“Oh my god, how have I not been here before?” I said – as I’m sure many other Mama Shelter first-timers have – the second I walked into the hotel group’s London outpost.
Specifically, the bar and restaurant. Based just outside of Shoreditch ‘proper’, the hotel nailed the vibe of the neighborhood without feeling overdone. It was vibrant, eccentrically-furnished, and filled with the kind of people both going somewhere and returning from somewhere all night long.
It felt like a community. One which just so happened to serve the kind of cocktails, food and events to appease the community it’s popped up in, as well as its guests. Which is, truth be told, is likely the secret to Mama Shelter’s global success.
Serge Trigano launched the hotel group in partnership with his sons, Jérémie and Benjamin, in 2008 after many years at Club Med (co-founded by the Trigano family).
From the outset, they wanted to offer guests a dynamic environment and exceptional service at an affordable price, introducing the concept of an ‘urban refuge‘ to the industry starting with a small hotel in Paris’ offbeat 20th arrondissement.
The Paris East hotel was followed by openings in Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux and, just after joining forces with Accor in 2014, its first location outside of France in Los Angeles.
Today Mama Shelter is part of Ennismore, another joint venture of Accor, which was founded in 2021 to form a global portfolio of entrepreneurial brands.
And still, 17 global locations strong, food and drink is its heartbeat; the magic being that all of the group’s bars and restaurants feel local without feeling overrun by locals. A unique balance which many hotel groups hope to achieve, but few get right.
“Mama Shelter can be seen as a restaurant with rooms. We offer a social hub for locals as well as a home-base for visitors so our food has to cater for all,” says Samantha Samuel, head of marketing and programming at Mama Shelter.
Sharing and caring, as it were, are part of Mama’s DNA. Most of the group’s hotels boast family-sized tables for large groups to enjoy a food and drinks, with special features dependent on location, be it a wood-fired pizza oven in Mama Prague, an Argentinian BBQ in Mama Toulouse, or a rotisserie in Mama Paris East.
“For Mama London the key has been to know and understand our audience,” says Samuel. “We have a mix of locals and corporate/leisure business driven from events and bedrooms.”
“For their locals, affordability and no-nonsense food is key. For hotel guests, classics such as fish and chips – associated with the city at large – are a big pull. “For social dinners, having the fun aspects such as karaoke, foosball and arcade games keeps things fresh and different,” she adds.
“We are not a restaurant chain, we are not a themed restaurant, we just do what we feel is natural and fun; the brand standard for Mama.”
The group has also made commitments to celebrate the local culture of its location across the group’s global staples, like Mama Shelter Dijon’s Mama Cheeseburger, made with Charolais beef (a French breed of taurine beef cattle from the local Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region), mixing American and French influences.
At London’s Mama Shelter Shoreditch, the hotel also integrates ‘local’ extras through weekly Sunday roasts, and regular brunches with bottomless drinks, Drag Bingo and DJ sets with London-based talent.
“Cocktail wise, Mama Shelter London Shoreditch love to create unique one-of-a-kind serves that you can’t find anywhere else,” says Samuel. “We do this by collaborating with British brands who have the same like-minded creativity and purpose as us.”
During the festive period, they collaborated with The London Essence Co to offer guests a seasonally-themed spritz menu, including Mistletoe (Spiced Rum, London Essence Co Grapefruit & Rosemary Tonic Water, Moet &Chandon Brut Champagne, Raspberry Jam, lime and sugar) and the Candy Cane (London Essence Co Peach, Jasmine Crafted Soda, Cranberry Juice,passion fruit puree, strawberry puree, vanilla syrup and lime juice).
“At Club Med, all-inclusive meals are offered to ensure people didn’t want to leave the resort grounds to pay out of pocket for dinner, and this is why we have made food and beverage a centerpiece of our hotels,” she adds.
“It has been carefully designed to encourage guests to stay on the premises, and for it to become a destination for locals, too”.
Fundamentally, Mama Shelter has redefined the conventional hotel experience, making food and drink not just an amenity, but the most exciting – and accessible – part of its identity. A true destination.