be creative and come up with the idea, but it doesn’t necessarily always translate that you’re the best person I suppose to then take that and make it into something.


Eric 08:35

Yeah, a lot of it. That’s it’s an interesting point. I much like much like a lot of people in my position. You know, there are two different types of people who probably make it to where they were, I mean, one is people who, perhaps go work for a large hospitality company, and work with their way up the corporate ladder, and have the experience below them, but it’s fairly kind of a straightforward path. And for many, I would probably suggest Just taking that path because it’s a lot less heartache and headache than the path I took. I have mine wasn’t that path. Mine I was in a completely different sector. You know, I was in wealth management and, and real estate kind of private equity. And the reason for why I ended up where I am today was more to, you know, kind of scratching my own itch 10 years ago, I literally would spend, I would spend every bit of earnings I may travelling the world to Excel to go to these hotels that were quite unique. And yet, you know, as a profession, I was investing in student housing and, you know, Holiday Inns and premier inns and properties that look safe on paper. But in all honesty, staying in these properties never really brought me any joy. And so, what I was investing in didn’t coincide with what I was consuming and I remember thinking at the time, this was about 10 years ago. The type of properties I like consuming were your lifestyle hotels or high design hotels. And, you know, if I, if you really look back then to, you know, and just move to London from the States, there were only two lifestyle hotels here at the time. There’s Hoxton. And so Wow, so we shortage house in comparison to New York, which at the time had good 4050 different lifestyle design hotels. So there was a series under supply of kind of high design hotels and fast forward 10 years, things have changed considerably since. Yeah, but the other part that that was missing was, you know, I I, the most transformative moments of my life always were came from me spending an extended period of time within a foreign land. And I had realised maybe by accident early on, that the traditional hotel format wasn’t suitable to encourage a an extended length of stay. Yeah, yeah, I was fine staying in a hotel for two three days. You know, maybe four but much longer. It just wasn’t comfortable. You know that the fridge wasn’t big enough. You’re working off of your bed just isn’t suitable. There’s no the gyms yeah the gyms got a few treadmills, but if you’re into fitness, you’ve got to find go and spend 30 pounds just to you know, find a proper gym. There’s just so many things that just didn’t work for me. And so you’re trying to find something that merged the ability to accommodate extended stay with high design. It didn’t exist. And so I guess I kind of by accident, scratch my own itch and kind of went down this road. But I realised that the only way to deliver on this was to bring people who knew who were a lot more knowledgeable in specific fields. And so I had to bring in someone who was a specialist in construction. I had to, I had to bring in someone who was who knew how to deal with the lenders. I had to bring in someone who’s very good at acquisitions, finding properties I had, and then eventually bring in someone who’s good at, at the commercial element. And because and I had to blindly rely on them, because I just didn’t know anything about that segment. And there hadn’t been long hospitality enough to pretend like I did, right. And that worked out for the better. I think a lot of people are too scared of saying I just don’t understand, or I don’t know. And so because they’re scared of being judged. But in my case, because I didn’t have a background in hospitality, I was humble enough to go okay. What do you think we should do? And just, let’s do it.


Phil 12:49

Yeah. Well, I think the point there about not having hospitality experience Okay. Yes, you might not from a business perspective, per se, but certainly from a consumer perspective. We’re all consumers of hospitality in some form, and you know what you like, right? And what you don’t like by the same token, so I guess you bring that experience. And I suppose that’s where the creative creativity around the idea comes from in the first place.


Eric 13:16

Yeah, I’m am I one of the challenges with with hospitality is, especially when it comes to hotels, is that if you think about the gatekeepers to brands, the the person that makes the decision on what what type of food offering, they’ll be, what the design will be, tends to be someone that’s sitting in an ivory tower, and they tend to be someone who perhaps has has made it and in their own personal lives, they’ll stay at a five star hotel or luxury hotel. And so the moment they’re a pining on something other than a five star hotel or experience that they personally consumed, there’s a disconnect. They don’t really and so I think that’s where A lot of the challenges is that the moment the decision maker isn’t the consumer, you’ve got a problem. Yeah. And I always tell the guys, the moment that I stopped becoming the primary consumer, for Locke, or for for any brand for that matter, I no longer have the credibility to be pining on design on music on what type of skincare line we use, what type of you know what type of f&b experience is, it should look like. And I think this is part of the reason for why I think the standard was so before its time was because you had someone on your belaz, who was the decision maker had the autonomy to make those decisions and yet spent all this time consuming. spent all his time there. Yeah, and that’s quite a special formula.


Phil 14:46

Yeah, I mean, that I completely agree with you. I think that sometimes there’s an awful lot of spreadsheets and an awful lot of soulless decision making goes on without actually, you know, have you how many hotels have you been to around the world where you you go into Just maybe for a couple of nights stay for business or whatever, and you’re not inspired by spending any time in their restaurant because maybe the menu is just dated or uninteresting. There’s just no thought or care gone into it because it’s just a round spreadsheet decision making.


Eric 15:22

Yeah, and simplicity. I mean, use use the other issue with hospitality. You know, I’m not going to name any names, but there’s so many amazing concepts out there where I’ll never forget that yeah, these concepts which are very, very unique that come out in the show disruptive. And since so much effort goes into the very first experience, and so much heartache and so much headache and they finally figured out the the operators too scared of going through that effort again, and trialling something new. So what they do is they take that first experience, and they’ll do minor adjustments there. After but every other hotel they end of launching thereafter, is is basically a carbon copy of the very first one, right? And the problem with that is you when you go to that first one, as a consumer, you’re the reason for why you’re paying a premium. The reason for all the fanfare is because you’re thinking in the back of your mind is consumer. This really is unique. I love this. The moment you go to another property, let’s say you go to what in, in, in Paris, and it’s amazing. And then you go to their branch in Turkey or in a symbol. And the moment you walk in there, and it’s literally a carbon copy of the one that you saw on Paris. You’ve been robbed of all of the joy of its unique fabric. Because you’re thinking well wait a minute, I part of what made the Parisian woman so special was because it integrated the local fabric. It was so unique and so different. I was hoping that by coming to assemble and experiencing the version assemble that it would have integrated some element of the micro location and so it’s it’s quite soul destroying where as a consumer to see that and so that that is one of the reasons and I think missions that lock is that we really go through a lot of brain damage right to ensure that every single lock is is completely different. So we’ve got a we’ve got two more locks opening by here in London by the end of the year. So by the end of this year you’ll have Lehman lock, which is an all gate. You got lock in broken watch brokerage is the one that I’m sitting at now which is across from the Tate Modern. You got Kingston lock, which will be opening in Dalston, and you got Burma’s lock which will be opening on Bermondsey Street. The differences between the four locks will be comparable to the difference between Hoxton a citizen M and the standard. Right? And I really that probably that arguably is our greatest achievement. I because I feel I’d rather you go to the one in in Dalston. And go, Ah, I actually don’t like this, Eric, I’d love the one you had any in all gate, but I really don’t like this. Then you walk into the one in Dalston and go, yeah, it’s nice, it’s great, but it’s a carbon copy of the one and Lehman just with different colours.


Phil 18:19

Sure. That’s that’s actually groundbreaking maybe too big a word but it’s your it’s a really unique and fresh way of thinking about your spaces, rather than going well that worked there. So let’s just make another one and put it there. Because it might not work there because you’re what people are looking for in that area is completely different. And I suppose it comes back to the the point you made about the the moments of joy, you’re seeking these unique moments of joy, for your your guests to experience and that’s going to be unique to every individual space that you have.


Eric 18:57

In addition to the guests also for the locals


Phil 19:01



Eric 19:02

I want our common spaces to be to be the types of spaces where the locals spend all their time. And and, you know, I wouldn’t say that we are masters at this just yet partially because when you go stay in Hoxton or standard or so house, they operate their own spaces. And there’s pros and cons to this. They’ve got better quality control. The reason for why we don’t do that is because I’d say there’s two reasons one is typically good hoteliers make for poor food and beverage operators and vice versa. The second is, is that that is the quickest way to creating a hobbit homogenised experience across your portfolio you’re bound to I mean, this is one of the reasons for why so a house you know the food offering is so similar across the multiple so houses because it’s too difficult to try to change it. So one of the ways we are able to create indigenous experiences throughout a portfolio is by every, every lock approaching a local f&b partner, and basically saying, Listen almost like a, like a jumpstart to local entrepreneur and saying, Listen, we recognise that the most expensive part of launching a new restaurant is the fit out, you know, sometimes fit up can range from anywhere from 100,000 to 3 million, we’ll cover that cost. You don’t, instead of charging you a flat rent, we’ll do a turnover rent with you. So we’re in this together. So you got to come up with whatever amount of money needed for working capital. And, and then you operate the space and it’s yours. And they operate it like alone, like a standalone business. And some of them are incredibly successful, some of them not so much. But it really does create that local field. Yeah, and, and so that, that that’s something that that has its risks. But that’s, but as a result of its risks, you also are able to kind of achieve a certain level of magic that you couldn’t otherwise achieve.


Phil 21:09

Yeah, I can imagine as well that actually figuring out what might work in that space and in an individual part of wherever you are, it’s quite interesting to sit in front of people and see what they’ve, what they’ve got. That might be a little bit different and might might be that thing that sets you apart and makes the the local guys want to come and hang out for a coffee or whatever.


Eric 21:34

Yeah, yeah, it’s really fascinating and Manchester as an example. So Manchester, we’ve got co working, we’ve got event space, we’ve got a CrossFit studio. We’ve got a third wave coffee shop. We’ve got a chef residency, which is currently proving concept. We’ve got a florist that like have really cool floors, a cocktail bar, and then there’s also a tattoo parlour going in hopefully soon knock on wood. And every operator is completely different. And it really does provide almost like this village experience where if you’re staying at a lock, you’re going downstairs it’s all the locals and you’re sampling almost like going to a mini kind of urban village you’re sampling different experiences all under one roof. Yeah,


Phil 22:20

I’ve just realised you were definitely brought up in the States. Because a knock on wood is is what you guys say. And we say touchwood in general, I was gonna say the the real thing about that is is that how I remember learning about that was from an episode of The Simpsons. There we are.


Eric 22:44

Interesting. I didn’t know that.


Phil 22:45

Yeah. Anyway, nothing like me to take us off point. But there we are. Did you kind of did you always know that you were gonna start and kind of get involved in startups and cool phone stuff. I just I look back To your earlier life and University and I didn’t know that you were a co founder of a of the California Polytechnic Leadership Institute. Was that the first thing that you founded?


Eric 23:13

That’s a good question? I, you know, it’s interesting. I haven’t actually thought about thought about this. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit from a very early age. And I, I did you know, I was always I was always willing to take risks and kind of try out different things in school and university to put myself through university I ended up selling books door to door and I made actually a fair bit of money doing that. So and they were actually really helpful books but that’s a conversation for another time. And and during the fall quarter, what I would do is I would once again take all my money and I would instead of trying to race through university, I would take fall quarter off and I would travel the world. To learn and so part of it is kind of an entrepreneurial mindset. Part of it is kind of this desire to learn and evolve. I i’ve Yeah, I’ve started all types of concepts. And yeah, a lot of them haven’t succeeded, you know, but I’ve learned more from my failures than I have my successes. Yeah. Yeah, you know, yours define you, whether they’re friendships or relationships or, or even, you know, business ventures. They never leave you. Your failures. And they you really learn a lot from some of those, some of those mistakes.


Phil 24:38

Yeah, I completely agree. Again, I think it’s what, factually, it’s impossible to get everything right, isn’t it at the end of the day, and especially when you’re, I suppose entering into new territory, where there’s yet to be defined elements, your back puts the risk even higher up so the likelihood as you are Gonna have failures and amongst that, but I think the the entrepreneurial spirit that exists within people like you is probably that perception of risk versus reward is what’s worth taking the risk, where there’ll be a lot of people will would probably naturally go, Well, that’s too risky. I’m not going to give that a go.


Eric 25:19

My risk appetite is obviously declined with age. But then again, I think I would say on the one hand has declined with age on the other, I have a far stronger understanding as to what types of risks I can take, and how those will succeed. And I’ve got a great I’ve got a strong enough team around me to rely upon now to go Okay, what’s the debt risk? What’s the rev, par risk? What’s the I mean, there’s so many different you know, working right now with within a platform like Brookfield, you’ve got so many resources to rely upon, which I never had before, which make kind of risk taking so much more, a lot easier, a lot easier.


Phil 26:03

Absolutely. So what’s what’s coming up in the next sort of 12 months then because you guys are on a fairly rapid expansion plan if I’ve got that down, right,


Eric 26:13

We are, we are. So we we’ve got as seven openings over the course of the next kind of 15 months, right? So if I were to do not to bore you, so like I said, we’ve got Bermondsey or Bermonds Locke in Bermondsey, Dalston, the one in Dalston. We’ve got Zanzibar Locke, which opens in Dublin. It’s the old Zanzibar was one of the most successful nightclubs in Ireland for two decades running in a shot. And so we’re, we’re restoring it back to his former glory Beckett lock, which is north docks Dublin, we got to a Munich that are opening WunderLocke, which is in kind of the kind of South Munich and then and then another Locke which will be opening in the centre London and then Locke any site gallery, which is, which is opening in Berlin next year. And then we’ve got and then in addition to that, shortly thereafter, we’ve got Turing lock, which opens in Cambridge and Lehman annex which is another property opening in all gate. And some of these are larger than others. So in the average lock typically is about 150 rooms, but the WunderLocke will be about 330 rooms back in lock will be about 241. So some of them are fairly large. And every single Locke is a completely different interior designers different FnB strategy. So, you know, we’ll see I’m sure, you know, some will do better than others, but, you know, I guess touchwood we’ve been very, very


Phil 27:51

Very good. I like like, yeah, very good. You clearly take in what people say to you. Yeah okay so you’re also involved in other things too you have Edyn group


Eric 28:07

Yeah so Edyn, so just explain so Edyn is actually the the the mother company they employ your brand so you got to look at it so Edyn and then underneath Edyn you got Locke which is outside our main driver for the time being. We’ve got a couple of other brands we’ve got a concept called the more day which is kind of a more of a smaller boutique concept which is in Moorgate, London. We’ve got the victim Burg which is 113 unit boutique apart Hotel in Amsterdam. And then we’ve got our kind of corporate housing brand called SACO. We recently brought in Steven Hogg who was the head of Sonder, UK and Ireland. So he’s actually going to be responsible for repositioning SACO, so SACO’s historically been kind of b2b facing and he’s going to, you know, kind of responsible for repositioning SACO into more of a consumer facing brand. Yeah, whereas kind of lock is very lifestyle. SACO will be you know, high design, but there won’t be any common areas. It’s just your high design service departments with you know, with a certain set of brand standards you know, we were a lot of this coming from is the following if you and you know, we were at the right place, the right place at the right time and Airbnb raised awareness for the for this idea that for the price of a hotel room, you can stay in an apartment. And in response to that, you know, obviously the rise of service departments has been, it has been kind of meteoric meteoric over the course the last few years, but COVID has actually in an, in a very weird way, done a lot for us as well. And in a couple of unexpected ways. One, people are lot more sensitive to being confined to smaller His faces than they ever were in the past. Yeah, yeah, people, whereas before, people may not have cared about being stuck in a tiny hotel room now as a result of COVID, people are a little bit more hesitant to being stuck in a tiny hotel room. And people want a little bit more autonomy. And so the, you’re in a, an apartment with your own kitchen with your own living space, can provide that autonomy. And so whereas, you know, right now, the, the and I can’t go into the exact numbers, but the typical hotel here, mine is operating at 10 12% occupancy, we’re well above 50%, which is it’s hard to believe, you know, once again, this is nowhere near the occupancies that we once were but still far better than what we would have assumed considering the circumstances. Yeah. And I think one of the things that has that has kind of emerged I was asked this question earlier, which is what what you predict over the world changed over the course of the next two years, two years. And as a result of this kind of sensitivity to being confined to small spaces, we’re noticing, I’m noticing two things. One is people are moving out to spaces & places that have perhaps larger, a larger, you know, larger home perhaps with some greenspaces. And so in response, you’re seeing a lot of people move out, because they can technically not have to come into the office every day. So people are working, spending a lot more time working remotely. Yep. What the reality though, is that once that stuff settles, these people who are living, let’s say, an hour and a half away, are going to still have to come to the office once, twice a week, maybe more. And so I think what you’re likely to see in that type of type of circumstance is the rise of what are called flexible living. These people who are coming back to London twice a week, are not going to want to do our three hour commute per day. If not longer. And so these people are going to need some form of peer to tell when they come to London now might be a studio or one bedroom that they rent. I suspect that instead of someone committing themselves to buying something or signing a lease, just to use for two days a week, they’re probably going to look for some form of apartment that they can tap into at will for two days a week, something that makes them feel like they’re at home, but without the liability of having to cover, you know, get your gas bill, water bill, TV bill, so on and so forth. I think the second thing that is likely to emerge from this is and so I think part of this is going to be driven by whether you’ve got kids or not, you know, the the families that are moving out kind of an hour and a half. These are families with kids, so they want a little bit more space for the family. Yeah, I think the second are people who don’t have kids, I think they’ve woken up to the fact that they can technically work from anywhere. And they could technically work from anywhere. The feedback After getting through a lot of these people is why am I going to stay in London during the winter months? I’d rather work from Lisbon. I’d rather work Barcelona. And so a lot of these people, if you speak to them, they want to be within somewhere that’s within close proximity from a timezone standpoint. And also, if they’ve got to be back in London once a week, they can fly back to London, so they need something where your flights are quite frequent and quite affordable. But they can be back in London within two hours. I think these people want flexible living when they’re abroad and they want flexibility when they when they come back to London. Yeah. And so we we see these people as kind of a potential consumer group as well. And so you know, it’ll be interesting to see how kind of things pan out I mean, it’s fascinating because the home, you’re where we used to live, used to technically just be where you put your head at night. You know, people spend solar so little time at home. Now, if because of COVID your home is now where you eat Where you sleep? Where you work? Where you play where you entertain others. Yeah. And so it serves so many more functions. And so a, he, I think people have now been conditioned to need their permanent home to serve those various functions. But even when they’re travelling, if you’re travelling for a week or two, you want your temporary accommodation to offer those functions. And most accommodation just doesn’t do that.


Phil 34:32

Yeah. Do you know the the interesting thing about that is that is it’s very much a kind of, it’s a logical, even if there’s not factual information to back that up. That’s a logical conclusion that you can make as to the way the world has changed and in the last few months, and therefore, there is going to be a different kind of need that wasn’t there before. And it sounds like your product kind of sits firmly in in that I totally hear On the we’ve all kind of had to live at home, work at home, do everything at home. I’ve never done so much DIY that I have in the last three months, just because I’m here more often than I’ve ever been. And so you want to make the house look as pretty as possible. While you’re here.


Eric 35:17

Yeah, I’d say the same for Hotels. hoteliers need to spend time in their hotels, they need to spend time in other hotels aswell in competitors to learn what the competitors are doing. But they also need to spend enough time in their hotels to know what the consumer is going through to be able to empathise with the consumers needs and frustrations. Yeah, and not be blocked to assuming that a certain set of brand standards or an Excel spreadsheet that produces what numbers is enough.


Phil 35:43

Yeah, absolutely. But equally at the point about people moving out of London as well. I live 15 minutes out of London. And we’ve already seen a massive increase in in desire to be based here because it’s still valuable. commutable if you need to, but it’s it’s also not a poky one bedroom bedroom apartment in Battersea

Eric 36:07


Phil 36:08

yeah. Do you know what the number one inquired product was through COVID for homeowners

Eric 36:16

No? Gardens?

Phil 36:17

Hot tubs

Eric 36:22

(Laughs) I love it. That’s hilarious. I love hot tubs. There’s a long story, on our new, in our new Bermonds Locke and people are gonna ask why and that’s a long story in itself but when you walk in as you’re checking in right behind the check in desk you see large kind of outdoor courtyard with hammocks and a fire pit and there’s three rooms there that have their own private outdoor kind of patios. Right and one of the three rooms there’s actually a hot tub sitting there. There were about so as you’re checking in, someone might be having a bath

Phil 37:00

Great stuff. You know, you’re giving people new and interesting experiences.

Eric 37:07

I do believe interesting enough, I do believe that they’re the topic of hot tubs I, you know, obviously that that’s that’s an interesting thing. But I do think that COVID is going to usher in a at least on the food and beverage side a greater appreciation and need for outdoor dining. Yeah. And I think that’s that is here to stay. I think spaces I think there’ll be you know, there’s gonna be a lot of design put forth into outdoor dining and how to make the spaces more season proof, more beautiful, you know, outdoor seating and dining has typically been kind of an afterthought. Yeah. And I think there’s going to be a lot of thought that there’s going to be an entire new kind of set of experiences that don’t come from this. When people were locked in. If you think about it for a very long period of time, you know, they say takes 21 days to form a habit. Well We for a very long period time, the only joy that we had was when we went to the park or when we went I guess some people went to the beach but for a lot of us the beach wasn’t accessible to us. And so we you know, you know from a kind of a chemistry biochemistry centre standpoint, we are dopamine kind of serotonin receptors were at their highest when we were immersed in these outdoor spaces. And so I think I think the clever restaurant tours will bring the outdoor in so that when you’re sitting indoors still feels like you’re outdoor through vegetation through natural light through, you know, kind of creating porous barriers. But I do think it’s all about the outdoor space going forward.


Phil 38:43

Yeah, but and then think about the I suppose city centres and things like that there’s going to be a seismic shift and councils approach to this. Well, there has to be, I suppose a seismic shift in Council’s approach to this, but that remains to be seen. I suppose.


Eric 38:59

Yeah It’s unfortunate. I always say that councils are typically late to the party by the time they get involved, the party’s over and everyone’s already gone home. But I do think it starts with, you know, restaurant tours, hotels, years, people in hospitality, really putting their thinking caps on and figuring out how to make what limited outdoor spaces they have. experiential, unique, memorable, is someone is, is going to go out of their way to come into London because most people don’t live in London anymore, live in London anymore, they’re going to come into London make their way It better be worthwhile. And I think there’s gonna be a lot of restaurants have that go pop, unfortunately. But those that do remain are going to be the ones that have figured out how to go about delivering unique experiences within the limitations that have been imposed upon them. As an example when COVID happened. You because we’re a hotel and an apartment, we still had a number of people who had to live here now some of them were You know, care workers and, you know, within the medical field and so and but some of them literally were living here for, you know, three months at a time so we couldn’t take them out. And so we still, you know, although we closed the restaurant because we were forced to, we still wanted to make sure that those that were staying with us were able to experience a unique experience. So what we did is, once a week, we would hold a chef masterclass where the guests would come downstairs, they would pick up the recipe box, go back up to the room, and we would hold the zoom class with a Michelin starred chef every week was some someone different. And that Michelin starred chef would show them how to put together a four or five course Michelin starred meal. And then we’d have a mixologist come online and show them how to put together a cocktail. And the guests loved it. We’d have like 2030 more guests on each call on each zoom call every week and what was amazing thing about that is that if you kind of think about it, it, it was a memorable, unique experience in Cove it would have been memorably experienced in the best of times, let alone in COVID, where you’re not allowed to do anything. Yeah. But what we’ve realised is that, you know, we’ve kind of in this new era where it takes take the Four Seasons as an example, in New York, the Four Seasons because of COVID. were forced to, they couldn’t do the daily cleaning and more. They couldn’t. The restaurant, they had to close the restaurant, they had to close the spa, they had to close the gym. And so in a world where you’ve been stripped of all of your amenities, what is it that separates a five star hotel from a budget hotel? Yeah, very little. And, you know, there’s no guarantee that there won’t be further lockdowns within the near future. And so that there’s a lot of there’s a lot of thoughts in our heads as to Ethan lockdown happens, how do we continue to deliver experiences within the limitations imposed upon us? How do we is we were doing zoom classes for people to, to be able to do zoom in the rooms, do that zoom yoga classes through zoom in the rooms, you’re blurring the lines between what people used to do within our common spaces and what people do in the rooms. And really providing a format where if someone wants to have a Michelin starred meal in the room, or if someone wants to do yoga class in a room, or a hit class in the room, they can. That’s I think, what it means to be in the hospitality business. It’s not about we just you putting bums in beds, it’s about ensuring that when someone pays money to stay with you, that regardless of what they’re paying, it’s going to be memorable, worthwhile, exciting, and experiential.


Phil 42:55



Eric 42:56

Regardless of what those limitations may be.


Phil 42:59

Yeah, well, the experiential thing I think is absolutely, it’s here and now, it was already here before COVID came along and actually what you’ve just kind of highlighted there in terms of bringing effectively immersive experiences into somebody’s living space, whereby, you know, you get the opportunity to learn from a Michelin starred chef how to put together this, this menu and meal or, you know, yoga classes with with an expert in that field or whatever it is. It’s an immersive experience. And you know, it, that’s what people are, are craving that next experience.


Eric 43:37

Yeah, it’s, it’s a it’s obviously a disruptive and upsetting time, but I it is an exciting time as well, because I’m a firm believer in the fact that that I associate economic circumstances and design and f&b are shaped through trauma. If you think about if you think about kind of design today If you ask someone in 2007 Hey, listen, while they were having their beef Wellingtons sending in a room that had chandeliers and white cloth, hey, by the way, in 10 years time or 12 years time, you’re going to pay the same price to sit in what looks like Granny’s garage, and you’re going to be eating instead of eating fillet mignon, it’ll be Wellington, you’re going to be eating a kind of everything from the tail to the nose, that they would have laughed. There was nothing. Why would I do that? But But what what people fail to understand is that if you think about what happened in 2008, as a result of the financial crisis shortly thereafter became socially unacceptable to flash cash to flaunt that you had money, but people still have this need for experience. So what happened instead of people going to these flashy venues for dinner, they ended up chef started out Picking up restaurants in what looked like a shed, you saw the emergence of Ace, which looked like a student housing unit. You saw kind of emergence of Hoxton and so house where it looked like grandma’s furniture, it with exposed concrete, the ceilings unfinished finishes. Why? Because although the price eventually might have ended up the same psychologically, people felt more comfortable spending in money in those venues. And it became a visual manifestation of the socio economic times. And if you think from my perspective, COVID is far more traumatic than than the financial crisis. Yeah. So the design and experiential changes that will result from this and manifests themselves in 10 years time will be fascinating. It Like I said, we think the changes will come in a year and then mind but this is here. This will have A serious impact on what design and food and beverage looks like for for a long time to come.


Phil 46:05

Totally agree. You’re certainly from from my research and all of these different things that you’ve got your head and you you’re clearly a very busy man. How do you kind of escape that? How do you keep yourself sane?


Eric 46:20

That’s a good question. Through routine so every morning and it’s funny because I’m not I’m not I’m someone who used to hate routine. Because I love doing new things every day. But, but when it comes to routine, so I wake up, I spent time with my two boys every morning yoga four year old and a one year old. Shortly thereafter, I’ll, I’ll try to do about 15-20 minutes of meditation. I do I take my supplements, I take a lot of supplements, and then I will I work out, you know, five days a week. Because, you know, there’s all these this research about how working out helps your mind and I value my sleep I tried to get you know, seven and a half to eight hours sleep at night I go through a 30 minute routine to put myself through sleep, have to sleep every night, I’m quite precious about my sleep, I track my I track my sleep as well how much REM and deep sleep I get each night. So I am really, really proactive when it comes to ensuring that my mental and physical wellness is being being kind of maintained. But with that said, a guy who makes sure that they’re that kind of rigid when it comes to routine is always likely to have a blowout every so often. I say that and my blowouts tend to be of epic proportion which I ended up regretting for the next two days. So that that that kind of gives you it and it’s interesting because this idea of wellness kind of overlaid with hedonism. is very much a kind of the core of the lock experience as well. Yeah, you’re making sure that you can get your third wave coffee we’ve got amazing gyms we’ve got farm to table food, but when if you want a wild night out we can accommodate that as well.


Phil 48:12

Yep. So you literally have scratched your own itch to create this, this experience your brand that you’ve got. Just going back to the sleep tracking Do you use Fitbit?


Eric 48:27

No I use, I use the aura ring


Phil 48:29

Ah OK. I was going to compare scores then because I’m a monumentally deep sleeper. I’m 100% with you about about being precious about my sleep. I don’t I don’t need nearly as much sleep as I used to as a younger man. But if I get six or seven hours now i’m happy, but it’s the quality of that sleep. That’s massively important to me.


Eric 48:55

How much sleep Do you get a night?


Phil 48:57

It ranges from six and a half to seven and a half hours probably if I’ve had a long night but yeah I consistently score into the 90s in my my sleep quality and I told somebody about this later on in nearly chopped my head off because of jealousy


Eric 49:20

yeah i’m not i’m i have I’m not the best sleeper it takes me a very long time in the evenings to one my brain down which is why I’ve got it I had to work very hard to be able to turn my brain off.


Phil 49:33

Right? I’m afraid I’m one of these people that that is looking at his emails last thing on his phone and then puts on his bedside cabinet and then as asleep Five minutes later,


Eric 49:44

Jesus Christ! (Laughing)


Phil 49:45

Sorry about that.


Eric 49:46

Wow, yeah, you’re gonna laugh I literally I mean if you my routine is insane. I take I take magnesium. I use these these glasses that filter out blue light. I make sure I don’t look at my phone. I read I have a chilli pad to put my temperature at the right temperature and even use a sleep induction mat to really go to an extreme if not I will if not I might be up until God knows what hour just working


Phil 50:14

Got You. Also there I’ve just realised that I could probably turn this content premium Now, because you just gave us your your routine points of the Eric Jafari lifestyle plan and I’ll stick 10 pounds a month on the subscription fee and then we’ll see where it takes us


Eric  50:36

(Laughs) The other thing I also do I have a book I eat very what I eat very well when I’m not partaking in my hedonism so i eat five times a day, and I stay away from gluten and dairy so so on the world and once again, for those that know me, I like it when I’m wild and wild but when I’m not I do try to take care of my my body and brain.


Phil 50:56

I think that’s balance though, isn’t it? I think we all benefit from the blow out as much as we do from from looking after ourselves, if nothing just for the psychological wonderment that it brings to you.


Eric 51:08

Yeah, and I guess this is one of the last things I’ll leave you with Phil, because I think we’ve run out of time. But the one thing I’ll say is the following. They did this experiment back in the, in the 70s, where they wanted to connected these kind of nodes to people’s brains, and they wanted to monitor how intimacy was forged. And they had two food focus groups. They had one focus group, which went to the same venue, over your date, kind of, yeah, this is to this couple that went to the same venue over eight weeks, you know, so group of different people, couples, and they tried to kind of see and then monitored how much intimacy was forged during this eight week period. The second focus group had only a night together. So they just met that one day they were on a date. And the the couple would go for that one night, they went to eight different venues. And what was fascinating about that is that you would assume that the couple that spent eight weeks together, you know, although they went to the same venue over eight weeks would have would have fostered a lot more intimacy than the couple that just spent an evening together. But what they found was the exact opposite. The couple that spent an evening together because they went to eight independent venues, the brain doesn’t have the capacity to basic group those eight experiences as one is one experience. So what it does, the brain assumes that it’s almost eight independent experiences. And the more independent experiences you have with the other partner, the the the deeper the form of intimacy, whereas the other couple that went to the same venue eight times, the brain basically groups those eight experiences as one memory Unless really extraordinary happens, and so on and so forth. And so I always say the same thing to the team. If we’re gonna have downtime together, let’s go somewhere unique. Let’s go somewhere new. I’m not one of those people that will go to the same pub. Now there’s probably there’s probably I’m sure, there’s there’s probably studies that talk about the importance of ritual and so on and so forth. But at least for the team that I work with, and even for my family, I recognise the importance of new experiences and how that helps me forge a new bond with those around me. And I try to live that in my own life. I mean, much to the dismay of those around me who just want to go to the same place because it’s uncomfortable. But I’m, you know, the the personal evolution that comes from experiencing something new, you’re pushing myself out of my comfort zone, you know, recognising that I’m creating a new memory with people may not know or maybe even with loved ones and And this kind of, you know, that experiment had a kind of a interesting impact on on my approach to things which is also why I want to ensure every lock is unique. I mean, even within locks if you go to with lock, the restaurant doesn’t look like the cocktail bar that doesn’t look like the coffee shop. It’s almost like you’ve been to three different venues right? And the psychology behind that when you leave lock, you’ve almost feel like you forge these eight independent experiences because you know, between the gym the coffee shop, the restaurant, the bar, as opposed to how a lot of people design these restaurants, they the restaurant, the bar, the hotel, they all look identical, because they’re trying to keep things consistent. Interesting. Yeah, so so that’s so I don’t go out that often. But when I do, and do partake in hedonism, I want it to be a memorable evening and I want it to be different.


Phil 54:51

Well, please feel free to invite me along to any of them.


Eric 54:53



Phil 54:56

I’m also not a creature of habit when it comes to to Especially when it comes to food and drink. I do. I like going to my usual pub but equally at the same my preference is to is to experience something new.


Eric 55:09

That’s great. It’s a don’t never lose that. It’s it’s easy to, to want to go to what’s comfortable, but especially and then we’ve got to support those who you know, to help those survive but


Phil 55:22

Absolutely good man. All right, well, thank you very, very much. If people want to get a sort of get a hold of you and chew the fat and learn a little bit about more about what you guys are doing, what’s the best method for them to do that?


Eric 55:35

Yeah. And my email address is Eric dot Jafari at Edyn group dot COM And my Instagram handle is Eric Jafari.


Phil 55:49



Eric 55:51



Phil 55:53

Great stuff. Eric, thank you very much for your time. I literally feel like I could have chatted to you all afternoon. There’s some really Amazing stuff in there and I wish you and Locke, and all of your other brands, the very, very best through through this next period.


Eric 56:08

Thank you. Thank you very much for the opportunity Phil.


Phil 56:11

No problem at all, speak to you again soon.

Eric 56:12

You got it. Bye

Phil 56:13

Cheers. And there we have it. Another great story showcasing that you can come into hospitality from pretty much any direction. And a massive thank you to Eric for sharing so much original thinking. 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.