Posted in News, People on 20 February, 2023

Hospitality heavyweights join Birch team as portfolio set to grow from first award-winning hotel

Birch Selsdon, the second site in Croydon opening in Spring 2023 will remain true to the concept of providing an escape from urban living, with spaces that give people the time and freedom to pause, think, create and savour.

After the successful launch of the award-winning lifestyle hotel concept and its first community in Cheshunt, Birch ( has announced a new senior management team to take the brand to the next stage of its growth, starting with the launch of the recently announced Birch Selsdon.

The Birch concept was launched when the team identified a gap in the market for a new type of health and wellbeing-infused getaway, more in keeping with today’s lifestyle and experiential-led consumer. Employing art, food, wellness (body and mind), craft, music and nature as the brand pillars, the entire ethos of Birch is to help guests disconnect from the judgments, expectations and constraints of everyday life and to re-engage with their playful side with activities and events ranging from summertime pool parties to ceramics workshops in Birch’s custom pottery studio.

Ayo Akinsete (pictured above) has joined as Managing Director having spent the last 14 years overseeing the openings and operations for top hospitality brands from New York to Miami and Los Angeles to more recently in London, where as Area Managing Director for SH Hotels & Resorts, he oversaw the role out of Treehouse Hotels and 1 Hotel brands in Europe.

“Ayo joins us at an exciting time for the Birch brand as we grow and add more hotels after the successful launch of the first Birch concept in Cheshunt. Ayo will lead the running of the entire business to include the launch of our second hotel which will open in Selsdon, Southeast London in Spring 2023,and lead us into further expansion in the future.”, said John Brennan, Chairman of Birch Hospitality Limited.

“The success of the first Birch site gives us a strong foundation to grow the brand and portfolio. What we have created is truly unique and a proven market concept, which we are keen to bring to new locations, for more to share and experience. I am really looking forward to utilising my experience in growing the operations of some of the world’s most exciting hotel groups to Birch, whilst continuing to focus on creating a festival-like atmosphere, where guests are free to choose their own experience from a wide plethora of amenities and activities.”, said Ayo Akinsete.

Kam Bathia has been appointed Financial Director. With over 25 years of professional practice, he brings a wealth of experience in top-tier hospitality, family office and real estate portfolio management, including a deep experience of lifestyle hotel brands, including Chiltern Firehouse.

Following their excellent work on the concept development and the launch of the inaugural Birch, two of the founders, Chris Penn and Chris King have decided to step back to focus on new opportunities outside of the brand. 

Birch Cheshunt opened in 2020 to great acclaim and was The Times Hotel of the Year within three months of opening. The hotel sits on 55 acres, less than an hour’s journey from central London and offers a reimagined guest experience at an accessible price point that includes pottery classes, bread-making, yoga and wellness classes (on the beautiful lawn in the summer and in a state of the art, self-contained indoor space in the winter), a forest school for children, foraging and interaction with the farm animals on site.

Billed as an escape from urban living’, the hotel provides the perfect backdrop to “rest, explore, connect, work, taste, move and dance”. Its launch prompted a number of excited headlines such as “is this where London’s cool creatives will holiday now?” and “a brave and innovative take on the traditional country house hotel” from leading media brands including the Evening Standard and Daily Telegraph. 

For many, the highlight of the hotel is the Zebra Riding Club restaurant, set in the old stables and named for a previous owner of the estate (formerly Theobalds) who kept pet zebras to pull her carriage. Launched by celebrated Dublin-born chef Robin Gill, who trained at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, it is now headed up by the up-and-coming chef Amber Francis, who worked   alongside Gill for many years and retains his farm-to-plate philosophy, utilising produce grown on site at Birch in her menu. 

The second Birch hotel will open in Selsdon, Southeast London in Spring 2023.  Birch Selsdon – the only hotel within the M25 that is set on over 200 acres of parkland – is located less than ten minutes away from East Croydon Station. The property, which is currently undergoing significant renovation, consists of a 181-room hotel, set within a 19th century gothic style mansion, with meeting and conference facilities, a co-working hub, two restaurant and three bars, a wellness space, running trail, tennis courts, and around 150 acres of rewilded grounds.

The renovations will adopt the Birch philosophy of working with the existing building and the attributes of the site, enhancing and improving them through thoughtful interventions with strong links to nature and the external landscape.

About Ayo Akinsete
Ayo Akinsete has spent the last 14 years overseeing the openings and operations of numerous properties for top global hospitality brands. Ayo’s professional career began in his teenage years, playing for West Ham United Football Club. As that career and chapter came to a close, Ayo was given a full Sports scholarship to play Division I Football in America at The University of South Carolina, where he studied Hospitality and Sports Management and subsequently completed a Master’s of Science program in Hotel Management at The University of Las Vegas Nevada. After meeting the founder of Gansevoort Hotel Group, Ayo moved to New York City to open the Gansevoort Park Avenue. This experience ignited his fire and passion for the industry.

Since that time, he has opened six hotels such as Dream Downtown & SLS Miami across the US in major markets including New York City, Miami, Los Angeles and Nashville. In 2018, he was appointed Vice President of Operations for Dream Hotel Group, where he oversaw operations for the group’s east and west coast assets.

In 2019, Ayo relocated back to the UK to launch his 7th property, the premiere property of Hospitality legend Barry Sternlichts new Treehouse Hotel brand in London. As Area Managing Director of UK and Europe for SH Hotels & Resorts, overseeing the regions roll out of the Treehouse and 1 Hotel brands, Ayo has worked on the development of 1 Hotel Mayfair and Treehouse Manchester, scheduled to open early 2023, and oversaw the transition of the Skt Petri Hotel Copenhagen.

About Kamlesh Bathia
Kam Bathia is a qualified Chartered Accountant who qualified with leading accountancy firm BDO in 1992. Kam has specialised in hospitality since 1997, with senior Finance roles at exclusive private members clubs and hotels in London. Most recently he was Finance Director of the award-winning Chiltern Firehouse Hotel where he was responsible for all aspects of corporate and operational finance for the business.

Kam has extensive experience in growing and developing the property and operational aspects of hospitality businesses and has been instrumental in the opening and successful launch of three private members clubs, with all three clubs still going strong today.

Kam says his enjoyment and success in this industry has been down to the dedication of colleagues from all departments who ensure the business delivers for all guests, the employees who provide the service to the guests and ultimately to the investors, whose capital is needed to sustain and grow the business. 

About Birch
Birch was created as an intervention from the judgements, expectations and constraints of daily life. The first Birch site was launched in 2020 in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. Set within 55 acres of nature sits 141 bedrooms, a market garden, two restaurants, an interactive bakery, three bars, 20 event spaces, a co-working space, fitness studios, a lido, a pottery workshop and screening, music and art rooms. Selsdon is the second Birch space due to open in Spring 2023.

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