By Alicia Hoisington
As travelers’ wants and needs continue to change, hotels are stepping outside the box to innovate ways to cater to them—while keeping the bottom line top of mind. That means as trends change, hoteliers and designers must create spaces that deviate from the norm.
Take 21c Museum Hotels. Thanks to a passion for contemporary art and a drive to bring it to the public in a creative way, founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson brought a brand to life. And its success can’t be understated, with hotel behemoth Accor taking notice and acquiring 85 percent of 21c in 2018.
Or how about Marriott’s Element brand? Leaders recently introduced the extended-stay concept’s Studio Commons rooms. Four private guestrooms, each with their own bathroom, anchor a communal area with a kitchen and a living space. “We asked, why would someone book a vacation rental? Ordinarily, they wouldn’t go to hotels. But now they can, plus have the services of a hotel that they wouldn’t get from a home rental. We can get incremental business in this way,” explains Toni Stoeckl, vice president, distinctive select brands for Marriott International and global brand leader, Moxy Hotels. Properties can also offer team-building packages, or provide for such activities as interactive cooking classes led by a culinary expert in the space’s kitchen, where guests can craft a full-course meal.
Simply put: There’s no room for dead space at a property, and the key to revenue-generation is often the activation of spaces that live well past dinnertime. Here are three ways hotels are answering the call.
Artwork is an important part of a hotel’s overall design, but it can also lend a hand in an ancillary revenue strategy. At Quirk—both the Richmond and newly opened Charlottesville, Virginia locations (designed by Bristow Proffitt and ARCHITECTUREFIRM, respectively)—galleries are featured exactly for this purpose. Owners of the burgeoning brand Ted and Katie Ukrop opened the hotels after a successful stint as art gallery owners in Richmond. The thought was to bring the gallery, also called Quirk, to the hospitality experience where guests could enjoy art without the typical museum feeling. Additionally, the Ukrops could continue to support local artists and their own passion.
The Charlottesville property features an upper gallery that includes items for purchase, such as unique greeting cards, books, candles, socks, locally made jewelry, and other bespoke items. The lower gallery offers displayed artwork for sale, and the hotel collects a commission for every piece sold. But Whitney Dang, area director of sales and marketing, says the dollars and cents are only one piece of the revenue strategy.
“The revenue piece that we’re hoping this drives is an experience piece. The financials are important, but really we want to bring a local feel to guests coming to the hotel,” she explains. “We want people to take a picture to throw on Instagram and walk away with a unique experience.”
Dang says that’s particularly important for hotels in tertiary markets—to be able to play on the same experience and design level as the big boys in cities such as New York or Chicago. And that experience, she adds, can drive demand and lead to increased revenue from additional guests.
Hoteliers who want to contend with the competition have to rethink the traditional. Case in point: Mama Works, from lifestyle brand Mama Shelter, has outposts in Lyon, Bordeaux, and Lille, France, and will be integrated into its upcoming Mama Luxembourg hotel property. There, two floors will be dedicated to meetings and events, complete with a Cinemama, meeting rooms, a bakery, and co-working space with working areas or shared desks meant to appeal to local professionals, freelancers, and business travelers.
“The beauty of Mama Works is that it caters to everyone,” says Jérémie Trigano, co-founder of Mama Shelter, who launched the company along with father Serge and brother Benjamin. “This flexibility is instilled into the workspaces with no traditional lease, just super-flexible subscriptions,” ranging from single-day rentals, to a reserved desk option and private office space for up to 10.
The model operates as a franchise, according to Trigano. Mama Shelter provides the design through its in-house team, helps to set up the opening team, and then oversees the ongoing marketing and sales operations. “We didn’t have the know-how to commercialize co-working spaces but wanted to occupy this territory by bringing our design and DNA to the table,” he explains.
The Mama Shelter ethos is still very much part of the equation. “Our target customer is similar to our Mama Shelter customer: one who enjoys high-end design at affordable price points and who wants to enjoy an urban oasis with thriving gathering spaces.”
New F&B Attitude
Food halls have exploded across the country as a way to bring people together through a unique F&B offering. While some are standalone entities, hotels are finding ways to capitalize on the trend. Take, for instance, the 120-room Hotel Vin, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Located on the doorstep of the TEXRail station in Grapevine, Texas and set to open this summer, the hotel will be connected to Harvest Hall, a food hall that features seven restaurant experiences.
While leaders at the food hall and hotel’s management company Coury Hospitality say the design in itself will work to create a destination, the offerings have the potential to drive increased revenue for both operations. The new-build features architecture by Architexas and interiors by Streetsense that match the vintage look of a rail station, while featuring floor-to-ceiling windows to frame views of the trains outside.
Coury Hospitality founder and CEO Paul Coury says it’s all about activating the spaces. And that’s a big reason why he pushed for a larger food hall development instead of the coffee outlet the owner originally planned for the site. “How many cups of coffee can you drink and sit in a room while looking at the walls?” he says. “Action gets action, and we wanted something to be a draw for the development and the hotel.”
“From a design perspective, one missing link with food halls is around activation and keeping the space busy after 7 p.m.,” says Tom Santora, chief commercial officer for Coury Hospitality and managing director for both Hotel Vin and Harvest Hall. To remedy that problem, Harvest Hall includes an outlet called the Third Rail, which will offer a lunch space and then transform into a venue for live music, food, drinks, and private events at night. The venue seats 100 people indoors, while an outdoor patio holds an additional 60 guests.
The plan is to not only draw in the hotel’s guests but also locals, which means the destination can appeal to close to 500,000 surrounding residents in the market. “We’re creating a new destination with a uniquely designed space to support both the hotel and the food hall. The result will be to generate top-line revenue,” Santora says.
Feature photo: 21c Museum Hotel Lexington