Innside named Manchester’s coolest hotel
20th November 2017
As soon as you walk into the glass-fronted Innside by Melia hotel you sense things are done a bit differently here.
The cool, clean minimalist design is brightened by a huge indoor tree, statue of a pink dog and column full of doodles.
Although quirky, the overall effect is appealing and modern ‘blurring the boundaries between business and lifestyle hotels.’
This was in fact the main aim of the first Innside to be opened in the UK by Spanish Melia hotel group.
Welcoming guests since May 2015, the hotel is headed up by hospitality stalwart Adam Munday, who moved to the city almost three years ago.
We meet over a latte complete with smarties on the side – another fun touch.
“The pull for me was having the security of working for a global company but the opportunity to represent this brand alone in the UK.
“A lot of the ideas we have done here has become brand standard around the world and I’m proud of that.”
Headquartered in Palma de Mallorca, the Melia Group has 370 hotels globally, with three in the UK – including Manchester.
The Innside brand is the fastest growing of the portfolio with new openings expected in Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Birmingham in the next five years.
“It allows developers to convert existing buildings quite easily because there’s no minimum room size,” Munday tells me.
“That means it can easily be a converted warehouse or factory, somewhere a bit different.”
Doing things a bit differently is a key part of Munday’s vision for his hotel.
“We’re trying to connect to the modern day traveller so you will notice the way that my staff look and the clothing they wear isn’t typical.
“We encourage people to have tattoos and piercings because our customer is that someone who is a bit quirky.
“The industries that the people who stay here work in are often media, entertainment, lifestyle, sport and music – none of those jobs require a suit.
“My impression is that if I’m wearing a tie and a suit I’m going to make that guest feel uncomfortable.
“So I say dress as they dress and allow people to have a bit more personality.”
This mantra has quickly seeped into the rest of the hotel with a DJ at breakfast, a free mini bar in the rooms for soft drinks and partnerships with local brands and artists.
“Everything we have tried to do is to challenge the status quo of the hotel experience” he explains.
“We introduced the DJ because when you travel, hotel breakfasts are usually boring affairs, everyone is tired and a bit grumpy.
“It’s not that we have techno blaring out but a bit of Cafe del Mar and guests can tweet requests to the DJ.”
Munday is also very big on local partnerships with local brewery Seven Brothers supplying beer for the executive rooms and Ten Acre crisps.
Elsewhere they want the hotel to have a Manchester edge with artist Dave Draws free-hand decorating the lobby pillars with different European cities. And pictures by local music photographer Charlotte Wellings.
“We featured a six month exhibition of her work because if you cut out the decor it’s quite a sterile building and we wanted to add some character.
“I followed her on Twitter, I liked what she did, we got in touch and we did a launch for her,” he adds matter-of-factly.
The next exhibition will be with Vimto which is planning a display of its old branding after Christmas.
This local partnership approach is quite unique for a global brand and it’s an element the manager thrives off.
“It feels like having my own hotel with the protection of not having to pay all the bills.
“I think being given that autonomy is really important and we have an entrepreneurial approach so if one of my managers comes to me with an idea I will back it and say give it a go.
“When you have that kind of culture people can give ideas right from an entry level job to me.”
And the 38-year-old knows all about rising through the ranks, having worked in the hotel sector since he left school.
After growing up in south east London, Munday moved to Lemington Spa and got his first job aged 16.
“I was working in a leisure club in a hotel folding towels,” he smiles.
With the staff entrance in the leisure club he would see the general manager arrive each day for work and became savvy about engaging with him.
“Throughout the 12 months I built up the relationship from a nod of the head to a hello to here’s a cup of coffee.
“One day he asked me, ‘what is it that you want to do’ and I said ‘your job seems pretty cool.’
“Fast forward three months and he developed a training management programme for me in the hotel which was a huge opportunity and a risk on his behalf.”
The now-manager says he vividly remembers the day he went from wearing shorts, trainers and a t-shirt to his father’s suit. Twenty-two years later there isn’t a job in a hotel that I haven’t done, from kitchen porter to making beds and cocktails; it gives me a great connection with my team.”
As a youngster, the father-of-two also played professional football for Coventry City under 21s but he soon had to decide which path to follow.
“I nearly got offered a contract but I got injured,” he says. “I had to decide do I play football or work in a hotel?
“As I was rising through the ranks, Saturday became a none-negotiable day that you always had to work so I soon worked out I was going to earn more money in hotels.”
Before moving to Manchester he had headed up hotels in Birmingham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
So what have been the benefits of taking the job in Manchester?
“What’s been interesting and challenging for us is that we are an unknown brand in the UK market so it has been a real education and work in progress,” he says.
“As a professional you have to convince people that Melia is a big company and that Innside is for them, that’s been quite challenging but exciting as well.
“If you have a well-known brand like a Hilton or a Holiday Inn, it is relatively easy to say who you are – but people have no idea what we represent.
“There are a few things that people have to navigate around, the staff don’t wear name badges and the bathrooms are all open plan so people sometimes aren’t sure.”
However, people do seem sure that First Street is coming into its own as a Manchester destination with the arrival of Junkyard Golf and Indian Tiffin Rooms.
“We are on the southern tip of the city and it’s growing so we want to represent where we are – with the student area and the former Hacienda.
“I think the identity is growing here with HOME as the anchor tenant and the restaurants bringing in thousands of people each week.
“It’s great and you can come for a night out here whereas maybe you couldn’t before.”
So what’s next for the hotel?
“We will spend a six figure sum in the food and drink area to create an even more ‘non-hotel’ food and drink offering.
“People in this part of town like informality and we are absolutely not trying to compete in First Street with Spinningfields – it’s a different clientele.
“With 600 new apartments being built down here it will become more about the young people with disposable income.
“So we will look at more ales, finger food and a chilled rustic space starting work early next year.”