Neil Andrew joined Perkins and Will in March of this year to lead the London studio’s Hospitality team. He is currently working on a range of projects including a large-scale hotel in London, projects in Manchester, Europe and the US. Perkins & Will are among the designers working on this year's Guestroom Sets for Sleep & Eat 2020, alongside ReardonSmith Architects, AD Associates and Chalk Architecture.
As the weeks indoors stretch on, the Sleep & Eat team are checking in with our community to discover how others in the hospitality world are dealing with lockdown.
Today, we’re exploring the ‘new normal’ of Neil Andrew, Head of Hospitality at Perkins & Will.
Where are you self-isolating right now?
In my flat, in Leyton.
What’s the view from your new ‘work desk’?
We made three locations to work from in our flat so we can rotate on different days. I have the choice between a busy road, a lovely set of trees or somebody’s kitchen in the neighbouring building.
What are you most enjoying having the time to do, that you can’t normally fit in?
I have more time to make music, cook and exercise. Also, I get to see my partner more.
Have you developed a new daily routine?
Not really. We don’t have children and so I have managed to stick to the usual routine, although I do start work earlier most days and work a bit later as we don’t have to commute. I then spend the weekends reading up on industry news and trends.
What’s your favourite part of the day in your ‘new normal’?
Going for a walk at lunchtime. There is a horse-riding centre set in tree-lined space five minutes’ walk away. It is incredibly therapeutic walking to see some beautiful animals in a natural setting.
What do you think will be the biggest change in how you do your job post COVID-19?
It may seem counter intuitive, but I believe this situation has made the relationship between me and my clients more personal – it has acted as a leveler and I hope the collaborative spirit continues to progress our industry. Obviously this time has proven that working from home can work, and we are exploring whether that will continue to some extent.
It’s a difficult time for the hospitality industry. What do you think will be the hospitality sectors biggest challenge post COVID?
I think it’s difficult to predict, but in my mind there is a definite need to adapt to the new landscape. There will be an immediate drop-off in occupancy levels, whether this is long lasting nobody knows but an owner will need to be nimble if they are to deal with that. There are blended versions of hospitality emerging and it will be a challenge for some within the industry to change their ways.
What should those in the hospitality industry be doing now to help them prepare for the coming months?
I imagine most people are already preparing for the coming months but I’d like to think that they are planning in a cautious way – anticipating a slow response, lower occupancy rates, disruptions to operations etc. and then thinking as to how they can be nimble enough to react. In terms of operations, and as an example hotel owners/operators should seek advice on how to survive f&b outlets form back-of-house whilst respecting social distancing rules.
How is Perkins and Will planning to ‘hit the ground running’ again in the coming months? Do you have any new project ideas in the pipeline?
We are working on two new models for hospitality. One will allow clients to adapt existing properties and diversify their revenue streams, and the other will inspire and aid them to identify new sites that can cater for staycationing.
And finally, what are you most looking forward to doing again when the lockdown is lifted?
I imagined my perfect evening as to what I might do on the first day – dining out with my partner, meeting friends for a drink in a bar, then going dancing in a small club.
Thanks for checking in with us Neil.
To hear about how other key figures in the hospitality design community are approaching life and work in the current climate, you can also check in with...