Boutique Design Events and Trade Fairs

Business and design lessons you wish they’d taught in school.

Cara Federici, CEO and founder, The Madison Melle Agency, built her own career wearing a lot of hats. She’s earned her stripes on the operation side with hospitality luminaries such as The Standard Hotels and Proper Hospitality. She has a background in fashion design. So, when she launched her own firm, it was clear she’d have a pretty wide scope. Projects the company has or is working on include Two Bunch Palms, Petit Ermitage and work in New York, Europe and Asia.

Federici’s company serves a broad array of functions, from branding to collaboration on interior design to project management. “We are most often are asked to step in when an important decision needs to be made about the future direction of a company – whether from a financial sensibility or a branding direction. For example, when parties can’t agree, or if they don’t have clarity on the best answer required to make their decisions,” she says. Starting with a stakeholder survey gives Federici the knowledge of what each party (owner, operator, designer) wants and needs. It may sound obvious, but one thing that stands out to her is that each team tends to dilute their communication with the others, instead of taking the time to “learn the language” of technical vocabulary, work process and priorities of the other collaborators.

There are few pieces within the process where that fluency is key as much as it is in budgeting. Here’s what Federici sees ahead for FF&E and OS&E budgets.

There is no way around knowing your guest. Factors such as length of stay have a massive impact on the material choices. Short-stay guests’ quick in and out puts more pressure on the room. Longer stay guests expect more “comforts of home.”

Don’t overlook the importance of OS&E. “We recommend putting more time and thought into the OS&E side of budgeting to ensure it is all inclusive and does not overlook anything in specific,” says Federici. “We also suggest cross referencing between what is considered part of the FF&E budget and what is in the OS&E budget to ensure there are no overlaps that lead to budget overages (we’ve seen this happen).”

When it comes to renovations, too, OS&E is fast becoming a focus. “We most definitely think hoteliers will turn more to upgrades in OS&E to improve the guest experience and have already begun doing so. It is often a less costly upgrade than a full FF&E renovation and can achieve remarkable results,” she says.

The upshot? Think before you spend, whether you are the designer or the client. Every line item has to serve that particular project’s needs. When it comes to macro issues such as sustainability and tech, don’t just jump on the bandwagon. “We see sustainable practices as somewhat cost effective to execute as well as digitizing the guest experience, which has become a scalable option for many hotel companies,” says Federici. “With this said, large overhaul shifts in technology infrastructure required to innovate after a property or business is already built-out, can prove very cost prohibitive. In light of this, it is best to bring in knowledgeable technology advisors, in order to understand the real costs as well as the pluses and minuses of making specific technology decisions.”