The J.K. Place hotel brand, co-founded by Ori Kafri, his father Jonathan and Eduardo Safdie in 2003, is now globally known for its unparalleled focus on the guest experience and making every guest feel like they are in their own beautiful home away from home. All three hotels – in Rome, Capri and Paris – have been designed by Florentine architect Michele Bönan, and have a clear signature style. With new openings announced in Italy and others in the pipeline in international cities, Ori and his team seem unstoppable, as they continue to grow the brand…
What was your background prior to launching J.K. Place?
J.K. Place was my very first business venture, which I created as soon as I finished school at the age of 26. I had long before fallen in love with the world of hospitality, always inspired by destinations and boutique hotels I’d visited in the past. I was first trained in hotel management at ISTUR in Florence, where I graduated in 2003 after completing an internship at a five-star hotel.
What does your current position involve?
As CEO and co-founder of J.K. Place, I’ve kept my role very wide-ranging and involved. However, these days I am less involved in the day-to-day responsibilities on the ground, and am focused on scouting new opportunities and properties to grow the business on a macro level. There are many exciting routes to take our brand, as well as immense challenges, and this requires wearing many hats.
How do you see the company changing in the next two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
Given all that’s happened over the past few years – Covid-19, a war on the continent, and more – we don’t really know what will happen (or when) with our plans to open new locations and build on more projects. If for a moment there is no recession or war and things begin to move smoothly, in two year’s time we would be in an interesting position – a new J.K. Place will have opened in Milan, new residences in Rome, and a few other developments that we will hopefully be signing soon. So, we have an exciting two years in the pipeline – but we also need to expect the unexpected.
What role do the Americas play in J.K. Place’s growth?
Americans are very central to the luxury hotel industry, and they represent a high percentage of our guests. They are a mature market, educated, and know the brand well, which means they are great ambassadors. I would even say Americans, in certain destinations, are expert travellers. Overall, with such a big country comes big clients, in both quantity and quality.
How does design play a role in driving customer loyalty?
Design is incredibly important for driving customer satisfaction and engagement with the J.K. brand. Design is the first thing you see and feel when you enter a room, and a sense of humanity and openness to all people drives that feel. When somewhere looks beautiful but has no soul or passion, that means nothing. You need staff who love hospitality, or it’s a cold environment. The people, guests and staff alike, bring the place to life. Our 20-year partnership with the passionate architect and designer Michele Bonan has been essential to bringing this necessary warmth to light. He knows the brand and vision, and together we love sourcing pieces with history from markets local to each hotel.
What is the biggest challenge you’re facing in improving guest experience?
Right now, it’s staff – talent – that really want to be a part of this world, serving others. We are short of supply, not only in staff but also in materials – flowers, tour guides, and more – things we can usually provide guests with easily and quickly, making it more of a challenge. This doesn’t mean we can’t deliver, however – there’s just more planning involved. No is not the answer! Guests this summer are much more understanding due to the worldwide impact of recent events. They’re not here to complain, they just want a good summer now that they can travel again, and that helps with these challenges.
With the recent opening of J.K. Place Paris, what we can expect from this property?
Personally, I love this property, and hope it will be seen as our flagship, located on the left bank of the Seine. It is a great privilege to be in Paris, with J.K. Place standing alongside some of the most famous hotels in the world. We are out there now, and it’s great to be compared to others – even those well-established Palace properties. This location will come to define the J.K. brand – that we are not only Italian centred, but actually have an international ethos that we plan to continue building on. I’ve always dreamed of Paris, and now it’s come true. We want customers to recognise J.K. as an international brand and a concept that can work globally.
How do you think the influence of new technology affects travellers, and could do in the future?
In many ways, it’s making our life easier, but at the same time, when you’re a sophisticated traveller, you naturally want to manage your time most efficiently. However, you also want that personal staff-to-guest interaction, a natural human touch, to also assist and guide you. Overall, especially behind-the-scenes, we’ve found technological developments in the industry to be particularly helpful.
How would you define J.K. Place’s identity?
J.K. Place hotels are places with personality catered to people with personality. More and more, J.K. is becoming more like a private club – a place where you can find likeminded people from all over the world with similar taste in art, fashion, and lifestyle – and they can all meet in our hotels. Our identity really comes down to the guests – guests around the world who share a similar vision in life.
What is the magic ingredient that helps you deliver the best service to your customers?
There really is no secret ingredient, rather a combination of a lot of motives. People who work in hotels must have not only passion, but love, and have a positive attitude towards, the guests. Those personal moments with our guests is where the magic happens.
What would be your dream hotel project?
My wife is from Uruguay, and I’ve loved getting to know the land, the people, and just that part of the world in general. I’d love to open a J.K. Place in Jose Ignacio, an elegant combination of nature and lifestyle with wildlife and natural scenery integrated in the hotel’s architecture and design. Perhaps this J.K. Place would look more like a ranch – a beautiful ‘chakra’ on a big plot of land in the Uruguayan countryside.
What one thing have you not yet done that you really want to do?
I think I mention Malibu and California in every interview I do! I love the destination, and visit regularly with my family and for work. Everything about the vibe, people, fashion, design and culture resonates with me and the J.K. brand, and a J.K. Place Malibu on the beach is certainly a dream for the future.
What plans and aspirations do you have for J.K. Place?
Our goal is to continue to grow the brand organically. We want guests and press alike to recognise J.K. Place as a global brand, for its attributes and values, and to have them reach this conclusion naturally.