The new head of Cirencester's oldest hotel brings 20 years of luxury and Michelin-star magic

With glamorous interiors, new menus and free anniversary dinners for couples who say, 'I do', there's plenty to get excited about at The Kings Head Hotel in Cirencester in 2024. SoGlos caught up with general manager Jean-Benoît Burloux to find out all the fabulous details.

By Jake Chown  |  Published

From Michelin-starred restaurants to some of the world's most luxurious five-star hotels, the new general manager at The Kings Head Hotel in Cirencester, Jean-Benoît Burloux, has seen it all in his 20 years in hospitality.

Now, he is applying his worldly experience to running one of the Cotswolds' most beloved venues, bringing it up to date with the latest trends while preserving and honouring its rich history. SoGlos talks to Jean-Benoît about his career and plans for the future of the Kings Head.

Jean-Benoît, you’re the new general manager at The Kings Head — how have you found your time there and what were your first impressions?

The moment I first entered the Kings Head Hotel my imagination ran wild; an overflow of passion and excitement poured in. When I first met Mark Booth, the owner and proprietor, we sat down for over three hours discussing our love for hospitality.

The person behind the scenes makes or breaks a potential relationship, personally speaking, and when meeting Mark for the first time I thought he and I had lots in common, both in terms of our frustrations and love for the industry. You have these great big, wonderful projects all over the world, but in the end, it is all about who is steering the ship that matters most.

You’re already a well-known figure in the hospitality industry, can you tell us about your experience?

I have been fortunate to have worked in some of the most incredible five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants all over the world, although I've also always believed in my self-competency concerning what I do — I've created my own luck.

I chose not to continue my studies past 16 and wished to gain momentum within the hospitality industry. I started off polishing glasses, mopping floors and cleaning bathrooms, working over 90 hours a week and earning £20 a day. I gradually earnt respect for my determination, never wishing to fail and throw in the towel.

It was a tough industry back then; the term 'human resources' barely existed 20 years ago. I have incredible personal stories, perhaps not to share here! However, looking back, I would not change a thing as the 'old school' training clearly worked for me as an individual. It made me understand how and who I wanted to be and how and who not to become, while aspiring to leadership roles.

I have worked alongside sheiks, vice presidents and chairmen, and in the United Arab Emirates in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the likes of Jumeirah Etihad Towers, leading the food and beverage team. Prior to leaving the UAE, I was accountable for nine venues, while getting married in between and having a baby girl, of whom I am most proud! Sleep was not an option — I only loved the challenge and the pressure.

There’ve been quite a few changes at The Kings Head since you arrived last year with a new look for the hotel — talk us through the refurbishments.

When I walk into a property for the first time I do not think immediately what I wish to do, only about what the property wants and deserves, respecting its heritage and story.

The Kings Head Hotel is so diverse; it hosts all occasions of life. We started with 46 rooms and developed a further 30, due to the high demand of being in the official historical, Romanesque capital of the Cotswolds.

Aside from knocking down walls, perfection comes in the details. The colour scheme has evolved to what’s on trend, but to a design graciously ageing with both warmth and femininity in mind. Lightbulbs are one of my many obsessions — I thought, 'why not have the same warmth, colour and wattage throughout, creating a seamless and continuous look and feel from light?'

Our two restaurants were reborn with new identities and consistency. We added luxurious touches throughout such as Elemis skincare products in guests’ areas and in rooms, beautiful coffee machines and new, luxurious linen. Our vaulted spa is undergoing a Balinese transformation, adding organic touches such as bamboo flip-flops to get around.

You’re also in the process of expanding your food and beverage offer, what can guests expect to see?

We are very lucky in the Cotswolds regarding tremendous people that are dedicated to feeding us with their fabulous local produce. More than 80 per cent of our food-related products come from within a 30-mile radius.

We have introduced a smaller menu for two courses, available seven days a week over lunch and dinner, costing £19.95 per person. We are so proud of this offer; personally I've found that with the price of petrol and energy going up, 'date nights' out with my wife have become less frequent. Due to a hike in the pricing of food-related products, £100 doesn’t create fireworks anymore. So at the Kings Head Hotel, your money goes further. However, if you want to spend £500, you also can! 

We also have a second restaurant coming up focusing on serving simple grilled items, letting the main ingredient speak for itself, within the main foyer of the hotel.

What else can guests expect when they visit in 2024?

Expect to see continuous positive changes, while embracing the same culture of welcoming our guests with open arms, with a smile, looking groomed and well versed. We are proud of our diversity, some of us have an accent — having worked in large groups with over 70 different nationalities, I can honestly say that no one is the same. We all are different and individually add our own value to the table.

Also in 2023, we hosted over 50 weddings and became one of the best wedding venues in Gloucestershire and the south west. This wasn't something we worked towards, we simply wanted to make each couple's day truly special. As part of the benefits of hosting their special day with us, we have reworked our package for couples; offering to host their anniversaries, with our compliments, for the following 10 years. Why — because we can! My thinking is always, 'how can we better ourselves as a business and as a people?', without ever thinking 'this will do'.

What is your vision for the future of the Kings Head?

The vision is to keep up with trends without forgetting the very foundation of its success — a community, business and family-oriented venue welcoming anyone looking for something a little different while feeling the warmth and genuine welcome of our staff.

All this said, we wish to keep to a fantastic price point for the quality we offer and will keep introducing packages such as our 'Cotswold Escape for Two', with a comfortable room, lunch for two and two hours in our thermal areas for £199.

For families, as a father of one daughter and soon-to-be dad for a second time, it only felt natural to offer complimentary stays for our younger guests; with breakfast included along with small robes and specially designed body washes.

Finally, what is your favourite thing about Cirencester?

All of it! I am a city boy and maybe because my 40s are approaching, I am appreciating and enjoying the smaller communities that are incredibly big-minded. Isn’t it nice when someone looks at you and says 'hello'?

Cirencester, with its rich Roman history and architecture, culture, culinary offering, gardens and lakes, has so many events throughout the year — more than in the bigger cities. For families it is also one of the greatest places on Earth — superb schooling and mentalities. Teachers do not get enough praise for raising our children this well.

One thing though, Cirencester is missing nightlife for us slightly more mature-minded people, but something is brewing down in our vaulted entertainment cellars. Hush hush for now...

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