Aged 22 and graduated from the hotel school of Lausanne in 2015, Adrian Lelievre becomes two years later the youngest GM of a Hilton hotel in the world while combining his work as commercial director for the family group.
« Start with the WHY »
Originally from Toulon in the south of France, I have always been in love with my region and what it had to offer and I always wanted to find a way to put it forward. I was also very appreciative of the work force of my parents who -at the age of 19- opened a small 14-seat restaurant where my father was the chef and my mother was in service. My parents had succeeded in developing the business with opening 3 new restaurants by 2010. It is with this in mind that I joined the Hotel School of Lausanne in 2011.
At that time, I already knew that I wanted to go down to the South of France after my studies to join the family business and continue what my parents had started. Besides, in my cover letter to apply to the Hotel School of Lausanne, I wrote that 1 + 1 = 3... but we will come back to that later.
« Learn everything you can »
During my studies, I had the opportunity to perform exceptionally my last administrative internship within the family business. The purpose explained to the administration of the school was to prepare the continuation of my professional projects, by creating an effective commercial and marketing department which would increase the volume of business and thus allow the different exploitations to finance a steady development for the whole group.
At that time, I was working alone and I had a budget of 2000 euros for the whole year for the commercial and marketing, so I had to adapt to find inexpensive and effective solutions to develop the image of brand (redesign of all the websites of restaurants, social networks, brand recognition), develop distribution channels, create commercial media ... so I decided to focus on the event activity of restaurants that seemed to me to be the biggest lever of growth that I could activate with these means (moyens). The year after, the group recorded 39.33% growth in income.
During my internship, I also started working on the commercial and financial feasibility of two major hotel projects in the South of France. When I went back to school after my internship I applied for the opportunity to do a STUDENT ENTREPRENERSHIP PROJECT. Only 2 projects are retained per year by the Hotel School of Lausanne so that the students can develop the business model of a project with the help of the faculty. I was able to work for a few months with a group of friends on the elaboration of a document that would present in their entirety the financial feasibility of the project, with the analysis of the market, the trends, the positioning, the financing and the operations ... in short, all we needed to find was the funding for both projects.
In the same time of my last year of classes I had already been integrated in the family business and I continued to deal with commercial and marketing development. We put everything in place to guarantee the good financial and operational performance of the group before experiencing strong growth from the new projects that were arriving. In fact, that year the group continued its growth with 25.86% of revenues.
« After school - projects come alive »
In 2016, we were ready to start the project of the first hotel. The Grand Hotel Des Sablettes Plage 4 * consists of 75 rooms and suites, 3 restaurants, a spa and a private beach. This hotel facing the Mediterranean sea has been abandoned for more than 50 years and the amount of work to be done was immense. The financing was found directly from the banks without any personal capital contribution - we used a crowdfunding solution as seed capital which allowed no other capital holder to join the family business. We didn’t take any architects or designers, we knew already exactly what we wanted : a very good four star hotel where our guests feel the rich past and the legacy of this incredible building in a maritime and travel atmosphere.
It was also very important to create a real « destination » as the hotel is situated in a non well known city - La Seyne Sur mer - with a very big potential but a poor recognition in comparison to the two main cities in the Area - Marseille (which is associated with the brand Provence) and Nice (which is associated with the brand Côte d’Azur - French Riviera). So I decided to create a new brand that would allow us to communicate quickly and effectively to a high volume of consumers. I deposited the brand "Provence d'Azur" at the INPI (National Institute of Intellectual Property). The hotel being halfway between Nice and Marseille and enjoying all the best aspects of both destinations by putting a particular emphasis on its authenticity. Today, this brand is used a lot in our area and we are starting to talk about renaming the Toulon Airport to Toulon Provence d’Azur airport !
In the meantime, I also used my knowledge attained at school in the negotiations with Hilton Worldwide to help to push the commercial activation of the hotel by integrating for the first time in France their New Brand, CURIO Collection by Hilton. This soft Franchise contract has been signed and we were the first Hilton to open in France since 15 years ! (and the only Hilton in South of France).
I also carried out the big processes of an opening: recruiting 113 staff, creating commercial service and pushing the commercial activation, menu engineering, work progress, finding good suppliers, designing… this was so challenging!
When the hotel opened on the 27th of June 2017, I took over the General Manager position but I also kept my commercial director role in the family group that we newly named « Les Maisons Lelievre ».
The first year of opening went very well, with results much better than what we expected. We integrated into the market very fast and I’m still surprised to welcome yearly more than 60 % of foreign guests in my hotel, in my region !
Today, the operations also are doing well with very good reviews on social media (9.1 onBooking.com, 4.5 on TripAdvisor). We managed to control our salary expenses with a payroll of only 25% of our revenues. All this allows us to continue growing healthy with good added values.
The rest of the family group is also doing well with an increase of 9 % of the revenues this year (at equal constants). Now there are in total 9 restaurants, one four star hotel, one central kitchen and one spa.
« The future is coming »
The other hotel project is also in progress now. It’s Called « Le Hameau des Pesquiers » and it will be a luxury 5 star eco-lodge with 54 suites on the beach in a whole old village also abandoned for 50 years… Taking back to life an old historical monument gives additional value to a project, this is my vision. The opening is planned for summer 2021. You remember earlier, I wrote about the fact in my motivation letter for EHL, that working with my parents in the family business would be like 1+1=3…I was wrong. It equals to much more. And I really hope that we are not done!
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