Serdar Kutucu has long been a figure within the hospitality industry. For 12 years he worked with the team at Design Hotels before eventually being elevated to COO. And it was here where Kutucu first recognized something was lacking in modern hospitality. Spearheading a hospitality-related experience division, Kutucu began to see, through a series of small projects, the formation of many nourishing practices that would eventually develop into a tradition and philosophy for later endeavors.
“We saw the world of hotels getting boring, and [those concepts] gave us more of an appetite to do our own places,” he says.
Enter Slow Hospitality Management. Launched in 2019 by former Design Hotels CEO and cofounder Claus Sendlinger, their first venture includes La Granja, a working farmstead and hospitality project in Ibiza devoted to discourse on farming and food, and Tulum Treehouse, the five-room guesthouse in Mexico that facilitates exchanges between artisans, chefs, farmers, and designers to preserve Mexican craft traditions.
Here, Kutucu, now CEO of the Berlin-based company, talks about Slow’s mission to build a more conscious and holistic type of hospitality.
Introducing the Slow Approach to Holism to Hospitality
How did you and Claus Sendlinger conceive Slow?
It started about five or six years ago as a thought experiment. With the power of Design Hotels, we were taking over hospitality places and converting them into pop-ups with strong programming around different topics. These pop-ups taught us what we liked about hospitality and what the consumer wants. One of these places was La Granja in Ibiza and the other was Tulum Treehouse in Mexico. With those flourishing and growing a community, we felt we should form a business based on this model.
How do you define Slow?
It relates to the slow food movement, which is about making sure food is sourced locally and grown in an organic, biodynamic way. That is a philosophy that can be applied to many industries, but we hadn’t seen it being integrated in hospitality. We look at the concept, a place, and an experience and consider all implications around that. We want to show the holistic picture.
How does Sofi bakery reflect Slow’s hospitality philosophy?
We’re working on the [Marina Marina] development in Berlin, where we will have a multi-tiered restaurant concept helmed by Danish chef and restaurateur Frederik Bille Brahe. Because this restaurant is still in development, we created Sofi, a satellite space in the center of Berlin. We wanted to create a bar, but Frederik insisted on a bakery. He said, ‘Trust me, I’m going to bake the healthiest and best bread in town.’ In fact, he did just that.
We created a bakery [and open workshop] concept in a courtyard in Mitte. Our bakers start at 7 a.m., and they bake until early afternoon, which means whenever the bakery is open, the workshop is up and running and you can watch the bakers. The strategy behind it is to bring the Sofi community closer to what is happening [at the hotel development] until we have our final restaurant.
Tell us more about the Marina Marina development, located at the site of the Weimar-era Spree River baths in Berlin’s Rummelsburg neighborhood.
We’re developing an entire campus with offices, studio spaces, 42 hotel rooms, two restaurants, and an event space. Neo-Brutalist architect Arno Brandlhuber is handling the hotel building, Austrian architect Monika Gogl will be leading the interiors, and German firm Dreimeta is converting a landmark building into the two restaurants. The restaurants will be ready by the end of next year; the hotel will follow in 2023. Our aim is to establish a Slow Academy that offers classes around the Slow movement all year round and that [will also train] our internal teams. We want to partner with different institutions from around the world to exchange ideas of how we live, work, and travel in the future.
How do you differentiate Slow from other hospitality companies?
We’re not trying to differentiate ourselves from anything. We’re doing the things that we trust are the right way to do things. Design and sustainability are not the only topics we want to communicate. Our values are based on protecting the heritage of hospitality and preserving a regenerative approach to it.
We don’t want to be a place for everyone. We want to work with and bring in people who share our vision and values but who are also attracted to good design and a good story of heritage. Our dream is that in few years there is a loyal community that is traveling among all our places.
What do you want guests to take away from Slow properties?
Our aim is that our guests leave our places feeling healthier, wealthier, happier, and having memories they take with them for many years to come. That requires a very honest and transparent approach. It shouldn’t be just talk, we also have to walk the walk.
Another version of this article originally appeared on our sister site Hospitality Design.