Opinion

Planning your business class experience in the city of Manchester

10 min read

07 March 2017

Former deputy editor

As the push to support the Northern Powerhouse continues, we visited the city of Manchester to find the luxurious ways entrepreneurs can enjoy the time there on business.

As time has gone on, the worlds of business and leisure have collided to create a trend known as “bleisure”. With that in mind, Real Business travelled to the city of Manchester to find out what this development involves.

The location was selected following the British Business Bank’s launch of a £400m Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund to drive SME growth in the North of England.

During our time in the city of Manchester, an entrepreneurial hotspot of the north, we observed how leaders heading there on business can make the most of their stay in luxury, covering travel, accommodation and recreation.

Travel: From A to B

The drive from London to Manchester will take in the region of four hours, but Virgin Trains can get travellers there in little over two hours at speeds of up to 125mph – a pace traffic police may have something to say to any drivers attempting similar swiftness.

Single fares start at £20 for standard class and £42 for first class, the latter of which will come with access to an exclusive lounge before departure.

Meanwhile, the journey will be helped along with complimentary food, soft drinks and alcohol, as well as WiFi and charging points.

Virgin Trains Pendolino First Class Seating Manchester

Virgin estimates productive time for train journeys at 80 per cent compared with 25 per cent for air travel and five per cent for travel by car

The frequency of Virgin trains at Manchester Piccadilly Station from London to the city alone are every 20 minutes at peak times, so combined with arrivals from other destinations it’s safe to say that taxis are in regular supply.

But for those that don’t fancy waiting in line at the taxi rank, on-demand services such as Uber have a strong presence in the city of Manchester, so those seeking that added bit of luxury can choose a ride from the Premium section of the app, which includes cars such as Mercedes-Benz.

But where to stay in the city of Manchester? On the next page, we talk about the newly opened and sophisticated option we selected.

Image: Shutterstock

Accommodation: Time for some shut-eye

CitySuites City of Manchester

The building is in the heart of the city

There’s no shortage of venues as the town boasts everything from Travelodge and Marriott, offering visitors a great deal of variety. And then there’s the increased trend of Airbnb being used by executives.

However, CitySuites was our base of operations during the time there.

The site only opened its doors with a soft launch on 1 February, but already shows great promise to achieve its ambition of becoming the go-to spot for business travellers.

The luxury serviced apartment building has 237 rooms on offer and Real Business previously spoke with CitySuites operations director Gavin Bailey about the brand ahead of launch.

He noted the city of Manchester has “huge business potential” with new airport routes regularly added, the likes of Amazon and BBC established locally and the Northern Powerhouse commitment.

On why CitySuites will stand out, Bailey said: “The standard accommodation options are not great. You can opt for a hotel room, which is often cramped and not particularly comfortable. Alternatively, you can choose serviced apartments, which for the most part are basic, a bit shabby and not managed brilliantly.”

Gym CitySuites City of Manchester

CitySuites offers a 24-hour gym, complete with personal trainers

At the time, he also dismissed threat from the Premier Inn across the road. “I’m confident that CitySuites will be Manchester’s finest residence upon opening, bar none,” he said.

Having now stayed at CitySuites, everything Bailey said was entirely justified. Genuine warm greetings from staff met us on arrival, while dedicated concierge and reception staff took bags and gave us a tour of the venue, which comes with pool, hot tub and 24-hour gym.

The room itself, meanwhile, could have well been someone’s luxury home, which is precisely the feel that the brand wants to create – particularly as long-term stays are more common, with existing bookings spanning everything from six weeks to six months.

City of Manchester CitySuites

“Our service is unrivalled, but staff don’t require a hospitality background”

We caught up with Bailey in person during the time there. He pointed to The Lowry and Radisson Blu Edwardian as two top hotels in the city of Manchester. That said, he added CitySuites had secured guests from the venues – something he attributed to the level of service.

“Our service is unrivalled, but staff don’t require a hospitality background. In fact, 70-80 per cent don’t have past hospitality careers, but they’ve had experience in retail, hairdressing and so on, which has allowed them to connect with people,” said Bailey.

“Our prime model is based on business travel, so we’re looking for transient workers, good transport links, company investments and corporate travellers. We’ve got plans for further growth and openings with Dubai, London and Birmingham among cities of interest.”

We’ve noted the exercise and relaxation facilities CitySuites has, but if it’s locations for business meetings you’re after in the city of Manchester, continue onto the next page.

Recreation: Closing deals in comfort

Further highlighting that level of service, it was raining when we left CitySuites for food and the concierge kindly escorted us out to our car with an umbrella.

Thanks to prime location in the city centre, it was just five minutes up the road along Deansgate before we arrived at Hawksmoor.

Hawksmoor city of Manchester

A private dining room for 14 people is available, while the entire venue can be hired exclusively for 150 people

The ten-year-old firm opened its doors in the city of Manchester – its first outside of London – just two years ago and has thrived since, thanks to a steak restaurant and cocktail bar combination.

And it’s that very medley that makes Hawksmoor an ideal location for business, leisure or “bleisure”, as shop talk can take place over food, drinks or both.

Another venue in the city of Manchester, a location that could help you stand out from the conventional business meeting, is Manchester House. It comprises both the Manchester House Restaurant, which is run by Michelin-starred chef Aiden Byrne, and sky-high Lounge on 12.

Lounge on 12 Manchester House

The venue is found in the Spinningfields district of the city

With fine dining in the former and a more relaxed, yet glamourous, drinking environment on the latter – the view of the city of Manchester at the top can act as an ideal setting to dazzle any potential business partners.

And if you’re worried about alcohol getting in the way, several options for afternoon tea are available – alongside champagne if you want the best of both.

Manchester House itself is part of Spinningfields, a business quarter and leisure destination that attracts 5.5m visitors a year, driven by the 165 organisations in the district. This stat alone signifies the role the city of Manchester plays in UK plc.

According to a debate at the UK Northern Powerhouse Conference, held in Manchester last month, collaboration is the key to unlocking the productivity in the North.

With that in mind, with the options we’ve rounded up in this feature, collaboration shouldn’t be a problem – especially if done over a Mango Iced Tea at Lounge on 12.